Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski told CNN on Friday she plans to wait until after Judge Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, the woman accusing President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee of sexual assault, testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee before deciding whether to back Kavanaugh’s nomination.
“What I have to do next week, assuming that the hearing moves forward, which I am truly hoping it does, that is the end, hopefully, of this vetting process that I have been engaged in,” she said here Friday. “That’s when I will make my determination in regards to Judge Kavanaugh.”
Republicans can confirm Kavanaugh without any votes from Democrats but given that Republicans control 51 seats to Democrats’$2 49, Kavanaugh’s supporters have barely any room for GOP “no” votes.
The Alaskan senator, who as a more moderate Republican is seen as a key swing vote, also said Trump’s tweet Friday morning claiming that Ford should have reported her allegation immediately after the alleged incident took place was not “helpful.”
“I think that where we are right now with the Senate and (the) Judiciary Committee particularly, going through its process, a process that hopefully will allow for an airing of the allegations Dr. Ford has submitted in writing … but equally important is a fair opportunity for Judge Kavanaugh to respond,” she said. “That’s what we should be focusing on.”
Murkowski was referencing a series of tweets Friday morning from Trump where he wrote that if the attack Ford alleges “was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities.”
“So comments that go to other aspects, questioning the judgment, I don’t believe they are helpful,” Murkowski said. “And quite frankly, I wish the President had continued what he has been doing, which is basically allowing the Senate and Judiciary Committee to proceed with its work as the committee needs to do.”
Ford has accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were both teenagers in the 1980s, an allegation that Kavanaugh has categorically denied. As of Friday, Ford’s lawyers and Senate Judiciary Committee negotiators continued to discuss what the conditions would be in order for Ford to testify before the panel, if at all.
Murkowski said she believes the issue of the allegations against Kavanaugh is now in the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hands rather than those of the FBI.
“I think it’s important to realize, as has been said before, when a nominee is advanced there is an FBI review background investigation that comes. In fact, with Judge Kavanaugh, because he has been a nominee on multiple occasions now, he’s actually had six different FBI reviews, if you will,” she said. “The FBI basically doesn’t make a determination on this as matter. … So I think right now where we are is you have a committee process that needs to advance, again to allow this story to be told, and responded to appropriately.”
On Thursday, Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, as well as Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, announced their opposition to Kavanaugh’s nomination, saying his confirmation would threaten Alaskan’s health care, labor rights and Native rights. Murkowski said she wasn’t surprised by their statement.
“He was leaning against – I don’t want to say supporting, he doesn’t have a vote – but he had been asked to weigh in and indicated he was leaning against Judge Kavanaugh,” she said. “I didn’t try to convince him, nor he of me. … when his announcement came out yesterday, quite frankly it didn’t surprise me.”
Murkowski said she’s taking her decision very seriously.
“This is my fifth Supreme Court justice that I will have an opportunity to weigh in on,” she said. “There are only nine members on the United States Supreme Court. And these nine members are given a lifetime tenure. So legislation can come and go … but ensuring we have a judiciary that is independent, that is clearly equal in weight and stature, as the other two branches, is critically important … so making sure that we have the best of the best to serve us is what we want in our Supreme Court.”
CNN’s Marita Vlachou contributed to this report.