Brett Kavanaugh

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Grassley: FBI Kavanaugh Probe Finds 'No Hint Of Misconduct;' Final Vote Planned For Saturday

October 04, 2018 - 6:36 am
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WASHINGTON (WCBS 880/AP) — A top Senate Republican said Thursday the confidential FBI report on charges that Brett Kavanaugh sexually abused women three decades ago "found no hint of misconduct" by the Supreme Court nominee. 

The final vote on Kavanaugh's confirmation is now planned for Saturday, though plans by Sen. Steve Daines (R-Montana) to attend his daughter's wedding that day have called into question whether the vote will happen as planned.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) made his remarks — and urged his colleagues to confirm the conservative judge — in a written statement hours after the post-midnight delivery of the FBI document to Congress. With Kavanaugh's uncertain prospects for approval depending in part on the decisions of five wavering senators, lawmakers began viewing the document in a secure room in the Capitol complex.

"There's nothing in it that we didn't already know," Grassley said, basing his comment on a briefing he said he'd received from committee aides. He added, "This investigation found no hint of misconduct."
 
Grassley said the FBI could not "locate any third parties who can attest to any of the allegations," and he said there is "no contemporaneous evidence." He provided no specific detail.

But Senate Democrats criticized the White House for what they said is a limited investigation.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California), the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, says the most notable part of report into sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh "is what's not in it."

Feinstein says the report made available to senators on Thursday is "very limited" and she says "it looks to be a product of an incomplete investigation."

She said the White House may have limited the probe.

Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer (D-New York) said he disagrees with a statement by the committee's GOP chairman that the report found "no hint of misconduct" by Kavanaugh.

Schumer is calling for the report to be made public as well the directive the White House gave the FBI ordering the investigation.

Three women have accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct in separate incidents in the 1980s. Kavanaugh, 53, now a judge on the powerful District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals, has denied the claims.


 
The FBI report was given to the Senate overnight. Senators read it Thursday in a secure room in the Capitol complex, but were not expected to discuss specific details of what they learn. 

Washington Post Congressional reporter Paul Kane was outside the room where the senators were marching in and out to read the 46-page report. He said U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) remains “very much undecided.”

Kane said nothing really surprised him about senators' reactions to report, which itself was a big surprise.

“I mean, the Republicans must be kicking themselves, because, you know, this report came back, and in a way, it gave them more strength to be more authoritative, and say, ‘We’re plowing ahead – there’s nothing here. There was no eyewitness to either of these two events – the high school event or the Yale dorm event.’ And there’s more bravado on their side than they’ve ever had, really, and I think to some degree, they may be thinking, ‘Gosh, we should have done this two weeks ago. We really could have been done with this already if they hadn’t been trying to delay this,’” he said.

 Grassley said it's time to vote on Kavanaugh's nomination. The senator calls the federal judge one of "most qualified nominees to ever come before the Senate.'' 

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tells reporters that "we didn't learn anything new and based on what we knew before, we felt very confident" and is eager for the Senate to vote on the nomination.
 
She's declining to say whether the president has read or been briefed on the FBI report. But Sanders says "the president's aware and feels very confident in his selection and his support'' of Kavanaugh.
 
Sanders earlier on Fox News Channel says the politics Democrats have injected into the process has "upended our judicial system'' and energized Republicans.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) has already started a process that will produce a crucial test vote in his polarized chamber Friday on Kavanaugh's fate. Should Republicans get the majority of votes they need — and Vice President Mike Pence is available to cast the tie-breaker, if necessary — that would set up a decisive roll call on his confirmation, likely over the weekend.

Hundreds of women and men from the Tri-State area boarded buses Thursday morning and headed to Washington to put pressure on the Senate not to confirm Kavanaugh.

The report arrived at a Capitol palpably tense over the political stakes of the nomination fight and from aggressive anti-Kavanaugh protesters who have rattled and reportedly harassed senators. Feeding the anxiety was an unusually beefy presence of the U.S. Capitol Police, who were keeping demonstrators and frequently reporters at arm's length by forming wedges around lawmakers walking through corridors.

Amid complaints that some lawmakers were being confronted outside their homes, McConnell claimed on the Senate floor that the protesters were "part of the organized effort" to derail Kavanaugh's nomination.

"There is no chance in the world that they're going to scare us out of doing our duty," he said.

