McConnell takes key step toward Kavanaugh vote

Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court would tip its balance to the right

Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh defended his career and his character in an opinion piece published Thursday night as he awaits a planned Saturday vote in the Senate on his nomination.

"There's nothing in it that we didn't already know", Grassley said, basing his comment on a briefing he said he'd received from committee aides.

"A lot of people were surprised the FBI took less than a week to conduct their investigation", he quipped.

In a potential sign of momentum for Kavanaugh, Sen. Arizona's Jeff Flake tells NBC's "Today" show that Trump's remarks were "kind of appalling".

Sarra Khlifi of Anchorage, Alaska, was among the protesters who made the trek to D.C.to lobby Murkowski, her state's senior senator.

Republicans and Democrats alike view the Kavanaugh confirmation as a key factor for winning the midterms elections in November.

Friday's vote is a procedural one to end the debate, and some fence-sitting senators could conceivably vote to advance Kavanaugh's nomination but still hold out their support ahead of a final confirmation roll call over the weekend.

Democrats Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia have also not declared how they will vote.

The top Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer of NY, disputed Grassley's claim, saying he disagreed that there was no evidence of misconduct. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, told reporters. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, are questioning the legitimacy of the probe, arguing its scope was limited by the White House.

With the rest of his party straining for the chance to elevate Kavanaugh and enshrine a conservative majority on the court that will validate half a century of movement politics, McConnell can only afford to lose one vote from his side.

"This process has been ruled by fear and anger and underhanded gamesmanship for too long", McConnell said on the Senate floor.

Senator John Kennedy, R-La., said agents reached out to 10 but spoke only to nine.

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Some activists unfurled banners saying they believed the woman who alleges Judge Kavanaugh assaulted her when they were teenagers. He provided no specifics. Lawmakers did not ask for the additional pages, according to the source, who said that broad search terms were used that also captured information not directly related to the allegations. At times, my testimony - both in my opening statement and in response to questions - reflected my overwhelming frustration at being wrongly accused, without corroboration, of frightful conduct completely contrary to my record and character. For House Democrats, it's great.

The FBI opened a supplemental background check on SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh last week following Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's Senate testimony on allegations that he sexually assaulted her in high school. Kavanaugh has said stories of his bad behavior while drinking are exaggerated. Since Ford came forward with her accusation, two other women have spoken out against his as well.

Kavanaugh penned the defense of his performance during last week's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing at which he denied the allegations, made at the same hearing, of a California university professor.

Trump weighed in hours later in a tweet in which he denounced what he called "the harsh and unfair treatment" of Kavanaugh.

The FBI investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is being questioned by lawyers for two of his accusers. "I can't get up in the morning and look at the experience I've had and say yes to Judge Kavanaugh".

Confirmation for Kavanaugh would be a crowning achievement for Trump, who with a victory could cast the court in a right-leaning direction for decades.

As dissent boiled on Capitol Hill, police arrested 302 protesters in the Hart Senate Office Building.

Background checks are routine in a nominee's vetting process and are generally delivered to the Senate without much fanfare.

The issue of sexual assault is one of importance.

Days earlier, before the hearing, it was Trump in a tweet suggesting that Democrats' handling of the letter somehow delegitimized Ford's claims. "More baseless innuendo and more false smears from Senate Democrats". And most of those people are friends of Kavanaugh and Ford from high school.

P J Smyth, identified by Ford as being at the gathering of teenagers where the alleged assault occurred, was interviewed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and again denied knowledge of the gathering or of improper conduct by his friend Kavanaugh, Smyth's lawyers said. Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer of The New Yorker reported that one of the witnesses offered to corroborate Deborah Ramirez's allegation that Brett Kavanaugh exposed himself to her while his peers cheered him on.

Associated Press writers Eric Tucker, Michael Balsamo, Catherine Lucey, Zeke Miller, Padmananda Rama, Matthew Daly, Mary Clare Jalonick and Kevin Freking contributed.

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