Senate Judiciary charman says 'no hint of misconduct' in Kavanaugh report

Published October 4 2018
Updated October 4 2018

WASHINGTON — The chairman of the Senate Judiciary says the FBI found "no hint of misconduct" in its background investigation of sexual misconduct claims against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Sen. Chuck Grassley says he's received a briefing from staff on the confidential report. And the Iowa Republican says in a statement that "there's nothing in it that we didn't already know."

He says the FBI couldn't find any people who could "attest to any of the allegations" against Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh denies the allegations.

The FBI report was given to the Senate overnight. Senators are reading it Thursday in a secure room in the Capitol complex, but aren't expected to discuss specific details of what they learn.

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."

Earlier Thursday morning, Senators prepared to view the report, setting up another day of high drama on Capitol Hill.

The White House said overnight that it is "fully confident" that the Senate will confirm President Donald Trump's nominee, whose confirmation process has been roiled by the allegations of sexual misconduct by three women while he was in high school and college.

In anticipation of the report's arrival, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Wednesday night teed up a key vote to advance Kavanaugh's nomination for Friday. Until that vote, senators will be rushing in and out of a secure facility at the Capitol to review the sensitive FBI report that the bureau has compiled, looking into allegations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh.

In early morning tweets, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, said that he and the committee's top Democrat had "agreed to alternating EQUAL access for senators to study content from additional background info gathered by non-partisan FBI agents."

Raj Shah, deputy White House press secretary, said the report, which Democrats have denounced as hasty and incomplete, marked "the last addition to the most comprehensive review of a Supreme Court nominee in history, which includes extensive hearings, multiple committee interviews, over 1,200 questions for the record and over a half million pages of documents."

In three tweets, the first published at 2:24 a.m. Thursday, Shah said lawmakers will have had "ample time" to review the results of the latest probe by the time they vote on Friday.

The FBI's report will be available at a sensitive compartmented information facility, or SCIF, in the Capitol Visitor Center, a secure room designed for senators to review sensitive or classified material, two Senate officials said. Just one physical copy of the report will be available, and only to senators and 10 committee staffers cleared to view the material.

The two parties will take turns having access to the FBI report in shifts, according to a senior Senate official. For example, Republicans will spend an hour with the report from 8 a.m. until 9 a.m. Thursday, then Democrats will have an hour with the report. It will rotate throughout the rest of the day Thursday and potentially into Friday, with staff members simultaneously briefing senators.

But even before the report was formally sent to the Senate, lawyers for Christine Blasey Ford - the first woman to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual assault - criticized what they viewed as an incomplete FBI probe.

"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," her legal team said in a statement. "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."

The reopened FBI investigation was prompted by reservations expressed by Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., about moving forward on a full Senate vote without further examination of the accusations of Ford and other "credible" accusers.

Even as the White House gave the FBI permission to broaden its examination, it continued to hold the bureau to a strict timeline.

Moreover, the inquiry focused mainly on the account of Ford, the research psychologist who alleges that a drunken Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were high school students in the Washington suburbs.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the White House had restricted the FBI from scrutinizing the nominee's drinking habits, as well as possible disparities between his alcohol consumption as a young man and his account before Congress.

Much of the focus Thursday will be on the reactions of three Republicans whose votes are considered key to Kavanaugh's fate: Flake, Susan Collins, Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, Alaska.

On Wednesday, all three took issue with Trump's mocking of Ford the night before at a political rally in Mississippi that drew laughs from his supporters.

Besides Flake, Collins and Murkowski, Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, N.D., and Joe Manchin III, W.Va., also have yet to announce how they will vote.

While trying to round up votes on his side, McConnell has also taken sharp aim at Democrats, accusing them of trying to "move the goal posts" on Kavanaugh's confirmation fight by suggesting that Friday would be too soon for a key vote on him.

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