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Senators All Agree: Latest FBI Kavanaugh Probe Provides Little New

Senate Republicans are full speed ahead on vote on Supreme Court nomination

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, makes her way to the secure room to view the FBI supplemental background report on Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, makes her way to the secure room to view the FBI supplemental background report on Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Democrats and Republicans agreed Thursday on one thing about the FBI’s one-week supplemental background investigation into Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh — there wasn’t much new information there.

For Republican members of the Judiciary Committee such as Sens. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the set of interviews done over the past week did not add any corroboration to allegations Kavanaugh sexually assaulted women decades ago.

“I think it made sense, we probably should’ve done it earlier, but I’ve learned nothing I didn’t already know,” Graham told reporters after a briefing attended by about two dozen Republican senators.

And for Democrats such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the Judiciary Committee’s top Democrat, the new interviews appeared to be “very limited” in scope. It didn’t include FBI interviews with Kavanaugh or his first accuser, Christine Blasey Ford.

“We had many fears that this was a very limited process that would constrain the FBI from getting all the facts,” Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York said. “Having received a thorough briefing on the documents, those fears have been realized.”

Key Republican swing vote senators, who backed the one-week delay on a floor vote to allow for the FBI investigation, weren’t tipping their hand quite yet on whether they would support Kavanaugh.

Watch: Democrats on FBI Kavanaugh Report: ‘Why Shouldn’t All of America See the Facts?’

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Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., told reporters: “I’m still reviewing the information but we’ve seen no additional information yet” that would corroborate the allegations.

And Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, escorted by Capitol Police, told reporters: “It appears to be a very thorough investigation but I’m going back later today to personally read the interviews. That’s really all I have to say right now.”

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., who with Flake pushed for the one-week supplemental investigation, said he thinks the probe fell short and left him with more questions than answers.

“I think this vote will be very close,” Coons said. “I think the few remaining senators who are publicly undecided have to weigh the evidence that’s in there and reach their own conclusions as to whether it answers all questions or leaves some questions unresolved that are relevant to the truthfulness and fitness of Judge Kavanaugh.”

The intrigue surrounds one room in the basement of the Capitol, where the Senate has one copy of the report. Senators can go in and review it themselves or get a briefing there from a small set of staff members who can also view the private background file.

Republicans gathered there for an hour but senators can return at other times ahead of a procedural vote Friday on Kavanaugh’s nomination on the Senate floor. Early Thursday afternoon, the three Republican undecided votes — Flake, Collins and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski — gathered together in the room to review the documents.

With Republicans holding a 51-49 advantage, the vote outcome is expected to come down to just a handful of senators.

“I have a real good feeling as a result of the briefing we just had. I feel that because there was no corroboration of allegations, there was really nothing new to talk to you about,” Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley told reporters. “I feel very confident that every issue that has been raised by the Democrats is going to be satisfied. Now, I don’t think they’re going to be satisfied.”

Schumer disagreed with Grassley’s assessment and renewed a call to make the new information public as long as there are proper redactions, a move that Grassley and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have resisted.

“Why shouldn’t all of America see the documents?” Schumer asked.

In a letter Thursday to FBI Director Christopher Wray, Ford’s attorneys list eight witnesses they say should have been interviewed as part of the probe.

“It took tremendous courage for Dr. Ford to come forward. As she testified before the Judiciary Committee, she was eager to talk to the FBI,” they wrote. “The ‘investigation’ conducted over the past five days is a stain on the process, on the FBI and on our American ideal of justice.”

Patrick Kelley, Katherine Tully-McManus and Jennifer Shutt contributed to this report.

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