Kavanaugh Fight in State of Uncertainty

The fight over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was in limbo Monday as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell planned a vote by week’s end but uncertainty lingered over whether the scope of a renewed FBI probe would be enough to convince wavering lawmakers to support the nominee.

Early signs that the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s probe into allegations of sexual harassment would be restricted fueled Democratic criticism that Republicans weren’t out to fully explore the allegations, while the White House, Senate and FBI all appeared to shift responsibility for the scope of the probe elsewhere.

The FBI inquiry of up to a week, brokered as a last-minute deal Friday between Sen. Jeff Flake (R., Ariz.) and Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, was intended to satisfy Democratic concerns that the allegations against Judge Kavanaugh had not been fully vetted as the Senate headed toward a floor vote.

Republican lawmakers said having the FBI do a further background check for a week was a major concession to senators who wanted the probe before a Kavanaugh vote. While many were skeptical that a new FBI investigation was needed, they said it should provide extra assurance to anyone with questions about Dr. Ford’s allegations.

The judge has repeatedly denied all allegations of sexual misconduct, including one from California college professor Christine Blasey Ford that was the subject of last week’s hearing and involved an alleged incident when both were teenagers.

President Trump and senior administration officials on Sunday pushed back against reports that the White House had specified who the FBI would interview. Administration officials said they were taking cues from the Senate.

The White House made the official request to the FBI to renew the investigation, but the extent of its consultation with Senate Republicans remained unclear. The lack of clarity extended to what investigators could ask witnesses, such as whether they would examine the accuracy of Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony last week on his drinking habits as a teen.

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