Trump or­ders FBI probe af­ter Se­nate de­lays Ka­vanaugh vote

Business Standard - - WORLD - LAURA LITVAN, STEVEN T DEN­NIS, ERIKWASSON & SHAN­NON PETTYPIECE

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump or­dered an FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion into sex­ual as­sault al­le­ga­tions against Supreme Court nom­i­nee Brett Ka­vanaugh af­ter a re­quest by Se­nate Repub­li­cans, a new road­block for a nom­i­nee the GOP had hoped to mus­cle through the cham­ber within days.

The move comes a day af­ter a rau­cous Se­nate hear­ing where Ka­vanaugh force­fully and tear­fully de­nied claims by Chris­tine Blasey Ford that Ka­vanaugh sex­u­ally as­saulted her in high school. “As the Se­nate has re­quested, this up­date must be lim­ited in scope and com­pleted in less than one week,” Trump said Fri­day af­ter­noon in a state­ment.

Ka­vanaugh in a state­ment re­leased by the White House, said Fri­day, “Through­out this process, I’ve been in­ter­viewed by the FBI, I’ve done a num­ber of ‘back­ground’ calls di­rectly with the Se­nate, and yes­ter­day, I an­swered ques­tions un­der oath about every topic the Sen­a­tors and their coun­sel asked me. I’ve done ev­ery­thing they have re­quested and will con­tinue to co­op­er­ate.”

‘Cred­i­ble al­le­ga­tions’

The Ju­di­ciary panel asked that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion be "lim­ited to cur­rent cred­i­ble al­le­ga­tions" against Ka­vanaugh. GOP Sen­a­tor Jeff Flake of Ari­zona, who had de­manded the move, told re­porters that means that ad­di­tion to Ford’s claim, the FBI could de­cide whether to look into al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual mis­con­duct by two other women.

Other sen­a­tors backed Flake’s re­quest, in­clud­ing Repub­li­cans Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Su­san Collins of Maine, as well as Demo­crat Joe Manchin of West Vir­ginia, who has been viewed as a pos­si­ble vote in fa­vor of Ka­vanaugh.

Late Fri­day af­ter­noon, the Se­nate agreed on a voice vote to take up the nom­i­na­tion, for­mally open­ing de­bate on Ka­vanaugh as Repub­li­cans sought to show mo­men­tum while the FBI con­ducts its in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Be­fore Flake’s call for the FBI probe, GOP sen­a­tors had planned to work this week­end in an ef­fort to take a fi­nal con­fir­ma­tion vote as early as Tues­day.

Democrats re­peat­edly had de­manded an FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion since Ford’s al­le­ga­tion sur­faced a few weeks ago, and they ham­mered at the is­sue through­out Thurs­day’s rau­cous Ju­di­ciary panel hear­ing where Ford and Ka­vanaugh tes­ti­fied.

Repub­li­cans who back Ka­vanaugh said there was no cor­rob­o­rat­ing ev­i­dence for Ford’s al­le­ga­tion. Democrats pointed to the lack of an im­par­tial in­ves­ti­ga­tion and the com­mit­tee’s re­fusal to call wit­nesses who might be able to back up her claim, or to seek tes­ti­mony from the two other women who ac­cused Ka­vanaugh of sex­ual mis­con­duct.

Sep­a­rately, for­mer Ka­vanaugh class­mate Mark Judge -- who Ford says wit­nessed and en­cour­aged the at­tack -- told the com­mit­tee in a let­ter he will co­op­er­ate with any law en­force­ment agency that in­ves­ti­gates "con­fi­den­tially." He also "cat­e­gor­i­cally" de­nied sex­ual mis­con­duct claims against him and Ka­vanaugh made by an­other ac­cuser, Julie Swet­nick. Judge had pre­vi­ously no­ti­fied the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee that he didn’t want to tes­tify in pub­lic.

The Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee voted 11-10 on party lines Fri­day to send Ka­vanaugh’s nom­i­na­tion to the Se­nate floor. Af­ter the Ju­di­ciary panel meet­ing con­cluded, Grass­ley told top Demo­crat Dianne Fe­in­stein of Cal­i­for­nia the plan was "a gentle­men’s and women’s agree­ment.”

