Trump orders FBI probe into Kavanaugh after Supreme Court nomination advances

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US President Donald Trump has directed the FBI to launch a supplemental investigation into his Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh at the request of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The move came after the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance Mr Kavanaugh’s nomination to the top US court.

Mr Trump said in a statement that the updated investigation, which comes in response to sexual misconduct allegations, “must be limited in scope” and “completed in less than one week”.

The decision marks a reversal for the administration, which had argued that Mr Kavanaugh had already been vetted.

Mr Kavanaugh has adamantly denied the allegations. He says he has done “everything” the Senate has asked of him and “will continue to co-operate”.

The judiciary committee vote came a day after Mr Kavanaugh and an accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, gave evidence in an emotional hearing.

Mr Kavanaugh angrily denied the allegations that he assaulted Ms Ford while they were both in high school, while she said she was “100% certain” he was her attacker.

Jeff Flake, a key moderate Republican, was at the centre of the drama and uncertainty.

In the morning, he announced that he would support Mr Kavanaugh’s nomination. Shortly after, he was confronted in a lift by two women who, through tears, implored him to change his mind.

After speaking privately with his colleagues, Mr Flake announced he would vote to advance Mr Kavanaugh’s nomination to the full Senate only if the FBI were to investigate the allegations against the judge.

Democrats had been calling for such an investigation, though Republicans and the White House had previously insisted it was unnecessary.

The committee vote was 11-10 along party lines.

Mr Flake said that after discussing the matter with fellow senators, he felt it “would be proper to delay the floor vote for up to but not more than one week”.

That increases the pressure on a handful of colleagues who have not yet said whether they back Mr Kavanaugh. These are Republican senators Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Democratic senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

With a 51-49 majority, Senate Republicans have little margin for error, especially given the fact that several Democrats facing tough re-election prospects this autumn announced their opposition to Mr Kavanaugh on Friday.

Senators Bill Nelson of Florida, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Jon Tester of Montana all said they would vote no.

During Thursday’s hearing, Democrats repeatedly peppered Mr Kavanaugh with questions about whether he would support an FBI investigation. He said he would back whatever the committee decided to do.

The FBI conducts background checks for federal nominees, but the agency does not make judgments on the credibility or significance of allegations. It compiles information about the nominee’s past and provides its findings to the White House, which passes it along to the committee.

FBI agents could interview accusers and witnesses and gather additional evidence or details that could help corroborate or disprove the allegations.

Democrats have been particularly focused on getting more information from Mark Judge, a high school friend of Mr Kavanaugh who Ms Ford said was also in the room during her alleged assault.

In her evidence, Ms Ford said Mr Kavanaugh and Mr Judge’s laughter during the incident has stuck with her nearly four decades later.

Mr Judge has said he will co-operate with any law enforcement agency that investigates “confidentially”.

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