Grassley says FBI found 'no hint' of Kavanaugh misconduct, while Democrats slam probe as 'incomplete'
- After seeing a report on the FBI's Brett Kavanaugh background check, key Republicans say they see no new corroboration of sexual misconduct accusations against him.
- Democrats argue the probe was not comprehensive enough to dig up necessary information.
- Republicans are moving quickly to confirm Kavanaugh, and a final vote could come as early as this weekend.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said Thursday that an FBI investigation found "no hint" of sexual misconduct by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, even as Democrats called the agency's probe incomplete.
The Iowa Republican and his Democratic colleagues clashed again Thursday after seeing a report about the bureau's nearly weeklong supplemental background check into the appeals judge. A sexual assault accusation and two other claims of sexual misconduct have stalled Kavanaugh's confirmation and dragged the Senate into a partisan slugfest intensified by President Donald Trump's commentary.
Republicans are pushing to confirm Kavanaugh, who has denied all allegations, later this week. The FBI probe appeared to change few minds in the GOP, which has largely stood steadfast behind the judge.
"These uncorroborated accusations have been unequivocally and repeatedly rejected by Judge Kavanaugh, and neither the Judiciary Committee nor the FBI could locate any third parties who can attest to any of the allegations," Grassley said on Thursday morning.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., quickly disputed Grassley's comments and called for the documents to be released publicly. Judiciary Committee ranking member Sen. Dianne Feinstein also said "the most notable part of this report is what's not in it." The California Democrat decried an "incomplete investigation" that she said was "limited, perhaps by the White House."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has set the stage for a key procedural vote on Friday and a full confirmation vote as early as Saturday. Kavanaugh taking the seat on the Supreme Court would likely lock in a conservative majority on the bench for decades. That led the GOP to move quickly to confirm him before Democrats have a chance to flip control of the chamber in November's midterm elections.
In an angry speech Thursday morning, McConnell said "we will not be hoodwinked by those who have tried hard to smear this good man."
At least two Republicans — Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine — and two Democrats — Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia — remain undecided on Kavanaugh's nomination. If no other lawmakers oppose the appeals judge, all four would have to vote against him to sink him.
Those senators did not specifically say Thursday whether they would support Kavanaugh.
Collins told reporters that "it appears to be a very thorough investigation" and said she would personally read interviews with witnesses later in the day. Sen. Jeff Flake, a retiring Arizona Republican who joined with Democrats to force the supplemental FBI probe, said that "we've seen no new corroboration." Flake said he would support Kavanaugh on Friday.
Anger from Kavanaugh and Republicans following testimony last week from Christine Blasey Ford, who accuses the judge of sexually assaulting him when they were in high school in the early 1980s, increased partisan tensions in the Senate. While Ford's emotional testimony was widely seen as credible, Kavanaugh's forceful denials led the GOP to line up behind him.
Democrats and even some Republicans have criticized partisan language Kavanaugh used in testimony before the judiciary panel last week.
Trump drew more backlash Tuesday night, when he mocked Ford's testimony at a campaign rally in Mississippi.