Sen. Jeff Flake will support Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, securing a critical vote for his confirmation, but only with strings attached.
Flake released a statement backing Kavanaugh only hours after harrowing testimony about a sexual assault accusation against the appeals court judge. Then, in a dramatic twist a short time later, the Arizona Republican called on the Senate GOP to delay a floor vote on Kavanaugh for no more than a week while the FBI investigates the claim.
He still voted in favor of Kavanaugh as the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced his nomination in an 11-10 party-line vote. Nothing currently guarantees that the Senate will delay the vote or that the FBI will open a probe. At least one Republican colleague, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, quickly joined Flake in calling for an investigation. However, they will need more senators to join them to force Republican leaders' hand in delaying a vote.
Flake's shift followed conversations with Democratic colleagues on Friday afternoon during a tense Judiciary Committee meeting. It also came after a confrontation in the morning during which two women who said they were sexually assaulted tearfully criticized Flake's support of Kavanaugh as the senator silently looked at the ground.
On Thursday, college professor Christine Blasey Ford emotionally accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were high school students in the early 1980s. The judge angrily denied the allegation later in the day.