WASHINGTON – After an 11th-hour request from a GOP member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, an FBI investigation into the sexual assault allegations levied against Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh is now underway.
The bureau has reportedly spoken with one accuser already and is supposed to deliver its findings by the end of the week.
The news follows a surprise demand last week from Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who suggested a final vote by the full Senate be delayed to allow for a one-week FBI probe of the accusations.
Flake issued the request right before the 11-10 vote by the Senate Judiciary panel to advance Kavanaugh's nomination.
"We ought to do what we can to make sure that we do all due diligence with a nomination this important," he said, noting that the probe should be limited to current and credible allegations.
But Senate Democrats argue one week may not be enough time, with some saying they're concerned that the White House may be dictating the terms of the investigation.
"I've never heard that the White House, either under this president or other presidents, is saying, 'Well, you can't interview this person, and you can't look at this time period. You can only look at these people from one side of the street,'" Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) said.
However, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders insists the White House is staying out of it.
"The White House isn't intervening. We're not micromanaging this process. It's a Senate process. It has been from the beginning, and we're letting the Senate continue to dictate what the terms look like," Sanders said.
Meanwhile, some Republicans want their own investigation into how accuser Christine Blasey Ford's letter about Kavanaugh was leaked to the media.
"I'm going to call for an investigation of what happened in this committee, whether he betrayed Dr. Ford's trust. Who in (Dianne) Feinstein's office recommended (Debra) Katz as a lawyer? Why did Ms. Ford not know that the committee was willing to go to California?" Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said.
"Somebody betrayed her trust for a political purpose," Graham told ABC's "This Week." "We're going to do a wholesale, full-scale investigation of what I think was a despicable process to deter it from happening again."
Regardless, Senate Democrats say the hearing itself gives insight into Kavanaugh's political leanings.
"As I watched him, part of me thought this is a man who believes he did nothing wrong and he's completely unjustly accused. There were some lines that were sharper, more partisan, more, 'This is the Clinton's paying me back,'" Sen. Chris Coons (R-CT) told CBS's "60 Minutes."
Flake says he too empathizes with Kavanaugh's anger.
"It was anger," he acknowledged. "But if I were unjustly accused that's how I would feel as well."
Meanwhile, the Kavanaugh hearing is opening the door to conversations about the larger issue of sexual assault from everyday citizens.
Brenda from Missouri calls C-SPAN
"I'm a 76-year-old woman who was sexually molested in 2nd grade. This brings back so much pain. Thought I was over it but it's not. You will never forget it. You get confused & you don't understand it but you never forget what happened to you." pic.twitter.com/uCgroeQ4B5
— CSPAN (@cspan) September 27, 2018
"I'm a 76-year-old woman who was sexually molested in the 2nd grade; this brings back so much pain," one survivor told C-SPAN's, Steve Scully.
Another woman said, "This same kind of sexual assault happened to me twice in high school in the 1970s — very similar scenario. I lived it."
Meanwhile, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway revealed that she too had been the victim of sexual assault.
"I feel very empathetic, frankly, for victims of sexual harassment and rape," she said. "I am a victim of sexual assault."
Nevertheless, she added, "I don't expect Judge Kavanaugh or Jake Tapper or Jeff Flake or anybody to be held responsible for that. You have to be responsible for your own conduct."
And while many women have protested Kavanaugh, others have stood by him, calling Senate offices in support of the 53-year-old judge.
Although the investigation must be wrapped by the end of the week, that won't necessarily mean the matter is over.
House Democrats warn that if Kavanaugh is confirmed, they could investigate him themselves if they manage to take control of the House of Representatives in November.