ADDS REPUBLICAN LEADERSHIP CONFIRMATION OF FBI PROBE BACKING IN GRAFS 4 -5
By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) – A key Republican senator from Arizona backed Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination Friday, allowing the judge to clear committee, but Jeff Flake called for a one week delay for a full chamber vote.
The delay is to allow time for the FBI to probe allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh.
Republican leadership later agreed to the request, but it is unclear if U.S. President Donald Trump, who holds the sole power to order the FBI to investigate, would do so.
The Judiciary Committee said in a statement it is requesting Trump to instruct the FBI "to conduct a supplemental FBI background investigation."
"The supplemental FBI background investigation would be limited to current credible allegations against the nominee and must be completed no later than one week from today," it said.
Maintaining the support of Flake along with swing vote Republican senators Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins is vital to Kavanaugh's odds to advance through the legislative body where Republicans hold a narrow one-seat majority, limiting their margin for error.
Flake suggested that without the FBI probe he would not throw his support behind Kavanaugh in a full senate vote, and shortly after Kavanaugh cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee in a party line 11-10 vote Collins and Murkowski both said they support the delay.
Asked if he had a message for Murkowski and Collins, Trump told reporters at the White House "they have to do what they think is right."
"They have to be comfortable with themselves and I’m sure that’s what they want,” he said.
Trump has previously opposed having the FBI investigate Ford's allegations, and when asked about the one week delay he said, "I’m going to let the Senate handle that."
Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who like Collins and Murkowski is also seen as a swing vote, also issued a statement backing Flake's call.
Friday's high-stakes developments come on the heels of gripping, oftentimes emotional hours-long testimony from Ford and Kavanaugh before the Judiciary Committee.
Ford dismissed suggestions Thursday that she could have confused the identity of the man who she says sexually assaulted her, maintaining it was Kavanaugh. He issued a livid denial of her allegations before the committee, insisting on his innocence.
But Ford was unwavering in her recollection of her attacker, telling the committee she was "100 percent” certain it was Kavanaugh who, along with high school friend Mark Judge in 1982, locked her in a room at a high school party and pinned her to a bed while attempting to forcibly undress her.
Judge is willing to cooperate with the FBI investigation, his lawyer said, according to multiple reports.
Trump said Friday he though Ford's testimony "was very compelling and she looks like a very fine woman to me."
"Certainly she was a very credible witness. She was very good in many respects," he said.
The university professor is one of at least three women who have publicly charged Kavanaugh with sexual misconduct.