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Latest On Kavanaugh And FBI Investigation


Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday, but with a major proviso. Senator Jeff Flake, the controlling vote in the committee, negotiated a compromise. It will allow the FBI to investigate allegations of sexual assault leveled against Kavanaugh by several women. President Trump has now ordered this limited investigation and allows a week for it.

NPR's Tim Mak has covered it all week on Capitol Hill. Tim, thanks very much for being with us.

TIM MAK, BYLINE: Thanks for having me.

SIMON: What happened?

MAK: So Senator Flake announced Friday morning that he would be supporting Kavanaugh. He's usually a critic of the president, but he's long had an ideological affinity for judges like him. So on his way into the committee vote, he was confronted by two women who were demonstrating against Kavanaugh. They cornered him in a Senate elevator. And one of them said live on television that she had actually been a victim of sexual assault. Here's what she said next.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: Don't look away from me. Look at me and tell me that it doesn't matter what happened to me, that you'll let people like that go into the highest court of the land and tell everyone what they can do to their bodies.

MAK: So then came a twist. As the Senate Judiciary Committee prepared to vote, members began leaving the room to hold private conversations, and lawmakers began even shielding their mouths from lip readers in the audience. It was high drama on Capitol Hill, and no one knew what was going to happen next.

It turned out that Flake had negotiated a delay of up to a week to give the FBI time to investigate accusations. And shortly after a dramatic meeting in Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office with another key undecided vote, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, the Republican leaders were forced to take a pause.

SIMON: Can you tell, Tim, from your reporting, what changed in Senator Flake's heart and mind? And to what degree did that encounter in the elevator contribute to it?

MAK: You know, I asked him that exact question, and he said he couldn't pinpoint the precise reason why he decided to negotiate this compromise. But he said that he spoke to a lot of friends and family, and that really weighed on him. Let's listen in to what he said.


JEFF FLAKE: It has been remarkable over the past week the number of people who saw Dr. Ford, particularly yesterday, and were emboldened to come out and to say what had happened to them. And I - I've heard from friends, close friends. And I had no idea.

MAK: Flake also said he wasn't the only one with reservations. Republicans like Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who I mentioned earlier, were also on the fence. So Flake managed to start negotiating with Senator Chris Coons, who's a Democrat from Delaware. They're both on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which means they travel a lot together, and they're good friends.

SIMON: What reaction so far from Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford? This kind of prolongs their anxieties and exposure for at least another week.

MAK: Yeah, both of them have had very stressful days over the last couple days as they testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. But while doing so, Kavanaugh refused to say that he supported an FBI investigation when he was pressed by lawmakers on that panel. So he'll now have no choice but to cooperate. And Friday evening, he said that he'll do just that. Ford's lawyer, on the other hand, said that they welcomed the investigation, but that it shouldn't be limited in scope or time.

SIMON: And how will the FBI investigation proceed?

MAK: So President Trump has ordered a limited reinvestigation into Kavanaugh's background. The FBI will then make a determination as to which of the allegations made against Kavanaugh are credible, and spend up to a week preparing a report for the White House. The White House will in turn provide that report to the Senate Judiciary Committee. And so if the Senate is willing to proceed with the Kavanaugh confirmation process, then a vote could presumably be held by sometime next weekend.

SIMON: Well, we'll be here. NPR's Tim Mak. You'll be there, too. Thanks very much for being with us.

MAK: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tim Mak
Tim Mak is NPR's Washington Investigative Correspondent, focused on political enterprise journalism.
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