After receiving FBI report, White House 'fully confident' Senate will confirm Kavanaugh

The White House has received the Federal Bureau of Investigation's report on sexual misconduct allegations against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and is "fully confident" the Senate will approve his nomination, a spokesperson said.

Senate judiciary committee chairman Chuck Grassley said in a tweet early Thursday that he had also received the "supplemental FBI background file for Judge Kavanaugh."

Grassley is expected to read the FBI report Thursday morning, followed by his colleagues on the committee. However, because the report is confidential, senators will not be allowed to talk about what's in it.

The Senate committee is expected to hold a crucial initial vote Friday on Kavanaugh's tottering Supreme Court nomination, with a showdown roll call over confirmation likely to take place in the full Senate over the weekend.

Senators had been given ample time to review the background investigation and the White House was "fully confident" they would endorse Kavanaugh, the administration's Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah said in a tweet early on Thursday.

The report landed in a Capitol palpably tense over the political stakes of the nomination fight and from aggressive anti-Kavanaugh protesters who have rattled and reportedly harassed senators.

Protesters opposing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh march outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington last Thursday. (Patrick Semansky/Associated Press)

Feeding the anxiety was an unusually beefy presence of the U.S. Capitol Police, who were keeping demonstrators and frequently reporters at arm's length by forming wedges around lawmakers walking through corridors.

Republicans agreed to ask the FBI for an additional background check on Kavanaugh after his first accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, testified last week that he sexually assaulted her when they were in high school. Kavanaugh denies the accusation.

Ford describes how the alleged assault unfolded: 

Christine Blasey Ford tells the U.S. Senate judiciary committee how the alleged sexual assault by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh unfolded one night in 1982. 1:39

Ford's attorneys have said she was not contacted for an interview. But the FBI spoke to a second woman, Deborah Ramirez, who claims Kavanaugh exposed himself to her when they were in college. Kavanaugh says that accusation is false.

Several people with information related to allegations against Kavanaugh told Reuters they had not heard from the FBI, suggesting its report may be narrower than was desired by some of the lawmakers who demanded it just days ago.

Partisan struggle

Underscoring rising tensions, Democrats suggested that previous FBI background checks of Kavanaugh may have unearthed misconduct by the nominee.

Democrats wrote to Grassley, challenging a Tuesday tweet by Republican aides that said prior investigations never found "a whiff of ANY issue — at all — related in any way to inappropriate sexual behaviour or alcohol abuse." Democrats wrote that the Republican tweet contained information that is "not accurate."

With the report's conclusions as yet unclear, a partisan struggle over it has been developing.

Trump and the Senate Republican leadership are battling to corral enough support for a majority vote for Kavanaugh, a conservative federal appeals court judge, while Democrats are in near unanimity against him.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell is "hell-bent on getting this done" this week, one Democrat said. (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, filed a petition for a cloture vote, which if successful would limit debate on the nomination and start the clock ticking on a final 30-hour waiting period before a Senate confirmation vote.

After filing a cloture petition, lawmakers must wait one legislative day before proceeding to a vote, according to Senate rules. That means a cloture vote could come on Friday morning at the soonest.

Outcome of vote uncertain

As Senate Republican leaders marched toward a final vote on Kavanaugh's nomination, the three Republicans who could be key to whether Kavanaugh is confirmed — Senators Jeff Flake, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski — criticized Trump for mocking Ford at a political rally in Mississippi on Tuesday.

Watch Trump criticize Christine Blasey Ford's testimony:

The U.S. president has mocked Brett Kavanaugh's accuser, who testified against the Supreme Court nominee last week 0:44

Collins told reporters that Trump's lampooning of Ford at the campaign rally was "just plain wrong." Murkowski called it "wholly inappropriate and in my view unacceptable," and Flake said on NBC's Today show that the remarks were "kind of appalling."

Those senators, along with Democrats Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, have yet to declare how they will vote.

Trump himself didn't respond publicly to the criticism. On Twitter, he hailed Kavanaugh as "a fine man and great intellect" and insisted, "The country is with him all the way!"

Ford, in her testimony last week, said she could not remember the precise date or location of the alleged assault or how she got home later, but offered a detailed account of the incident. 

She said Kavanaugh sexually abused her in a locked room at a high school party in the 1980s and has said she believed he was trying to rape her. Kavanaugh has denied her assertions and those of two other women, who have accused him of other instances of sexual misconduct in the 1980s.

With files from The Associated Press

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