Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona is now in charge of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court, and he knows it.
Flake knows that Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell need his vote in favor of Kavanaugh. He knows that if he votes “no” then Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski are likely to vote “no” also and Kavanaugh’s nomination will never be approved.
Flake first started throwing his weight around last week when he demanded an FBI investigation and a one-week delay in a Senate vote on Kavanaugh. He got that when he was backed up in his request by both Collins and Murkowski.
Then, when NBC News reported that Donald Trump and Don McGahn were improperly restricting the scope of the FBI probe he got involved again. Due to Flake’s insistence, the White House made a big deal of announcing yesterday that the FBI was not to be limited in its investigation. The only restriction, according to Trump, is that he wanted it all done within one week.
And then yesterday, in an interview with John Heilemann from MSNBC, Flake once again asserted his power, implying that one week might not be long enough to get at the truth.
On Sunday night Flake was on the CBS show “60 Minutes” doing an interview along with his friend Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware.
Flake, along with Coons, made very clear that if Kavanaugh were found by the FBI to have lied under oath, it would be a disqualifier and his nomination would be “over.”
In the MSNBC interview Heilemann gave evidence to Flake that there were already many documented instances where Kavanaugh had lied to the Senate. He asked the senator what he thought about that, and Flake replied: “If that’s true, then that’s a problem.”
This means that if Flake is a man of his word, Kavanaugh’s approval by the Senate is in serious doubt even before the FBI concludes its work.
But what if the FBI has not concluded its work by the end of the week? According to the MSNBC analyst, Flake has left the door open to going back to Trump and McConnell and demanding more time.
Here is how Heilemann characterized the discussion he had with Senator Flake:
“I said, ‘When you get to the end of the week, and the scope of this inquiry and the way it’s conducted do not meet your standards, what are you prepared to do? Are you prepared to ask for more time, are you prepared to use that as a basis just to vote against Judge Kavanaugh?’ And Senator Flake said, ‘Let’s wait until we get to then.’”
“The senator then said he didn’t want to directly say he was open to an extension because he thinks the FBI will get the work done this week. But he’s not opposed to asking for more time. “He didn’t deny that.”
Heilmann said that Flake made it clear to him was not following dictates from Mitch McConnell, who desperately wants a floor vote this week. The Arizona senator made clear his belief that Kavanaugh perjury should be part of the FBI investigation.
According to Heilemann, Flake said, “not merely the accusations of sexual misconduct but also perjury that may have arisen out of trying to explain away those allegations.”
An extension for the FBI would be a great thing for Democrats but could spell disaster for Republicans.
It would provide the following significant benefits for Kavanaugh opponents:
The process has already started as several new allegations came out yesterday against the Supreme Court nominee.
Donald Trump has said several times that there is no “Plan B” because he is sticking with Kavanaugh. Mitch McConnell has said several times that he is going to force a floor vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination this week.
But now we know the truth. Trump and McConnell are no longer in charge. Jeff Flake is now in charge of the Kavanaugh nomination, and at this point nobody knows what he’s going to do.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.
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