Undecided Republicans Suggest Satisfaction With FBI Report on Kavanaugh as Key Vote Looms

October 4, 2018 Updated: October 5, 2018

In a sign of support for the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh, two key Republican senators said on Oct. 4 they were satisfied with the FBI’s background investigation report and said it didn’t corroborate the claims of the women accusing Kavanaugh of misconduct.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who remains undecided on Kavanaugh’s confirmation, said the bureau’s report appeared to be “very thorough.” Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who had agreed to vote Kavanaugh’s nomination out of committee with a favorable recommendation on the condition that the FBI further investigate the allegations against Kavanaugh, said the report had “no new credible corroboration, no new corroboration at all.”

With a key procedural vote looming on Oct. 5, Collins and Flake are two senators who haven’t stated whether they would vote to confirm Kavanaugh. Republicans need just two of a bipartisan band of five swing votes to reach the 50-vote confirmation threshold, while Vice President Mike Pence is on deck to cast the deciding vote should the Senate split even.

One of the three other undecideds, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), said on Oct. 4 that she will vote against Kavanaugh, leaving only Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on the fence as of early afternoon.

Democrats and Republicans took one-hour shifts viewing a single copy of the report in a secure room on Capitol Hill throughout the day. The White House and key Republicans quickly offered their support for the nominee after reviewing the report.

“They interviewed 10 witnesses, they followed leads from interviews that made sense to me. It’s a complete report. It’s a background check. I’m confident that the FBI did a good job. They were not hindered in any way,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)

“I was looking for certain things to be answered by witnesses. I am more confident than ever that what the committee found held up, and then some,” Graham added. ” I am ready to vote.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), which advanced Kavanaugh’s nomination to the full Senate, said the bureau found “no hint of misconduct” during the five-day investigation.

“I feel really good that the FBI report has taken place. And there’s zero corroboration, zero, to any allegation that’s been made,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said.

The top Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer of New York, disputed Grassley’s claim, saying he disagreed that there was no evidence of misconduct. Other Democrats dismissed the investigation as insufficient.

The White House believes the FBI report addressed the Senate’s questions about Kavanaugh, White House principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah told CNN, adding that the FBI reached out to 10 people in its investigation and “comprehensively interviewed” nine of them.

“The White House didn’t micromanage the FBI,” he said.

If Kavanaugh clears the hurdle on Oct. 5, the Senate can cast the final vote to confirm him as early as Oct. 6.

Midterm Elections

Republicans and Democrats alike view the Kavanaugh confirmation as a key factor for winning the midterms elections in November. Republicans are looking to maintain majorities in the House and Senate. President Donald Trump embarked on a string of back-to-back rallies to back Republicans, whose support is crucial for carrying out his agenda.

Many Democrats committed themselves to oppose Kavanaugh within minutes after Trump nominated him. Some Republicans accuse the Democrats of subverting the confirmation process by withholding the allegations against Kavanaugh until after the judiciary committee held his confirmation hearings.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) received a letter from Kavanaugh’s accuser, Christine Ford, more than a month before Kavanaugh appeared before the judiciary committee. All of the witnesses Ford named failed to corroborate her allegations. Prior to the FBI investigation, a prosecutor who questioned her before the Senate panel concluded that no reasonable prosecutor would bring a case based on Ford’s claims.

The Democrats’ campaign against Kavanaugh appears to have fired up Republican voters, according to an NPR poll. In July, Democrats held a 10-percent edge over Republicans in a poll asking voters if the November elections are “very important.” At the time, 78 percent Democrats said the elections were “very important.”

That edge shrunk to just two points in the same poll conducted in October amid the drama surrounding the Kavanaugh confirmation. Among Democrats, 82 percent said the elections are “very important,” compared to 80 percent of Republicans.

Democrats triggered a national spectacle amid the confirmation process, sparking a media frenzy with some outlets breathlessly reporting uncorroborated allegations. The tactic appears to have backfired even among their base, with 40 percent of Democrats polled agreeing with Kavanaugh’s view that the confirmation process has devolved into a “national disgrace,” according to a Rasmussen poll.

Republicans are even more upset about the proceedings, with more than three in four conservatives agreeing with Kavanaugh’s statement.

Beyond the midterms, Kavanaugh, if confirmed, would shift the nation’s top court to a solid conservative majority. Now-retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, whose seat Kavanaugh was nominated to fill, sometimes sided with liberal justices on certain crucial issues, including abortion and same-sex marriage.

Trump’s prior Supreme Court nominee, Justice Neil Gorsuch, filled the seat of a solid conservative, the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Trump campaigned on a promise to nominate conservative Supreme Court justices and has said the promise was a large reason why he was elected.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Follow Ivan on Twitter: @ivanpentchoukov
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