Republican leaders have agreed to delay a final Senate vote on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh to allow for an FBI investigation into the sexual assault allegations against him.
The move comes after the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the judge's nomination in a crucial Friday afternoon vote, sending his nomination to the full Senate.
"The Senate Judiciary Committee will request that the administration instruct the FBI to conduct a supplemental FBI background investigation with respect to the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to be an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court," the Senate Judiciary panel said in a statement released Friday.
"The supplemental FBI background investigation would be limited to current credible allegations against the nominee and must be completed no later than one week from today," the statement read.
Democrats on the committee want to hear from Mark Judge, a high school friend of Kavanaugh who Ford said was also in the room during her alleged assault. Judge has said he does not recall any such incident. In a new letter to the Senate panel, he said he would cooperate with any law enforcement agency assigned to investigate “confidentially," according to The Associated Press.
Kavanaugh issued his own statement through the White House on Friday saying he’s been interviewed by the FBI before, done “background” calls with the Senate and answered questions under oath “about every topic” senators have asked.
“I’ve done everything they have requested and will continue to cooperate,” said the 53-year-old judge.
Earlier Friday, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), followed later by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), pushed for a one-week FBI investigation of the accusations after the committee vote. That investigation would delay the vote by the full Senate.
Flake will need to work out the details of that FBI investigation and the delayed vote with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), but Flake says this case is ripping the nation apart, so he feels it would be 'proper' to delay the final Senate floor vote for a week.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump also indicated he too was open to an FBI probe of Kavanaugh, calling Ford's testimony "compelling."
“I thought [Christine Blasey Ford’s] testimony was very compelling; she looks like a very fine woman to me, a very fine woman,” Trump told reporters Friday.
“It was an incredible moment I think in the history of our country. But certainly [Ford] was a very credible witness. She was very good in many respects.”
Democrats had protested fiercely on Friday, but Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-NE) said that while both Kavanaugh and his accuser were credible, Kavanaugh is innocent until proven guilty, and there hasn't been corroborating evidence to prove that he is guilty.
Kavanaugh's nomination was in question because Flake, one of the key swing votes on the committee, hadn't been clearly supporting the nominee. But then Flake had released this statement: "What I do know is that our system of justice affords a presumption of innocence to the accused, absent corroborating evidence. That is what binds us to the rule of law."
— David Brody (@TheBrodyFile) September 28, 2018
"While some may argue that a different standard should apply regarding the Senate's advice and consent responsibilities, I believe that the Constitution's provisions of fairness and due process apply here as well," he said.
Late Thursday night, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) also said he'd be voting to approve Kavanaugh. But it's unclear how other fence-sitting Republicans, Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Sen. Susan Collins, will vote when the full Senate gets a chance to vote on the nomination.
Also on Thursday night, Republicans met with Rachel Mitchell, the sex-crimes prosecutor they hired to question Kavanaugh and his accuser Christine Blasey Ford. And Fox News reports Mitchell told GOP senators the case wasn't strong enough to hold up in a courtroom.
"Mitchell spelled it out and was clear with senators that she could not take this anywhere near a courtroom," one source told Fox News.
The experienced prosecutor reportedly said the lack of evidence means she wouldn't charge Kavanaugh with a crime if she was the person in charge of the case, and that there wasn't enough evidence to even seek a search warrant.
Mitchell's assessment may have been the key to convincing Republican senators to finally support Kavanaugh even after the emotional testimony of his accuser, Dr. Christian Blasey Ford.