Two key undecided Republicans senators gave indications on Thursday that the F.B.I.’s investigation into sexual assault allegations against Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh is satisfactory. GOP Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Jeff Flake of Arizona did not say, however, whether they will vote to confirm President Trump’s nomination of Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. If both vote to confirm, a seat for Kavanaugh on the high court is nearly assured. 

Yet another fence-sitter is Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who has yet to announce which way she is leaning.

During a briefing on Thursday, Republicans reviewed 46 pages of interview reports, nine of which were devoted to Mark Judge. Judge and Kavanaugh were friends in high school. Kavanaugh’s initial accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford alleged that Judge was present when Kavanaugh allegedly carried out a sexual assault on her some time in the 1980s. No witnesses have corroborated Ford’s allegation. The highly controversial allegation set off a firestorm of comment and a second hearing last week, where the Senate Judiciary Committee questioned both Kavanaugh and Ford. Kavanaugh has vehemently denied allegations made by Ford and two other women, while Democrats, advocacy organizations, and the media have defended Ford and questioned Kavanaugh’s integrity. A report by the New York Times on Thursday referred to the alleged assault by Kavanaugh on Ford, saying that the “future judge tried to rape her.” Ford herself did not characterize the incident as an attempted rape.

Democrats are challenging the legitimacy of the FBI investigation and that the White House directed the agency to omit several witnesses from the list of interviewees. The ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, told reporters that the White House “blocked the F.B.I. from doing its job.” Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the Senate Minority Leader, claimed on Thursday that there remains objectionable new evidence in the documents and that they should be made public. Neither Kavanaugh nor Ford were interviewed by the FBI. Nor did the agency interview Julie Swetnick, a fellow Yale University grad who accused Kavanaugh of being present during a gang rape.

However, Republicans are determined to go ahead with a vote on Friday to confirm Kavanaugh.  “I’ve now received a committee staff briefing on the F.B.I.’s supplement to Judge Kavanaugh’s background investigation file,” said Senator Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), who chairs the Judiciary Committee. In a statement, Grassley added, “There’s nothing in it that we didn’t already know. These uncorroborated accusations have been unequivocally and repeatedly rejected by Judge Kavanaugh, and neither the Judiciary Committee nor the F.B.I. could locate any third parties who can attest to any of the allegations.”

On the Senate floor, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell accused Democrats of “partisan histrionics” and an “outrageous smear.” The Kentucky Republican said, “For goodness sake this is the United States of America,” adding, “Nobody is supposed to be guilty until proven innocent in this country. The Senate should not set a fundamentally un-American precedent here. Judge Kavanaugh’s right to basic fairness does not disappear just because some disagree with his judicial philosophy.”

President Trump tweeted on Thursday that attacks on Kavanaugh would have “an incredible upward impact on voters.” “The PEOPLE get it far better than the politicians,” he wrote. “Most importantly, this great life cannot be ruined by mean & despicable Democrats and totally uncorroborated allegations!” He also wrote: “This is a very important time in our country. Due Process, Fairness and Common Sense are now on trial!”
 

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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