The Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday called for the FBI to conduct a limited investigation into the allegations of sexual assault against Brett Kavanaugh before a final floor vote is held on his Supreme Court nomination.
In a statement released by Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the committee is requesting that the Trump administration “instruct the FBI” to conduct the investigation, which would be “limited to current credible allegations against the nominee and must be completed no later than one week from today.”
In recent days, Republicans have resisted calls from Democrats for the FBI to investigate the claims that Kavanaugh committed sexual assault in high school and college. But the committee called for a limited, supplemental background investigation after several undecided senators whose votes are needed to confirm Kavanaugh called for a weeklong FBI probe.
The latest developments began to unfold Friday when Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, who earlier in the day announced he would endorse the nominee, called for a delay in a full floor vote to allow for an FBI inquiry “limited in time and scope.” While backing Kavanaugh at the committee level, Flake said he’d only be comfortable moving ahead on the floor if the FBI investigates further.
Several other senators on the fence backed the call.
“I think it was a good step today,” said Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
Likewise, Democratic North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp tweeted, “I support Sen. Flake’s call for a non-partisan FBI investigation into the allegations about Judge Kavanaugh – which I’ve been pressing for.”
A probe of even limited scope is not a done deal. The White House would have to order the FBI to conduct the investigation.
Asked by reporters whether he’s willing to re-open a background investigation, President Trump deferred to Senate Republicans and said, “That will be a decision that they are going to make and I suspect they will be making some decision soon.”
FBI officials told Fox News on Friday afternoon they still have not been contacted by the White House to investigate the allegations against Kavanaugh.
When asked if they could get the investigation done in a week, a senior FBI official said, “That depends on the schedules of everyone we’d have to interview, including the accuser, accused and witnesses.”
Earlier Friday, Kavanaugh’s nomination took a step forward, as the Senate Judiciary Committee endorsed Kavanaugh in a 11-10 party-line vote.
The Senate had been expected to launch into full debate over the weekend, with a final vote tentatively set for Tuesday.
Flake earlier gave a major boost to Kavanaugh with a Friday-morning announcement that he would support him, saying, “I left the hearing yesterday with as much doubt as certainty.”
But he immediately came under heavy pressure, with protesters accosting him and Democrats lobbying him on the sidelines to reconsider.
If Flake remains a “yes,” there will be 48 pledged Republicans, with Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, the two remaining wild cards. Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., has not announced his stance, but is expected to support the nominee. Republicans need 51 votes to confirm.
The committee vote came a day after an angry and emotional hearing on allegations of sexual assault made against Kavanaugh. Both Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of assaulting her at a high school party in the 1980s, testified before the committee on Thursday in an eight-hour session.
Ford said she’s “100 percent” sure Kavanaugh assaulted her.
Kavanaugh emotionally denied Ford’s accusation, along with a number of others made against him in recent days. Kavanaugh trained his sights on committee Democrats.
“This confirmation process has become a national disgrace,” Kavanaugh said. “The Constitution gives the Senate an important role in the confirmation process. But you have replaced advise and consent with search and destroy.”
Democrats pushed back, asking Kavanaugh why he would not himself urge an FBI investigation into the charges against him. Kavanaugh responded that he would assent to whatever the committee decided, but noted that an FBI probe wouldn’t draw conclusions, only gather information.
Kavanaugh’s nomination is likely to see unanimous or near-unanimous opposition from Democrats, with only a few red-state Democrats even considering a vote for him.
On Friday, Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., blasted Kavanaugh’s testimony and said it showed him to be “aggressive and belligerent” and took issue with his attacks on Democrats.
“I have never seen anyone who wants to sit on the highest court in the land behave in that manner,” she said.
Republicans’ thin majority in the Senate at large gives the GOP very little room for defections. Sources told Fox News that former President George W. Bush has been making calls to Republican senators in an effort to help secure the confirmation.
Fox News’ Adam Shaw, Jason Donner and Jake Gibson contributed to this report.