Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said he “couldn’t move forward without hitting the pause button” on Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court and, therefore, insisted on an FBI investigation into the sexual misconduct allegations against the nominee.
Asked later in the “60 Minutes” interview whether the nomination would end if the probe shows that Kavanaugh had not been truthful in his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Flake said as he nodded:
Kavanaugh, a 53-year-old federal appellate court judge, has unequivocally denied allegations that as a teenager in high school, he tried to sexually assault a 15-year-old during a house party in Maryland in the 1980s. The allegations by Christine Blasey Ford, now a 51-year-old psychology professor from California, have not been corroborated by witnesses she said were present at the party.
As the FBI investigates, a former Yale University classmate accused Kavanaugh of not being truthful about the extent of his drinking during his younger years. Kavanaugh testified that he has “never blacked out” from drinking, though he acknowledged that he sometimes had “too many beers.” Charles Ludington, who teaches at North Carolina State University and said he and Kavanaugh were friends in college, called the judge’s testimony a “blatant mischaracterization” of his drinking habits. The Brett he knew, Ludington said, was a “frequent” and “heavy” drinker who often became “belligerent and aggressive” when inebriated.
Ludington told The Washington Post on Sunday that he plans to deliver a statement to the FBI field office in Raleigh detailing Kavanaugh’s violent drinking behavior.
The allegations have disrupted Kavanaugh’s all-but-assured nomination to the Supreme Court and the Republicans' chance to shift the judiciary to the right for decades to come. The stunning drama that unfolded last week — the highlights of which were Ford’s gut-wrenching testimony of what she said happened to her 36 years ago and Kavanaugh’s pained denial — has laid bare the hyperpartisan battle over what is supposed to be the least partisan branch of government.
And Flake, who is retiring after his term, riled the already fraught confirmation process after he announced last week that he would not vote to send Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court unless the FBI is allowed one week to investigate. Flake had initially planned to endorse Kavanaugh, but he changed course after huddling with Coons and other senators. He voted to send the nomination out of the committee but made his support for a Senate floor vote contingent on an FBI investigation.
“I don’t think anybody expected, you know, what happened on Friday to happen. And I can’t say that I did, either,” Flake told CBS News’s Scott Pelley, adding later: “What I was seeing, experiencing, in an elevator and watching it in committee and just thinking, this is ripping our country apart.”
Two women who said they were sexual assault survivors confronted Flake in an elevator after he announced his plan to endorse Kavanaugh and tearily urged him to reconsider his position. The dramatic moment at the end of an already dramatic week was aired live on CNN.
Eyes were focused on Flake, a key swing vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination and a fierce critic of President Trump. In his “60 Minutes” interview, which aired two days later, Flake admitted that he would not have done what he did had he been up for reelection.
“No, not a chance,” Flake said.
“There’s no value to reaching across the aisle. There’s no currency for that anymore. There’s no incentive,” he added.
The 55-year-old senator announced last year that he would retire at the end of his term, citing the direction of the Republican Party under Trump.
Flake said the FBI investigation will lead to additional interviews and could reveal new information. But he also acknowledged that it may further complicate matters.
“There’s a chance, and we knew that,” he said. “And some of our colleagues said that ‘we’ll be back here one week from now. It’ll be worse.' There will be other outrageous allegations that come forward, the FBI will talk to people who don’t want to talk anymore. We won’t be better off.”
The investigation is not an expansive criminal probe but an additional background check on Kavanaugh. The Post reported that the FBI had not yet contacted Ford but has spoken with a second accuser, Deborah Ramirez, who alleged that Kavanaugh drunkenly exposed himself to her while they were in college. A U.S. official also told The Post that a third accuser, Julie Swetnick, is not expected to be interviewed.