Meanwhile, a few other new pieces of information have emerged independent of the FBI that cast doubt on Kavanaugh’s testimony last week, in which he downplayed heavy drinking. A Yale classmate said in a statement: “On many occasions I heard Brett slur his words and saw him staggering from alcohol consumption, not all of which was beer. When Brett got drunk, he was often belligerent and aggressive.” The New York Times also obtained a police report from a 1985 bar fight in which Kavanaugh was involved.
In a letter on Thursday, Judiciary Committee Democrats wrote that contrary to statements by Republicans on the committee, previous background checks on Kavanaugh had turned up information related to alcohol abuse or sexual misconduct—though they said confidentiality rules prevented them from saying more.
All of this means that the political ground seems not to have shifted far from where things stood on Friday. Most Republicans continue to support Kavanaugh, and most Democrats oppose him. Because the FBI probe has reportedly found no evidence of misconduct by Kavanaugh, that may give fence-sitters who lean toward voting yes cover to do so. The flaws in the process mean that fence-sitters who lean toward voting no could have cover as well.
But the pivotal senators have still not declared their intentions. Flake initially said he would vote to confirm Kavanaugh but then backed the probe, saying he wanted more information. Flake has been vague about what could change his mind, though he said proof that Kavanaugh lied would cause him to vote no. On Tuesday at The Atlantic Festival, Flake criticized Kavanaugh’s partisan tone before the Senate, saying, “We can’t have that on the Court,” but then insisted to my colleague Elaina Plott that “I wasn’t referring to” Kavanaugh.
Jeff Flake called for an FBI investigation because he felt the Senate “was coming apart at the seams.”
Senator Joe Manchin, a conservative West Virginia Democrat who faces a tough reelection in November, is reportedly leaning toward voting in favor of Kavanaugh, but Politico says he doesn’t want to be the deciding vote. Other key Democrats to watch, both of whom face tough races, are Joe Donnelly of Indiana, who announced prior to the reopening of the probe that he would vote no, and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.
Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, Republicans from Maine and Alaska, respectively, are perhaps the most eagerly watched votes. Both are moderate women, both are expected to vote the same way, and both have been outspoken about the need to seriously consider allegations against Kavanaugh and have a genuine investigative process. The question is whether the FBI report’s shortcomings will be too glaring for them to accept, or whether they will go along with their party.
But a new possible swing vote emerged on Thursday, when Sasse, a frequent critic of the president’s, expressed deep concerns about the Kavanaugh process in a speech on the Senate floor.