The FBI investigation into Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and the sexual assault and misconduct allegations against him is marching along, and results could come as early as Wednesday.
But in the past 24 hours alone, a lot has happened: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate will vote on Kavanaugh on this week, whatever the FBI probe says and whenever it arrives. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said if the judge’s nomination fails, he thinks President Donald Trump should try to nominate him again.
Meanwhile, Trump mocked one of Kavanaugh’s accusers at a rally in Mississippi. Republican Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Susan Collins of Maine, both considered swing votes on Kavanaugh’s confirmation, pushed back (lightly).
And the FBI probe continues to unfold, with the bureau wrapping up its interview with Kavanaugh’s friend Mark Judge, and more details about Ford’s and Kavanaugh’s pasts coming out. Lawyer Michael Avenatti has been making waves too.
It’s been less than a week since Ford and Kavanaugh appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss her allegations against him. She claims he pinned her down, tried to take her clothes off, and covered her mouth as she screamed while they were at a high school party in the early 1980s, as his friend Judge looked on. Kavanaugh has denied Ford’s claims and all the others made against him, including by Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick.
As the FBI investigation perhaps reaches its endpoint, here’s a roundup of the past 24 hours in Kavanaugh news:
Kavanaugh apparently planned a wild party in high school
In his Thursday testimony, Kavanaugh appeared combative and aggressive. That’s ignited concerns about his temperament, his drinking history, and his willingness to be less than forthcoming about the details of his past. Before the Senate and in an interview with Fox News, Kavanaugh has denied he drank excessively in his youth, despite evidence to the contrary — including more that arrived on Tuesday.
The New York Times on Tuesday published a copy of a 1983 letter that Kavanaugh wrote to his group of friends ahead of their trip to a beachfront condo in Ocean City, Maryland. He told them whoever got there first should “warn the neighbors that we’re loud, obnoxious drunks with prolific pukers among us,” and “advise them to go about 30 miles.”
Kavanaugh said during his testimony that he went to high school parties and “sometimes I had too many beers,” and he acknowledged some of his behavior was cringeworthy. But he’s largely brushed aside the excesses his yearbook reflects and that many of those who knew him recall.
Some of Kavanaugh’s former supporters are turning on him
Kavanaugh’s denials — and his public performance since the allegations against him came out — are what spurred two of his former law school classmates who previously vouched for him to tell the Senate Judiciary Committee they’re no longer backing him. Michael Proctor and Mark Osler told Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) that the “lack of judicial temperament displayed” during the panel hearing and the “partisanship that has injected itself” into Kavanaugh’s candidacy “cause us to withdraw our support.”
Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and editor-in-chief at the Lawfare blog, wrote in the Atlantic that he wouldn’t confirm Kavanaugh, despite his “long relationship” with the judge. “If I were a senator, I would vote against Kavanaugh’s confirmation,” he wrote. “I would do it both because of Ford’s testimony and because of Kavanaugh’s.”
He had previously called Kavanaugh a “ thoroughly decent and honorable person.”
Fox News claims it has evidence to refute Ford
Separately, Fox News obtained a written declaration from a man Ford used to date that he claims contradicts her testimony. He said that while they dated from about 1992 to 1998, he saw Ford help a friend prepare for a polygraph test. (Ford took and passed a polygraph test this summer before her allegations were made public.) The man also said she never expressed fear of flying or being in close quarters, both anxieties she has said she had, and never told him about a sexual assault. (Ford has said she first spoke openly about the alleged incident in therapy sessions in 2012.)
The man’s name has not been made public, and thus far, there is nothing to corroborate his claims.
Michael Avenatti claims to have another accuser
Avenatti, who has for days been pressing for the FBI to interview Swetnick and made a public show of getting involved in the Kavanaugh allegations, on Wednesday morning tweeted that “yet another accuser has come forward.”
The attached statement says that this person was in high school in the DC area at the same time as Kavanaugh and that Kavanaugh would “spike the punch” at house parties, acted aggressively with women, and, with Mark Judge, made “inappropriate physical contact with girls of a sexual nature.”
