With the FBI’s background check into Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh complete, today is the one and only day U.S. senators will have to review the bureau’s findings before tomorrow’s procedural vote on the chamber’s floor. The preliminary reactions from members who privately reviewed the materials this morning tell us quite a bit about where this is headed.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who had the first chance to read the FBI’s findings, said that the new report “found no hint of misconduct.” Of course, according to his Democratic colleagues, the problem is that the FBI didn’t speak to relevant witnesses who might’ve been able to provide more hints.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the Senate Judiciary Committee’s ranking member, said this morning that the report “looks to be a product of an incomplete investigation that was limited perhaps by the White House, I don’t know.” She added, “The most notable part of this report is what is not in it.”
But the reactions from senators who’ve already made up their minds about how to vote on Kavanaugh are less significant than those from undecided lawmakers. It made quotes like these all the more notable.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a possible Kavanaugh swing vote, said she was still absorbing the new report. “It appears to be a very thorough investigation,” she said. “But I’m going to go back to personally read the interviews.”
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who’s also suggested he’s on the fence, told reporters this morning that the FBI examination contained “no additional corroborating information” on the allegations against the high court nominee. The Arizonan added, however, that he still intends to go back and read more of the report.
I’ll concede that quotes like the ones we heard from Collins and Flake were hardly definitive, and there’s some danger in speculating about the plans of those who haven’t made formal announcements, but Kavanaugh and his allies have reason to be pleased with this morning’s reactions.
The hope among Democrats was that undecided Republicans would see the FBI’s findings, express dissatisfaction with the scope of the investigation, and balk ahead of tomorrow’s cloture vote. It wasn’t a pie-in-the-sky goal, either: the FBI background check really was needlessly limited. The bureau really did fail to speak with many relevant witnesses. Credible individuals with relevant information really did find it impossible to share what they knew.
The question, as the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent put it this morning, was whether senators like Collins and Flake would be on board with such a narrow background check. It appears we have our answer.