Senate leadership says Kavanaugh vote to come this week

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) stokes idea of presidential bid with second trip to New Hampshire

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., speaks at the Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit, Monday, Oct. 1, 2018, in Boston, in front of a photo of him being confronted in an elevator Friday at the Capitol in Washington by two women who said they were sexual assault victims. They were imploring him to change his mind after he announced he would support Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Tuesday that the Senate will vote on the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh this week, likely on Friday. He contends that arguments raised this week by Democrats focused on Kavanaugh’s temperament and teenage drinking are their attempt to “move the goalposts” to prevent his confirmation.

“The time for endless delay and obstruction has come to a close,” he said.

Democrats, meanwhile, were shifting tactics against President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee as they await the results of the FBI’s background investigation, focusing now on questions about the truthfulness of Kavanaugh’s sworn testimony to the Senate.

Contributing to that argument Monday was N.C. State History Professor Charles “Chad” Ludington, who said he is a former Yale classmate of Kavanaugh’s. Ludington said he challenges Kavanaugh’s testimony about his drinking, calling him “a frequent drinker and a heavy drinker.” But statements released by the White House from the two other Yale classmates conflict with his accounts saying they never saw Kavanaugh black out or treat women with disrespect.

In the meantime, the FBI says it has finished interviewing a friend of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. The man was alleged to have attended a high school gathering in the early 1980s where a woman says she was sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh, the man’s lawyer said Tuesday.

Mark Judge, who has denied any wrongdoing, completed his interview with FBI agents as part of the reopened background investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh, said his lawyer, Barbara “Biz” Van Gelder.

She declined to say exactly when it ended or what Judge was asked. She had said Monday night that the interview was not completed.

Kavanaugh’s confirmation hinges on a handful of key Republican and Democratic senators who have not yet fully tipped their votes. One of them is Republican Jeff Flake of Arizona, who was greeted by hundreds of liberal protesters, victims of sexual assault among them, during an appearance Monday in Boston. Flake has also appeared in New Hampshire twice, the state that hold’s the nation’s first primary election.

In March, Flake told New Hampshire Republicans that “someone needs to stop Trump” in the 2020 presidential contest. He said he may run — either as a Republican or an independent — if no one else does.

Flake and Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska were instrumental last week in holding up Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote. They forced the White House to open a supplemental background investigation of sexual misconduct allegations against the judge.

The votes of the three Republicans and those of red-state Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota will largely determine whether Kavanaugh is confirmed.

Heitkamp noted that Trump himself called for a “broader” FBI investigation into the allegations. She said, “I’m waiting to see what the results are.”

Kavanaugh has emphatically denied Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation that he sexually assaulted her at a gathering when they were teens. He has also denied an accusation from Deborah Ramirez, a classmate at Yale, who said he exposed himself to her at a dorm party more than 25 years ago. A third claim — from Julia Swetnick, who is represented by attorney Michael Avenatti — accuses Kavanaugh of excessive drinking and inappropriate treatment of women at parties in the early 1980s. Kavanaugh denies that as well.

Democrats are also questioning Kavanaugh’s honesty, particularly over statements he made about his drinking in high school and college.

Kavanaugh testified that while he enjoys drinking beer, and often did so in high school, he never had memory lapses. He lashed out at senators who asked if he had ever blacked out. In one notable exchange, he snapped at Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., “Have you?”

Schumer said Kavanaugh was “rudely interrupting” senators in a way he’d never seen from a witness.

Pushing back on the Democratic attacks, Republicans said Kavanaugh had every right to be upset during the hearing.

McConnell said Kavanaugh was “rightfully angry” about the accusations, and he added, “Who wouldn’t be?”

Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana, a Republican member of the Judiciary Committee, said Kavanaugh has only been responding to Democratic attacks.

“He’s on trial for his life, so is his spouse, so are his parents, so are his kids, and he got mad. Now they are criticizing him for getting mad. I think that’s the height of hypocrisy.”

The FBI is expected to spend the coming days investigating the sexual misconduct claims against Kavanaugh. Senators have said they want the investigation completed by Friday, but Democrats worry the deadline will limit the scope.

Trump said at a press conference he wants the FBI to do a “comprehensive” investigation and “it wouldn’t bother me at all” if agents pursued accusations made by the three women.

“My White House will do whatever the senators want,” Trump said. “The one thing I want is speed.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.