WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI is expected to send Congress a report on its revived sexual harassment investigation of Brett Kavanaugh as soon as Wednesday afternoon, Republican senators said of the pivotal document that could make or break his Supreme Court nomination.
GOP lawmakers emerging from a closed-door lunch said that if the report arrived later in the day, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would trigger a process that could lead to a crucial initial vote Friday and a climactic confirmation roll call over the weekend. In the meantime, senators and a small number of top aides would be allowed to read the papers in a secure room in the Capitol complex.
Senators have been awaiting completion of the report since last week, when a handful of wavering GOP senators pressured a reluctant President Donald Trump and GOP leaders to ask the FBI to renew its background check of the 53-year-old conservative jurist.
Kavanaugh’s expected smooth sail to confirmation was rattled after Christine Blasey Ford and two other women publicly accused him of sexual misconduct in separate incidents in the 1980s. Three Republican and two Democratic senators, all moderates, have yet to announce how they will vote, and the GOP’s razor-thin 51-49 Senate majority means Kavanaugh’s fate remains unpredictable.
Anticipation for the report built as Republicans assessed the impact of Trump’s Tuesday night tirade against Ford. At a campaign rally, he mimicked her and often inaccurately recalled her answers to questions she faced at a Senate hearing last week, drawing laughter from the sympathetic crowd but concern from Republicans that he’d made nailing down votes for Kavanaugh more complicated.
“All of us need to keep in mind there’s a few people that are on the fence right now. And right now, that’s sort of where our focus needs to be,” said Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who has traded barbs with Trump and will retire at year’s end.
The FBI has interviewed several people, including three who Ford has said were at a 1982 high school gathering in suburban Maryland where she says Kavanaugh sexually molested her in a locked bedroom. Also a Kavanaugh friend she says was in the room. The agency has also spoken to a second woman, Deborah Ramirez, who has claimed Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a Yale party when both were freshmen.
Other than that, little is known about details of the agency’s renewed background check. While some senators from both parties have said they’d like at least a summary of the findings to be released, Senate procedures call for such checks to be kept confidential.
“None of that stuff’s public,” Judiciary panel Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. Told reporters. “If you want people to be candid when they talk to the FBI, you ain’t going to make that public.”