Senate Republicans have agreed to delay a vote on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation for one week to allow for an FBI probe into allegations of sexual misconduct against the judge, according to a statement issued by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday. The committee requested that the White House “instruct the FBI to conduct a supplemental FBI background investigation with respect to” Kavanaugh’s nomination, the statement said. The president agreed in short order. In a tweet posted by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Friday afternoon, the president said had ordered a supplemental investigation that would be “limited in scope and completed in less than one week.” The delay means that a floor vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation, which had been expected for Tuesday, could now happen three days later. Senators will move forward with a procedural vote expected Saturday. In a statement released by the White House Friday afternoon, Kavanaugh said he would “continue to cooperate.”
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Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas; Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and a number of other Republicans huddled in McConnell’s office Friday afternoon to discuss how to proceed on the confirmation following a call from a number of key senators to delay the vote. The president, who has stood by his nominee amid a turbulent confirmation process roiled by accusations of sexual abuse, said Friday that he would be “totally reliant” on Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.
“I’m going to rely on all of the people including Senator Grassley, who’s doing a very good job,” Trump said. The Judiciary Committee voted on Friday along party lines to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination to the full Senate, but a dramatic last-minute speech from retiring Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., thrust the process into chaos. Flake, who earlier announced that he would vote “yes” on Kavanaugh’s confirmation, said at the committee meeting that his floor vote would be contingent on an FBI probe. A number of other senators considered to be swing votes soon followed suit, with Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin signaling their support for Flake’s proposal almost immediately. The delay follows an explosive, nearly nine-hour day of testimony before the Judiciary Committee on Thursday from Kavanaugh and one of his accusers, Christine Blasey Ford. Ford has alleged that Kavanaugh attempted to rape her at a high school gathering that took place more than three decades ago. Kavanaugh has vehemently denied the accusation. The prospect of an FBI probe was contentiously debated at the hearing Thursday. The two top members of the committee sparred over the utility of such an inquiry — as well as if it could even be conducted. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the committee, said an FBI probe would be “the best way to ensure a fair process to both Kavanaugh and Ford.” In contrast, Grassley called Democratic demands for the FBI to get involved “consistent with their stated desires to obstruct the Kavanaugh nomination by any means necessary,” and said he had “no authority to force an executive branch agency to conduct an investigation into a matter it considers to be closed.” Ford and Kavanaugh themselves were split on whether the FBI should investigate. While Ford has pushed for the bureau to look into her claims, Kavanaugh has pushed back. He said he wants to do whatever the Judiciary Committee thinks is best.