unusually blunt terms—but not generally willing to use his status as a potential swing vote in a narrowly divided Senate to initiate investigations into administration corruption, protect Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation, or achieve any of the other good-governance goals he might be expected to support given his feelings on Trumpism.Republican Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake has developed a reputation as someone who is willing to criticize Donald Trump and his party enablers in
That was Flake’s reputation, at least, before he announced a dramatic effort last Friday to delay Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote until the FBI could conduct a weeklong review of sexual assault accusations against the Supreme Court nominee. When it became clear that fellow Trump-skeptic GOP senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski supported Flake’s position, the White House almost immediately agreed to order just such an investigation. (Without those three senators, Republicans would only have 48 votes to confirm Kavanaugh.)
GOP Sen. Jeff Flake and Democratic Sen. Chris Coons are in agreement: If FBI investigators find that Brett Kavanaugh lied while testifying before senators last week, his Supreme Court nomination is done. “If Brett Kavanaugh is shown to have lied to the committee, nomination’s over?” Scott Pelley of “60 Minutes” asked the two senators during an interview that aired Sunday night. “Oh, yes,” Flake, an Arizona Republican, replied.
Over the weekend, though, there was some grinding in the gears. NBC reported, and other outlets confirmed, that the White House had set narrow limits on which individuals the FBI was allowed to contact. The bureau was reportedly told to interview just four specific people with connections to two of the sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh, an order which seemed to shut down several other potentially fruitful avenues of inquiry into Kavanaugh’s past conduct and trustworthiness that had been raised by his Senate testimony and in news reports. It appeared that Flake et. al had done little more than create a process by which Kavanaugh’s confirmation could be made slightly more palatable to middle-of-the-road voters.
On Monday, Flake said at an event in Boston that he and unnamed Senate colleagues were pushing back against the White House counsel’s office and asking to give the FBI discretion to conduct a “real investigation” into Kavanaugh—one that would involve gathering any information and speaking to any witnesses it chooses. Was this just another case of Jeff Flake talking the talk? Well, maybe not:
The White House has authorized the F.B.I. to expand its abbreviated investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh by interviewing anyone it deems necessary as long the review is finished by the end of the week, two people briefed on the matter said on Monday.
That’s from the New York Times, whose scoop was soon confirmed by NBC.