*Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Says Senate Is Set to Receive the FBI Investigation on Kavanaugh
*McConnell Files Cloture on Kavanaugh Nomination, Sets Up for Friday Procedural Vote
*Kavanaugh Confirmation Vote Would Be 30 Hours After the Procedural Vote
(More to Come)
WASHINGTON—Senators prepared Wednesday to scrutinize an FBI investigation into allegations of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and anticipated a preliminary Friday vote on his nomination.
With the FBI report expected to be finalized Wednesday night, Republican lawmakers said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) would likely move to formally end debate on the nomination, setting up a procedural vote for Friday and a final vote as early as Saturday.
Friday’s vote could show whether the nominee has the 50 votes he would need for confirmation, with Republican Vice President Mike Pence breaking a 50-50 tie.
“We need to end this. This has gotten beyond the absurd,” said Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the second-ranking Senate Republican.
Senators of both parties have voiced dismay at the personal tenor of the confirmation fight since Christine Blasey Ford, a California psychology professor, came forward on Sept. 16 to allege that Judge Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers, which he categorically denies. The dispute appears to be nearing its conclusion, but senators worried openly that the wounds it has opened may linger for years.
As the endgame approached, it remained unclear whether Judge Kavanaugh would have the support to be confirmed, given the GOP’s narrow 51-49 advantage in the Senate. Three crucial Republican senators have said their decision would depend in part on the findings of the Federal Bureau of Investigation report.
GOP senators said they expected the FBI to submit that report by late Wednesday, and that they would study it in a secure viewing area on Thursday. Mr. McConnell has said the report won’t be made public, and it isn’t expected to draw explicit conclusions about the truth of allegations, so senators could take different messages from it.
Even before its completion, Democrats said they were concerned that the investigation wouldn’t be comprehensive. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the fact that the FBI apparently wasn’t interviewing Judge Kavanaugh or Dr. Ford, among others, “raises serious concerns that this is not a credible investigation.”
No matter the outcome, the fight is on track to leave behind a divided country, a potentially more politicized Supreme Court, and continued disagreement on who was victimized. Senators said they fear the acrimony will last long after the Senate’s final vote.
Sen. Chris Coons (D., Del.) said he talked to his colleagues at a bipartisan prayer breakfast on Wednesday about repairing their relationships, and that he offered to visit senators in their home states.
As Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pushes to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh, he’s coming up against some obstacles. The WSJ's Gerald F. Seib explains. Photo: Getty
Sen. Chris Murphy (D., Conn.) said Judge Kavanaugh’s attacks on Democrats at last week’s hearing could cause lasting damage. “I really worry about how Kavanaugh’s exposed himself as a partisan, because I think that will provide incentive for a Democratic president to put a blatant, unrepentant partisan up for confirmation as well,” he said.
With the tension in the Senate high, and lawmakers like Sen. Susan Collins (R., Maine) surrounded by extra security, Mr. McConnell cast Republicans as the targets.
“There’s no chance in the world they’re going to scare us out of doing our duty,” he said on the Senate floor. “I don’t care how many members they chase, how many people they harass here in the halls.… We will not be intimidated by these people.”
The FBI report will cover allegations brought by Dr. Ford and Deborah Ramirez, a Yale classmate who told the New Yorker that Judge Kavanaugh exposed himself to her in college. Judge Kavanaugh has denied Ms. Ramirez’s allegations.
Besides Ms. Collins, GOP Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska haven’t committed to supporting the nominee. Among Democrats, Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota—both facing re-election in states that voted heavily for President Trump—are publicly undecided.
FBI agents have interviewed three people Dr. Ford said were at the social gathering where the alleged assault took place. The Bureau also questioned two friends Judge Kavanaugh named in his 1982 calendar, Tim Gaudette and Chris Garrett, known as “Squi,” according to their lawyers.
Judge Kavanaugh’s calendar indicated that on July 1, 1982, he went to “Timmy’s” house for “skis w/Judge, Tom, PJ, Bernie, Squi.” He told lawmakers the entry was a reference to brewskis, or beers, at Mr. Gaudette’s home.
Investigators haven’t interviewed Dr. Ford, her attorneys said Wednesday. Asked on Wednesday why he thought the FBI didn’t reach out to the key accuser, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) said that investigators could review hours of transcripts from the committee hearing.
“It seems to me the only reason the FBI would be able to do anything else is if they read that entire record and there was something unanswered,” he said.
Democratic senators sent a letter to Mr. Grassley on Wednesday suggesting that previous background investigations into Judge Kavanaugh might have flagged inappropriate sexual behavior or alcohol abuse.
The Judiciary Committee’s GOP staff wrote in one of two tweets Tuesday that the previous six background investigations into Judge Kavanaugh hadn’t unearthed “a whiff of any issue—at all—related in any way to inappropriate sexual behavior or alcohol abuse.”
“While we are limited in what we can say about this background investigation in a public setting, we are compelled to state for the record that there is information in the second post that is not accurate,” eight Democrats on the committee wrote, noting they had reviewed the information before last week’s hearing.
Senate Judiciary GOP aides responded on Twitter, saying that Democrats’ claims were inaccurate. “Nothing in the tweet is inaccurate or misleading.”
Several Republicans on Wednesday criticized Mr. Trump for his comments at a political rally in Mississippi late Tuesday mocking the testimony of Dr. Ford. The president cited a series of details he said she couldn’t recall about the alleged incident.
Judge Brett Kavanaugh was questioned about his teenage drinking habits during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. Photo: Tom Williams/Press Pool
“How did you get home? I don’t remember,” Mr. Trump asked, mimicking a questioner at last week’s hearing and Dr. Ford’s response. He continued in that vein.
It wasn’t clear if those remarks would affect the uncommitted senators. When asked if they would factor into her vote, Ms. Murkowski said, “I am taking everything into account.”
Mr. Flake was sharply critical. “There is no time and no place for remarks like that, but to discuss something this sensitive at a political rally is just not right,” he said on NBC. “I wish he hadn’t done it, and I just say it’s kind of appalling.”
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters that the president was simply “stating the facts” in criticizing Dr. Ford’s account.