Scenes from Jeff Flake’s Supreme Court rebellion

Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee surround Sen. Jeff Flake (center) (R-AZ) after he announced he was in favor of a delay in the Kavanaugh nomination process. /Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

 

The Arizona Republican’s head-snapping moves Friday left Washington in shock and Brett Kavanaugh in renewed jeopardy

By Burgess Everett, Elana Schor and John Bresnahan | POLITICO

Four senators undecided on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination gathered Thursday night for a quiet chat with earth-shaking consequences. The topic: How to handle sexual assault allegations against the judge without embarrassing their chamber.

In Susan Collins’ third-floor office in the Capitol, she and her Republican colleagues Jeff Flake of Arizona and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — joined by Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia — agreed they had the power to make or break Kavanaugh. And without settling on precise details, they decided to use their leverage to insist on a process that would allow them to reach a comfort level with Kavanaugh’s confirmation process and seek more information, rather than to kill his Supreme Court nomination outright, according to two people familiar with the meeting,

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What resulted on Friday afternoon threw Washington into chaos and guaranteed another week of uncertainty and suspense surrounding Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Just hours after Flake endorsed Kavanaugh and seemed to put him on a path to the high court, the Arizonan said he first wanted a week-long FBI investigation into Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation that the judge assaulted her. It was a victory for Democrats who’d been demanding such a probe, to no avail, and promises to define the retiring Flake’s legacy as someone who refused to let Kavanaugh get a vote while under a cloud of doubt.

The 18 hours between the Thursday night gathering in Collins’ office and Flake’s surprise announcement capped an epic week filled with emotional testimony, brutal partisanship and a nearly unanimous feeling that the Senate had stumbled in front of the nation. But the Flake-led rebellion, however long it lasts, had been building for nearly two weeks.

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