Adding to the uncertainty, the three undecided GOP senators who could decide Kavanaugh's fate rebuked President Donald Trump for mocking one accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, by mimicking her responses to questions at last week's dramatic Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

"I would tell him, knock it off. You're not helping," Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), said of Trump's Tuesday night tirade.

Schumer said Trump's insults marked a "new low."

Underscoring rising tensions, Democrats suggested that previous FBI background checks of Kavanaugh may have unearthed misconduct by the nominee.

Democrats wrote to Grassley, R-Iowa, challenging a Tuesday tweet by GOP aides saying prior investigations never found "a whiff of ANY issue — at all — related in any way to inappropriate sexual behavior or alcohol abuse." Democrats wrote that the GOP tweet contained information that is "not accurate."

Committee Republicans tweeted in response that their prior tweet was "completely truthful" and accused Democrats of "false smears."

Collins told reporters that Trump's lampooning of Ford at a Tuesday night Mississippi campaign rally was "just plain wrong." Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) called it "wholly inappropriate and in my view unacceptable," and Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said on NBC's "Today" show that the remarks were "kind of appalling."

Those senators, along with Democrats Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, have yet to declare how they will vote.

"All of us need to keep in mind there's a few people that are on the fence right now. And right now, that's sort of where our focus needs to be," said Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who has traded barbs with Trump and will retire at year's end.

CBS News correspondent Bill Rehkopf says several Republicans and one red-state Democrat, Manchin, will likely be the key players in Kavanaugh's fate.

Among the Republicans on the fence is Flake, who was still reportedly meeting Thursday with senators from both parties, as well as Murkowski. 

"She's gotten some blowback on this nomination, not just from the state's governor, but from a group of Native Americans who fear that Kavanaugh, because of his past rulings, may take a dim view towards some of their tribal issues," Rehkopf told WCBS 880. "So it actually has nothing to do necessarily with Christine Blasey Ford."

Trump drew laughs Tuesday with his rendition of how Ford answered questions at last week's hearing. "I had one beer — that's the only thing I remember," he stated inaccurately.

As he flew aboard Air Force One to the Mississippi rally, Trump was enraged by New York Times articles about Kavanaugh's high school and college years and alleging tax avoidance efforts by the president and his family, according to a person familiar with the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway on Wednesday echoed the president's newly aggressive approach. She said Ford has "been treated like a Fabergé egg by all of us, beginning with me and the president," and said Trump was merely "pointing out factual inconsistencies."

Trump himself didn't respond publicly to the criticism. On Twitter, he hailed Kavanaugh as "a fine man and great intellect" and insisted, "The country is with him all the way!"

The California psychology professor has testified that a drunken Kavanaugh sexually abused her in a locked room at a high school party in the 1980s and has said she believed he was trying to rape her. Kavanaugh has denied her assertions and those of two other women, who have accused him of other instances of sexual misconduct in the 1980s.

Democrats argued that the investigation has been insufficient, lacking interviews with her, with Kavanaugh and others who his accusers have said could know about the alleged incidents.

In a statement Wednesday night after McConnell set the vote in motion, Ford's counsel wrote: "An FBI supplemental background investigation that did not include an interview of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford — nor the witnesses who corroborate her testimony — cannot be called an investigation. We are profoundly disappointed that after the tremendous sacrifice she made in coming forward, those directing the FBI investigation were not interested in seeking the truth."

Corker and Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., said senators were expecting the document to contain reports that FBI agents compile on their interviews with subjects, perhaps accompanied by a cover letter. Background checks do not traditionally contain investigators' conclusions about who they believe is credible.

Washington has been awaiting completion of the investigation since last week, when Flake, Collins and Murkowski pressured a reluctant Trump and GOP leaders to order the FBI to renew its background check of the 53-year-old Kavanaugh.

The FBI interviewed several people, including three who Ford has said attended a 1982 high school gathering in suburban Maryland where she says Kavanaugh's attack occurred, plus another Kavanaugh friend. The agency has also spoken to a second woman, Deborah Ramirez, who has claimed Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a Yale party when both were freshmen.

In an interview, No. 2 Senate Democratic leader Dick Durbin of Illinois said McConnell was "hell-bent on getting this done" this week.

Democrats also demanded that the FBI privately brief the Senate about the investigation before the chamber votes. McConnell rejected that request in a letter Wednesday to Schumer, saying Democrats would use it to delay Kavanaugh's confirmation.

(© 2018 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)