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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 October 2018

Donald Trump orders FBI to reopen Brett Kavanaugh probe

The US president said the investigation must be completed in a week

Demonstrators hold anti-Kavanaugh banner outside City Hall in Los Angeles. AFP
Demonstrators hold anti-Kavanaugh banner outside City Hall in Los Angeles. AFP

President Donald Trump ordered the FBI on Friday to investigate sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh after Republican senators called for a one-week delay on a confirmation vote to review the accusations.

“I’ve ordered the FBI to conduct a supplemental investigation to update Judge Kavanaugh’s file,” Mr Trump said in a statement released by spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Twitter. “As the Senate has requested, this update must be limited in scope and completed in less than one week.”

Mr Trump ordered the investigation after two key Republican senators- Jeff Flake and Lisa Murkowski- said the FBI should investigate Christine Blasey Ford’s claim that Mr Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school. Mr Kavanaugh categorically denied it.

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s Republican majority asked Trump to order an investigation “limited to current credible allegations” against Mr Kavanaugh with a one-week deadline. Republican leaders agreed to wait a week for a confirmation vote.

“Throughout this process, I’ve been interviewed by the FBI, I’ve done a number of ‘background’ calls directly with the Senate, and yesterday, I answered questions under oath about every topic the Senators and their counsel asked me,” Mr Kavanaugh said on Friday in a statement released by the White House. “I’ve done everything they have requested and will continue to cooperate.”

Senator Jeff Flake after speaking during the Senate Judiciary Committee. AP
Senator Jeff Flake after speaking during the Senate Judiciary Committee. AP

The drama is unfolding just over a month before the November 6 congressional elections. Republican leaders are concerned their supporters’ enthusiasm could ebb if the party is unable to deliver confirmation of a Supreme Court justice who could tilt the ideological balance of the court.

Mr Flake called for the probe a day after tense and emotional testimony by Ms Ford and Mr Kavanaugh to a committee starkly divided along party lines.

A holdout by two Republicans would leave the party short of the 50 votes needed to confirm Mr Kavanaugh on party lines. Senator Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat who has been viewed as a possible vote in favour of Mr Kavanaugh, said in a statement that Flake’s plan for an FBI investigation was "right and fair."

Democrats have repeatedly demanded an FBI investigation since Ms Ford’s allegation surfaced a few weeks ago, and they hammered at the issue throughout Thursday’s raucous Judiciary panel hearing where Ms Ford and Mr Kavanaugh testified.

Republicans who back Mr Kavanaugh said there was no corroborating evidence for Ms Ford’s allegation. Democrats pointed to the lack of an impartial investigation and the committee’s refusal to call witnesses who might be able to back up her claim, or to seek testimony from two other women who accused Mr Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct.

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Read more:

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I feared being killed, says Kavanaugh accuser

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