This week: Senate braces for FBI report on Kavanaugh allegations

Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination is in limbo as the Senate awaits the results of an eleventh hour investigation by the FBI into the sexual assault allegations that have roiled the Supreme Court fight.

GOP leadership and the White House made a political U-turn late last week when they called for the law enforcement agency to reopen its background investigation and look into “credible” allegations.

The move came after several moderate senators, led by retiring Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeTrump's GOP impeachment firewall holds strong How to survive an impeachment Are Senate Republicans certain that Trump can return to office? MORE (R-Ariz.), said they wanted a vote on Kavanaugh to be delayed for up to a week to give the FBI time to investigate, a day after Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, the first woman to publicly accuse Kavanaugh, testified in an emotionally fraught hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.


It’s a significant shift for Republicans, who have dismissed that the FBI needed to investigate the alleged sexual misconduct and noted the agency already did six background checks into Kavanaugh.

But Republicans hold a slim 51-49 majority in the Senate and with other GOP senators, including Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOvernight Energy: Trump administration issues plan to reverse limits on logging in Tongass National Forest| Democrats inch closer to issuing subpoenas for Interior, EPA records| Trump's plan to boost ethanol miffs corn groups and the fossil fuel industry Trump administration issues plan to reverse limits on logging in Tongass National Forest Democrats can lose Trump impeachment battle and still win electoral war MORE (Alaska) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTrump-GOP tensions over Syria show signs of easing Susan Collins raises .1 million in third quarter Poll: 50 percent of Maine voters disapprove of Susan Collins's job performance MORE (Maine), backing Flake, Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump-GOP tensions over Syria show signs of easing Trump again vetoes resolution blocking national emergency for border wall Trump invites congressional leaders to meeting on Turkey MORE (R-Ky.) likely could not have moved his nomination without making a deal.

Under the weeklong delay, Kavanaugh’s nomination could be held up until Friday, though Flake acknowledged that there is a chance the FBI could wrap up their work ahead of schedule.

Flake told CBS News’s “60 Minutes” that Kavanaugh’s nomination and the allegations against him are “tearing the country apart.”

“I just knew that we couldn’t move forward, that I couldn’t move forward without hitting the pause button, because what I was seeing, experiencing, in an elevator and watching it in committee and just thinking this is tearing the country apart,” Flake said.

Flake told reporters on Friday that by calling for a delay so the FBI could investigate he wanted a “better process.” But there are already signs that both sides are digging in as they await the update to Kavanaugh’s background investigation.

Sources with knowledge of the matter told NBC News that the White House is limiting the scope of the FBI's investigation into sexual assault allegations leveled against Kavanaugh.

The sources said the FBI’s investigation will focus on Ford and Deborah Ramirez, who claims that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her when they were both students at Yale University.

The FBI, according to NBC News, has not been permitted to investigate Julie Swetnick's claims that Kavanaugh engaged in sexual misconduct in high school. Republicans have largely dismissed Swetnick’s claims as politically motivated.

The report sparked outrage from Democrats who worry that the White House will try to micromanage the investigation in an effort to protect Kavanaugh.

“To limit the FBI as to the scope and who they’re going to question … that’s not the kind of investigation that all of us are expecting the FBI to conduct," Democratic Sen. Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoDemocrats urge Rick Perry not to roll back lightbulb efficiency rules Overnight Energy: Lawmakers show irritation over withheld Interior documents | Republican offers bipartisan carbon tax bill | Scientists booted from EPA panel form new group Overnight Energy: Top Interior lawyer accused of lying to Congress confirmed | Senate set to deny funding for BLM move | EPA threatens to cut California highway funds MORE (Hawaii), a member of the Judiciary Committee, told ABC News’s “This Week.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSchiff should consider using RICO framework to organize impeachment We need answers to questions mainstream media won't ask about Democrats The Hill's Morning Report - Trump grapples with Syria fallout MORE (Calif.), the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, sent a letter on Sunday requesting a copy of the directive given from the White House to the FBI that outlines the scope of the investigation.

The White House and Republicans hit back on Sunday, arguing that Democrats are trying to move the goalposts on Kavanaugh’s nomination.

Trump in a tweet on Sunday argued that an investigation will “never be enough” for Democrats.

"Just starting to hear the Democrats, who are only thinking Obstruct and Delay, are starting to put out the word that the 'time' and 'scope' of FBI looking into Judge Kavanaugh and witnesses is not enough," Trump wrote.

Meanwhile, Sen. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonZuckerberg defends meetings with conservative politicians, pundits Bipartisan senators want federal plan for sharing more info on supply chain threats On The Money: Fed officials saw rising risk of recession | Ocasio-Cortez, Cruz blast NBA for 'outrageous' response to China | Prospects dim for trade breakthrough with China MORE (R-Ark.), a close ally of the president’s in the Senate, said on Sunday that lawyers for Ford and Feinstein would be investigated because of Ford’s letter being leaked. Feinstein has repeatedly denied that she leaked the letter.

"Those lawyers are going to face a D.C. bar investigation into their misconduct. ... Dianne Feinstein and her staff is going to face an investigation for why they leaked that,” he told CBS News.

Cotton is not a member of the Senate Ethics Committee and did not specify who he believes will investigate Feinstein.

The partisan back-and-forth comes as Kavanaugh still remains short of the simple majority needed to be confirmed to the Supreme Court.

Collins and Murkowski remain undecided. Flake announced last week he would support Kavanaugh and said over the weekend that unless the FBI finds something he expects to support him.

Republicans can only afford to lose one GOP senator before they need help from Democrats to confirm Kavanaugh.

Three Democrats — Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by USAA — Ex-Ukraine ambassador testifies Trump pushed for her ouster GOP requests update on criminal referrals prompted by 2018 Kavanaugh probe Fallout from Kavanaugh confirmation felt in Washington one year later MORE (W.Va.), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyWatchdog accuses pro-Kavanaugh group of sending illegal robotexts in 2018 Lobbying world Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand MORE (Ind.) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampThe Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same Trump wins 60 percent approval in rural areas of key states Pence to push new NAFTA deal in visit to Iowa MORE (N.D.) — supported Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee.

Donnelly announced last week that he would oppose Kavanaugh. Manchin and Heitkamp remain undecided.


The Senate is expected to take up a long-term reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Senators passed a one-week extension of the program on Friday, giving them until Oct. 7 to clear the House-passed legislation that would fund the agency for five years after missing the original Sept. 30 deadline.

The bill provides funding and puts in place new safety regulations, including changes to the rest and duty rules for pilots and flight attendants. It also creates minimum dimensions for legroom on commercial flights and bans airlines from involuntarily removing passengers after boarding.

The legislation provides $1.68 billion in disaster relief for areas impacted by Hurricane Florence.


The Senate has gotten a deal to take up House-passed legislation to fight the country’s opioid epidemic.

Under an agreement between McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump defends 'crime buster' Giuliani amid reported probe Louisiana voters head to the polls in governor's race as Trump urges GOP support Trump urges Louisiana voters to back GOP in governor's race then 'enjoy the game' MORE (D-N.Y.), at a time to be determined the Senate will take up the bill and have up to four hours of debate.

The bill passed the House in a 393-8 vote last week and once it passes the Senate will head to Trump’s desk.

The legislation includes a package of bills to fight the opioid crisis, including lifting some limits on Medicaid paying for care at addiction treatment facilities and cracking down on illicit opioids being imported by mail and fueling the crisis across the United States.