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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 October 2018

Democrats accuse FBI of 'very limited' Kavanaugh probe

Top Republicans said probe showed 'no hint' of misconduct on part of Supreme Court nominee

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee Dianne Feinstein conclude remarks to the news media in the US Capitol in Washington, DC. EPA
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee Dianne Feinstein conclude remarks to the news media in the US Capitol in Washington, DC. EPA

Senate Democrats criticised the White House on Thursday for what they said was a limited FBI investigation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, says the most notable part of report into sexual misconduct allegations against Mr Kavanaugh "is what's not in it".

Mr Kavanaugh denies the accusations made by three women and senior Republicans suggested that the probe had shown no evidence of misconduct on the part of US President Donald Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court.

Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said it was now time for the full Senate to vote on Kavanaugh's lifetime appointment to the nation's highest court - even as opposition leaders slammed the FBI probe as "incomplete."

"This investigation found no hint of misconduct," Mr Grassley said in a statement. "There's nothing in it that we didn't already know."

The FBI, at the request of Democrats and a key Republican senator, Jeff Flake of Arizona, was given a week to look into allegations by a university professor, Christine Blasey Ford, that Mr Kavanaugh attempted to rape her when they were teenagers decades ago.

"These uncorroborated accusations have been unequivocally and repeatedly rejected by Judge Kavanaugh, and neither the Judiciary Committee nor the FBI could locate any third parties who can attest to any of the allegations," Grassley said.

"It's time to vote," he said. "I'll be voting to confirm Judge Kavanaugh."

The Senate, where Republicans hold a slim 51-49 majority, could vote as early as Saturday and all eyes are on three key Republican senators who could make or break the nomination – Mr Flake, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

The White House received the results overnight of the latest FBI probe into the conservative 53-year-old judge and senators were reviewing it on Thursday.

Mr Trump nominated Mr Kavanaugh to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, who had been a swing vote on a panel now equally divided between four conservative and four liberal justices.

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But his Senate confirmation process has been roiled by the allegations from Ms Blasey Ford, who testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week.

Mr Trump took to Twitter on Thursday morning to say the FBI report vindicated his nominee and expressed optimism about Republican chances in the November midterm elections, where control of the House of Representatives and Senate could be at stake.

"The harsh and unfair treatment of Judge Brett Kavanaugh is having an incredible upward impact on voters," Mr Trump said. "The PEOPLE get it far better than the politicians.

"Most importantly, this great life cannot be ruined by mean & despicable Democrats and totally uncorroborated allegations," Trump said.

Democrats, meanwhile, assailed the FBI investigation as being too limited in scope.

"We had many fears that this was a very limited process," added Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer. "Those fears have been realised."

Mr Kavanaugh's nomination, which comes amid an atmosphere of bitter political partisanship in Washington, could tilt the court to the right for decades to come.

Even before senators saw the new FBI material, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell moved to end debate on Mr Kavanaugh's nomination, setting up a Friday procedural vote and a final vote as early as the following day.

Ms Blasey Ford testified last week that Mr Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a house party in the early 1980s while they were in high school.