'This was kind of a surprise to all of us': Democrats score a win as Jeff Flake and other Republicans demand FBI investigation

Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesBrett Kavanaugh
  • Democrats claimed something of a victory on Friday when Sen. Jeff Flake, a Republican on the Judiciary Committee, called for an FBI investigation into the allegations of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
  • Democratic Sen.

    Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesBrett Kavanaugh

    said on Friday that her Republican colleague’s apparent about-face “was kind of a surprise to all of us.”


Democrats claimed something of a victory on Friday when Sen. Jeff Flake, a Republican on the Judiciary Committee, called for an FBI investigation into the allegations of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat on the committee who has emerged as a key player in her party’s alliance with Flake, told reporters after Friday morning’s hearing that her Republican colleague’s apparent about-face “was kind of a surprise to all of us.”

“Did we actually think this was going to happen today? No,” Klobuchar said.

After deliberating with Democrats on the committee, Flake announced that he wouldn’t vote to confirm Kavanaugh without a week-long “pause” for an investigation, “limited in time and scope,” in order to do “our due diligence.”

“We ought to do what we can to make sure we do all due diligence with a nomination this important,” he said. “This country is being ripped apart here.”

Democrats have aggressively pushed for an FBI investigation into the allegations against Kavanaugh – making abundantly clear during Thursday’s hearing that they believe the GOP is deliberately “railroading” the confirmation process.

“You can do a lot if you have the whole FBI looking at things for one week,” Klobuchar said Friday, adding that Flake believes the process will help lessen the deep partisan divides over Kavanaugh, who is the least popular Supreme Court nominee in decades.

Flake’s Republican colleagues told reporters that they respect Flake’s decision, but don’t believe the investigation will imperil his vote in favour of Kavanaugh’s nomination.

“This is Jeff Flake, this is what I like about the guy,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who delivered one of the most impassioned defences of Kavanaugh during Thursday’s hearings, adding that he doesn’t think the investigation will uncover any new evidence.

It is now up to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to ask President Donald Trump to direct the FBI to reopen its background investigation into Kavanaugh.

On Friday, Trump told reporters in the Oval Office that he’s leaving the decision on how to proceed with the confirmation in the hands of Senate Republicans.

“Whatever they think is necessary is ok,” the president said. “They have to do what they think is right.”

Klobuchar in the spotlight

Klobuchar’s exchange with Kavanaugh, during which she asked him questions about claims that he drank to excess in high school and college, was one of Thursday’s more remarkable.

The senator opened her questioning by noting that her own father struggled with alcoholism for many years, and then asked if “there was ever a time when you drank so much that you couldn’t remember what happened, or part of what happened, the night before?”

But Kavanaugh tossed the question back to the senator.

“You’re asking about black out – I don’t know, have you?” he replied.

Klobuchar repeated the question, to which Kavanaugh again refused to respond and said, “I’m curious if you have.”

After a break in the hearing, Kavanaugh apologised to the senator, who he said he had great “respect” for.

“I’m sorry I did that – this is a tough process, I’m sorry about that,” the judge said.

Klobuchar accepted the apology, adding, “when you have a parent that’s an alcoholic, you’re pretty careful about drinking” and repeated her call to re-open the FBI background check “to get to the bottom of the facts and the evidence.”

Read Business Insider’s full coverage of the Ford-Kavanaugh hearing:

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