Brett Kavanaugh nomination faces delay
Sen. Jeff Flake was at the center of today's drama over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
The Arizona Republican started his day with a statement saying he'd vote yes, but then ended a committee meeting by saying he'd vote to move the nominee to the Senate floor -- only if the main vote is delayed for an FBI investigation.
Between then, he was confronted by protesters, huddled privately with one of his Democratic friends and went missing for a committee meeting for more than an hour.
Here's the play-by-play of how Flake's day unfolded:
- Around 9:30 a.m. ET: Flake releases a statement saying he will vote to confirm Kavanaugh.
- A minute later, at 9:31 a.m. ET: As Flake is trying to get into an elevator to head to the committee meeting, two women confront him. They tell him they were victims of sexual assault and say his decision to back Kavanaugh sends a message that women's voices don't matter. Flake is visibly uncomfortable. He quietly listens to the women.
- Soon after that: Sen. Chris Coons, a Democrat who is good friends with Flake, gets emotional when he learns of Flake's decision. CNN asks him for comment, and he tears up. “We each make choices for our own reason. I’m struggling, sorry," he says.
- 12:16 p.m. ET: During the committee hearing, Flake stands up and approaches Coons. The two walk out together. Several other Democrats follow.
- 1:30 p.m. ET: The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote, but Flake still isn't in the room. He's been out of the meeting room for more than an hour at this point.
- 1:51 p.m. ET: Flake begins speaking to the committee. He says he will vote to move Kavanaugh out of the committee and to the floor of the Senate as long as the main vote will be delayed by up to one week to allow for an FBI investigation.
- 1:53 p.m. ET: The committee votes 11-10 to send Kavanaugh to the floor.
- After the meeting: Flake says he would only vote yes on the floor if there is a delay and an additional FBI investigation.
Key moderate Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin says he supports Sen. Jeff Flake’s call for a delay.
He said in a statement, “I applaud Senator Jeff Flake’s decision to rise above the partisan circus on display during this entire process. It took courage to take a stand and call for a one-week FBI investigation to get to the bottom of the allegations against Judge Kavanaugh. This has been a partisan and divisive process. The American people have been pulled apart by this entire spectacle and we need to take time to address these claims independently, so that our country can have confidence in the outcome of this vote. It is what is right and fair for Dr. Ford, Judge Kavanaugh, and the American people.”
After the adjournment, committee chairman Chuck Grassley declined to answer most questions, including whether he liked Jeff Flake's proposal of a delay to allow an FBI investigation.
When asked if he was disappointed by what happened, however, he replied, “Why would you be disappointed when you move a nominee out of Committee? You’re moving forward."
Outside of Republican Sen. John Cornyn's office in Austin:
And outside of Cornyn's office in Houston:
Outside Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham's office in Charleston, South Carolina:
In Salt Lake City:
Outside Republican Sen. Bob Corker's office in Nashville:
In Los Angeles:
Outside Republican Sen. Susan Collins' office in Portland, Maine:
Outside Republican Sen. Pat Toomey's office in Philadelphia:
And in Washington, outside the Supreme Court.
While walking into Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, a key vote, said "yes," when asked if she supports Sen. Jeff Flake's proposal for a delay.
"Yes I do. It has to be limited in time and scope," she said.
CNN asked: And do you think it should be limited to Ford’s accusations or should it include an investigation into other allegations?
Murkowski responded: "I support the FBI having an opportunity to bring some closure to this."
Why that's important: Without Murkowski, Republicans don't have enough votes to move forward on a floor without Flake. This vote would therefore seem delayed until the FBI can do the investigation Flake has asked for.
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11-10 on Friday to move Kavanaugh's nomination to the full Senate. All Republicans senators voted yes and all Democrats voted no. Here's how those votes broke down:
Those in favor of confirming Kavanaugh
- Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa
- Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah
- Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina
- Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas
- Sen. Michael Lee, R-Utah
- Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas
- Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska
- Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona
- Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho
- Sen. Thom Tillis, R-North Carolina
- Sen. John Kennedy, R-Louisiana
Those opposed to confirming Kavanaugh
- Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California
- Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont
- Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois
- Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island
- Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota
- Sen. Christopher Coons, D-Delaware
- Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut
- Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii
- Sen. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey
- Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California
Sen. Jeff Flake just walked into Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office. He wouldn’t say anything as he walked in.
GOP Sens. Chuck Grassley, John Kennedy, Mike Crapo and Lindsey Graham also walked in.
Flake said he'll only vote to confirm Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh after there's an FBI investigation. But McConnell has given no commitment that he'll do that.
Right now, this is a math issue for McConnell. If Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski say they’ll support Kavanaugh on the floor, McConnell had 50 votes and doesn’t need Flake. If they endorse Flake’s position, McConnell will likely have no choice but to agree to this.
Speaking to reporters after the committee adjourned, President Trump called Ford "a very fine woman."
"I thought her testimony was very compelling and she looks like a very fine woman to me, very fine woman," Trump said.
"And I thought that Brett's testimony likewise was really something that I hadn't seen before. It was an incredible moment I think in the history of our country. But certainly she was a very credible witness."
Trump, who met with the Chilean president on Friday, noted that he couldn't attend the hearings, but that "I think it will work out very well for the country. I just want it to work out well for the country. If it happens, I'm happy."
He also deferred to the Senate on the question of reopening an investigation.
"I'm going to let the Senate handle that. They will make their decisions,” Trump said. “They'll do a good job. I'm just hearing a little bit about it... Whatever they think is necessary they will do.”
Watch it here:
Jeff Flake had barely finished speaking before Sen. Chuck Grassley cut him off, adjourning the committee. "Because of the two-hour rule, we're adjourned," Grassley said. There was a moment of silence, before Sen. Feinstein asked incredulously, "What?"
Flake seemed to be surprised, too.
Sen. Dianne Feinstin then turned to Grassley to argue there was no vote, to which Grassley replied, "We had to get this all done by 2:00."
"Well, is it done? Is Flake's argument going to happen or did you cut off a vote?" Feinstein asked.
"We didn't have a motion," Grassley said. "This is all a gentlemen and women's agreement."
Feinstein repeated "a gentleman and women's agreement..." then cut off a colleague who interrupted. "Let him say what he's committed to," she said, as the microphones cut off.