‘Due diligence’

Flake of Ari­zona, who had been un­de­cided un­til Fri­day morn­ing, an­nounced his de­mand for an FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion not long af­ter an­nounc­ing his sup­port for Ka­vanaugh.

Flake said he would “only be com­fort­able mov­ing on the floor un­til the FBI has done more in­ves­ti­ga­tion than they have al­ready." He added: "It may not take them a week. We owe them due diligence.”

Later, Flake told re­porters, “I want to sup­port Judge Ka­vanaugh. I’m a con­ser­va­tive and he’s a con­ser­va­tive."

Flake’s pro­posal was en­dorsed by GOP Sen­a­tor Lind­sey Gra­ham, a strong Ka­vanaugh backer who said, "What Jeff is say­ing makes sense to me." Sen­a­tor Or­rin Hatch of Utah, an­other top GOP backer of Ka­vanaugh, told re­porters he thought an FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion was "overkill" but that he was okay with the idea.

Demo­crat Chris Coons told re­porters that Flake only struck the deal with Democrats “af­ter hav­ing re­as­sur­ances from some other sen­a­tors in his party.”

Coons of Delaware said that af­ter Flake an­nounced his sup­port for Ka­vanaugh ear­lier Fri­day, they had a pri­vate con­ver­sa­tion and Coons said he told Flake, “I re­spect you as my friend, but I’m hav­ing dif­fi­culty with your vote. It be­came a much broader con­ver­sa­tion.”

Re-Open­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion

A U.S. of­fi­cial with knowl­edge of the mat­ter said the FBI could com­plete an in­ves­ti­ga­tion within a week, but the time­line ul­ti­mately de­pends on what is in­volved, such as the num­ber of in­ter­views that need to be done and whether newly un­cov­ered in­for­ma­tion needs to be fol­lowed up on.

Con­necti­cut Demo­crat Richard Blu­men­thal, a Demo­crat on the Ju­di­ciary panel, said an FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion "has to be more than a sham, and a cha­rade." "What’s re­ally needed now is a pen­e­trat­ing, com­plete, fair and im­par­tial in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the FBI," Blu­men­thal said, in­clud­ing an in­ter­view of Judge.

On Thurs­day the Ju­di­ciary com­mit­tee heard Ford, a Cal­i­for­nia psy­chol­ogy pro­fes­sor, tes­tify that she’s "one hun­dred per­cent" cer­tain Ka­vanaugh at­tacked her in 1982 when they were teenagers, de­scrib­ing in de­tail be­ing held down on a bed at a drunken high school gath­er­ing. She de­scribed "up­roar­i­ous laugh­ter" by Ka­vanaugh and Judge, who has said he doesn’t re­call such an in­ci­dent.

Ka­vanaugh an­grily, tear­fully and "un­equiv­o­cally" de­nied any wrong­do­ing in­volv­ing Ford and other women who have made claims of sex­ual mis­con­duct in re­cent days. He de­nounced his treat­ment as a po­lit­i­cal hit or­ches­trated by Democrats.

A sec­ond woman, Deb­o­rah Ramirez of Colorado, claims Ka­vanaugh ex­posed him­self to her at a drunken party when they were fresh­men at Yale. And in the most lurid al­le­ga­tion yet, Swet­nick of Wash­ing­ton said in a sworn state­ment re­leased Wed­nes­day that Ka­vanaugh took part in ef­forts dur­ing high school to get girls in­tox­i­cated so that a group of boys could have sex with them.

The Amer­i­can Bar As­so­ci­a­tion and Heather Gerken, dean of Yale Law School where Ka­vanaugh earned his law de­gree, called for a de­lay in Ka­vanaugh’s con­fir­ma­tion to al­low an in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

REUTERS

Judge Brett Ka­vanaugh tes­ti­fies dur­ing the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee hear­ing in Wash­ing­ton on his nom­i­na­tion be an as­so­ciate jus­tice of the Supreme Court of the United States

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