A high-stakes partisan row quickly broke out yesterday over a confidential FBI report about allegations that Brett Kavanaugh sexually abused women three decades ago, with Republicans claiming investigators found "no hint of misconduct" and Democrats accusing the White House of slapping crippling constraints on the probe.
The battling commenced as the conservative jurist's prospects for winning Senate confirmation to the Supreme Court remained at the mercy of five undeclared senators, with an initial, critical vote looming today. It followed the FBI's early-morning release of its investigation, which President Donald Trump reluctantly ordered under pressure from a handful of senators.
"There's nothing in it that we didn't already know," Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said in a written statement. He said he based his view on a briefing from committee aides and added, "This investigation found no hint of misconduct."
In a potential sign of momentum for Kavanaugh, Senator Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, told CNN that "we've seen no additional corroborating information" and said the investigation had been comprehensive. Flake, who has not stated his position on the nomination, was among three Republicans who pressed Trump to order the renewed FBI background check.
Another GOP lawmaker who has publicly taken no stance, Susan Collins of Maine, called the probe "a very thorough investigation" and said she'd read the documents later. Alaska's Lisa Murkowski said she'd read the report.
Other Republicans who'd already voiced support for Kavanaugh echoed Grassley, saying after a briefing that there'd been no corroboration of wrongdoing by Kavanaugh. Said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican, South Carolina, "The senators who requested the supplemental background check got what they requested, and I am ready to vote."
Democrats Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia have also not declared how they will vote.
Top Democrats fired back at Grassley after getting their own briefing.
The judiciary panel's top Democrat, Dianne Feinstein of California, said it appeared that the White House had "blocked the FBI from doing its job". She said that while Democrats had agreed to limit the probe's scope, "we did not agree that the White House should tie the FBI's hands".