Sen. Jeff Flake Calls For 1 Week Delay On Kavanaugh Vote For An FBI Investigation

Sep 28, 2018
Originally published on September 28, 2018 8:28 pm
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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Mr. Graham.

LINDSEY GRAHAM: Aye.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Mr. Cornyn.

JOHN CORNYN: Aye.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Mr. Lee.

MIKE LEE: Aye.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Mr. Cruz.

TED CRUZ: Aye.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Mr. Sasse.

BENJAMIN SASSE: Aye.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Earlier this afternoon, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to send the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Senate floor for consideration. But for one key senator on the committee, that vote came with some big strings attached.

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JEFF FLAKE: I think it would be proper to delay the floor vote for up to but not more than one week in order to let the FBI do an investigation limited in time and scope to the current allegations that are there.

KELLY: That is Arizona Republican Jeff Flake calling for an FBI investigation into sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh, an investigation he wants before the full Senate votes on the nomination. Well, Senate Republican leaders agreed, and now the White House has ordered the FBI to conduct what it is calling a supplemental investigation. NPR's congressional reporter Kelsey Snell has had a front-row seat for everything as it unfolded today. Hey, Kelsey.

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Hi there.

KELLY: Hi. So you have spent the afternoon camped outside Senator McConnell's office (laughter).

SNELL: (Laughter).

KELLY: Tell us what you've been witnessing.

SNELL: Yeah. It has been an absolutely crazy day. Many of us reporters ran straight from the hearing room, the Judiciary Committee hearing room in that Senate Office Building, to McConnell's office in the Capitol because, well, that's where the senators were heading.

Republicans on the committee and Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who is one of those closely watched votes - somebody who we don't know how she's going to vote yet - were all huddled in there for about an hour. And when they came out, we were told that there would be a supplemental investigation. This is what Senator John Cornyn, who is the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, told us as he was leaving the meeting.

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CORNYN: Essentially, there's going to be a supplemental FBI background investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Supplemental?

CORNYN: Yeah.

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CORNYN: Be no later than one week.

SNELL: So you can hear kind of all of us shouting. We were running in a large pack down the hall. And we got some details about what that investigation would look like after he exited. And basically, the committee is saying that it's a supplemental background check that would be limited to current credible allegations against the nominee and must be completed no later than one week from today.

KELLY: All right, so an investigation will proceed. There are some constraints on it. Meanwhile, you've mentioned two of these closely watched senators - Lisa Murkowski, Jeff Flake. Where is it looking like the vote will line up?

SNELL: Well, it's really hard to say right now because earlier in the day, Flake said that he would vote for Kavanaugh. But then he was confronted by protesters as he was heading into that hearing, and that seemed to really shake him. And it devolved into this kind of chaotic event that we saw in the hearing room where senators were leaving the hearing and meeting in this anteroom and kind of debating where things would go. So far, we have no idea how key senators like Joe Manchin in West Virginia, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska or Susan Collins of Maine will vote at this point.

KELLY: You maybe pre-empted the next question I was going to ask you.

SNELL: (Laughter).

KELLY: But do we have any idea how his confirmation chances look at, you know - at the end of this week of truly epic hearings unfolding on Capitol Hill?

SNELL: You know, it's so hard to say right now because I talked to Republicans this morning who were bullish. I talked to Republicans this afternoon who weren't sure. And now, honestly, it's very hard to say. It - really, it depends on what happens in this investigation.

KELLY: Yeah. One other name to ask you about, and that's Mark Judge. This is Brett Kavanaugh's childhood friend who, according to Christine Blasey Ford, was the third person in the room the night she says she was assaulted. There's some news about him today. What is it?

SNELL: Yeah. The attorney for Mark Judge was - the individual that Christine Blasey Ford said was in the room when that happened - sent a new letter to the Judiciary Committee at some point in time today, indicated that he's willing to cooperate with the FBI investigators. He's still saying he doesn't have any knowledge of this, but he's offering to participate. And that actually might be a really key moment in this situation because Democrats have been saying that the only way to know if this is a (laughter) corroborate-able (ph) - an allegation on either side is to have more voices. And this could potentially be one of those key voices that we've been waiting for.

KELLY: NPR's Kelsey Snell in the thick of it on Capitol Hill. Thank you, Kelsey.

SNELL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.