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WASHINGTON – GOP Sen. Jeff Flake and Democratic Sen. Chris Coons are in agreement: If FBI investigators find that Brett Kavanaugh lied while testifying before senators last week, his Supreme Court nomination is done.
"If Brett Kavanaugh is shown to have lied to the committee, nomination's over?" Scott Pelley of "60 Minutes" asked the two senators during an interview that aired Sunday night.
"Oh, yes," Flake, an Arizona Republican, replied.
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"I would think so," Coons, a Delaware Democrat, added.
Together, these two senators were behind the drama of Friday's Senate Judiciary Committee vote. Their meeting would lead to the advancing of Kavanaugh's nomination to the full Senate – but the circuit court judge now faces an FBI inquiry into the sexual assault allegations against him.
Kavanaugh faces sexual misconduct allegations, including those from Christine Blasey Ford, who testified last week that a drunken Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her while they were in high school. He has vehemently denied all allegations.
After Flake voted to advance Kavanaugh's nomination on the condition that an investigation into Kavanaugh's background be conducted, President Donald Trump on Friday ordered the FBI to reopen its probe.
It began with a tap on the shoulder: Flake had a message for Coons when they left the committee room together, just before the committee was set to vote.
"He said very intently, 'This is tearing our country apart.' We have to do something," Coons said on "60 Minutes."
In their first interview together since reaching that remarkable compromise, the two senators described on how they agreed on a limited, week-long FBI probe.
Coons and Flake met in a tiny hallway outside the Senate meeting, and as other members of the committee got involved in the discussions, the two squeezed into "literally a phone booth that we can barely fit in" to continue discussions with another senator, Coons said.
"It was quite a moment," Flake said.
Coons had been talking to friends and colleagues about taking a "one week pause, one week only."
"I was, principally, concerned about helping my friend listen to his doubts and his conscience," Coons said of Flake. "And I cannot tell you how grateful I am. Jeff's the hero here."
If he had been running for re-election, Flake acknowledged, there is "not a chance" that he would have been able to reach an agreement. The Arizona Republican is retiring at the end of this year.
"There's no value to reaching across the aisle," Flake said. "There's no currency for that anymore. There's no incentive."
Earlier on Friday, Flake had announced he would vote for Kavanaugh, but he looked shaken after being cornered in an elevator by two sexual assault survivors as he headed to the committee meeting.
"I couldn't move forward without hitting the pause button," Flake said on "60 Minutes." "Because, what I was seeing, experiencing, in an elevator and watching it in committee and just thinking, this is tearing the country apart."