The accuser isn’t named, and there are few details given about the accusations. It’s not clear whether the FBI will react, if at all.
Senate Republicans want to get this show on the road
McConnell, meanwhile, wants the Kavanaugh confirmation done ASAP, and he has no qualms about making it known.
He had hoped to jam through Kavanaugh’s vote, but when Flake called last week for a one-week FBI probe, he acquiesced. He still isn’t happy about it. Speaking on the Senate floor on Tuesday, McConnell said that the FBI report’s release would not “be used as another reason for delay” and vowed to hold a vote this week. He said senators should read the report “as quickly as they can,” but they apparently won’t get much time to do it.
“What I can tell you with certainty is we will have an FBI report this week and we will have a vote this week,” he said.
As CNN points out, there’s been some wrangling among lawmakers about what, if anything, should be made public from the FBI report. Some Republicans have pushed for a public release, while others, including McConnell, are resisting.
And it’s not just GOP lawmakers who aren’t sure about putting out the report — Feinstein has said she’s worried about witness confidentiality being breached if the report comes out. Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) said he thinks the report should be kept confidential to the Senate, but that all senators should review it.
Of course, just because the report isn’t officially released publicly doesn’t mean parts or all of it won’t be leaked to the press.
If a vote does indeed to go the floor this week, it’s not entirely clear how it will turn out. On the Republican side, Sens. Collins, Flake, and Lisa Murkowski (AK) are considered to be the swing votes on Kavanaugh. On the Democratic side, how Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (ND) and Joe Manchin (WV) will vote is still not known.
Graham, who has been outspoken and unyielding his defense of Kavanaugh, on Tuesday acknowledged that the Senate might reject Kavanaugh’s nomination. He said if it happens, Trump should nominate him again.
“I believe Judge Kavanaugh will be confirmed to the Supreme Court very soon,” Graham said. “However, if his nomination were to fall short, I would encourage President Trump to re-nominate Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. It would — in effect — be appealing the Senate’s verdict directly to the American people.”
It’s not clear when the FBI investigation will wrap up, though it could be as soon as Wednesday. The bureau has already interviewed Judge, Ramirez, and others.
Trump’s restraint is gone
When the allegations against Kavanaugh began to surface, the president was, almost surprisingly, on his best behavior. He refrained from attacking Ford and said the issue should be allowed to play out. Aides were reportedly “stunned” by his restraint. But it hasn’t lasted.
On Tuesday, Trump lamented while speaking with reporters that it’s a “very scary time” for young men in America. “It’s a very scary time for young men in America when you can be guilty of something you may not be guilty of. This is a very difficult time,” he said.
Trump, who called for the death penalty for the “Central Park Five,” a group of black and Latino teenagers who were wrongfully accused of assaulting and raping a white woman in the 1980s, complained that in the current scenario, “you’re truly guilty until proven innocent.”
He upped the ante even more later in the evening at a rally in Mississippi, where he specifically targeted Ford. Per Vox’s Tara Golshan:
He also attacked Swetnick, another accuser who came forward with attorney Avenatti and says she saw Kavanaugh and his friends sexually assault girls in high school and target them with alcohol and drugs so that they would lose their inhibitions. She also said Kavanaugh was present at a party where she was “gang raped.”
“We had another woman just reported by a sleazebag lawyer named Avenatti,” Trump said. “Sleazebag! Sleazebag! Even NBC couldn’t shield her with that interview. This woman had no clue what was going on.” (He was referring to a recent NBC News interview with Swetnick.)
That Trump would attack women who say they are victims of sexual assault — especially Ford — caused consternation.
Flake reacted to Trump’s rally comments in an interview with NBC’s Today. “There is no time and no place for remarks like that, but to discuss something this sensitive at a political rally is just not right,” he said. “I wish he hadn’t done it, and I just say it’s kind of appalling.”
Collins told CNN that Trump’s comments were “just plain wrong.” She wouldn’t say whether they would affect her vote.
Murkowski called the remarks “wholly inappropriate” and “unacceptable.”