Maryland's U.S. senators support FBI probe and question Kavanaugh's impartiality

WASHINGTON -- Maryland's U.S. senators support a new FBI investigation into Christine Blasey Ford's sexual assault allegation against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, and question whether Kavanaugh could be an impartial justice.

Democratic Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen had previously said the Senate needed a full accounting of the allegation before a final vote. President Donald Trump on Friday ordered an FBI investigation “to update Judge Kavanaugh’s file,” but limited the probe to less than one week.

The supplemental review was ordered after the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11-10 to send Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Senate floor.

A key swing voter on the committee — Arizona Republican Jeff Flake — said he decided to vote ”yes” only after calling for a one-week delay in the full Senate vote to allow the FBI to conduct its work.

As the committee voted, there was no guarantee the FBI would investigate. But Senate Republicans and Trump later agreed to the plan.

A one-week delay "certainly is better than where we are now," Cardin said in an interview."But I'm not sure why they're putting these arbitrary guidelines on the process. I'm not sure why you would put a one-week restriction on this."

Van Hollen said a delay was essential because “facts matter. The truth is nonpartisan.”

Ford, a university psychology professor, told the committee Thursday that a drunken Kavanaugh forced himself on her, tried to remove her clothing and put his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream. Both were students at private Montgomery County high schools at the time.

Kavanaugh angrily denied the accusations, choking back tears.

Cardin and Van Hollen said they were struck by the demeanor of Kavanaugh, a federal appeals court judge.

"He was openly hostile and antagonistic in the most unprecedented way for any judicial nominee,” Cardin said. “Moreover, his belligerent attacks on the Democratic members of the committee compel me to question whether he is truly the impartial, apolitical jurist he claims."

Van Hollen tweeted that Kavanaugh's "meltdown was the angriest and most partisan performance a Supreme Court nominee has ever delivered. How can the public ever have confidence that he would judge impartially on controversial issues that come before the court?"

Trump nominated Kavanaugh to succeed retiring justice Anthony Kennedy.

Trump tweeted after Thursday’s hearing that Kavanaugh "showed America exactly why I nominated him. His testimony was powerful, honest, and riveting."

Democrats specifically want to compel sworn testimony from Mark Judge, a friend of Kavanaugh's from Georgetown Prep high school in North Bethesda. Ford testified that Judge was in the bedroom when she was assaulted.

The committee says it reached out to Judge and that he does not recall such an incident.

Cardin said the FBI could more effectively question Judge and other witnesses.

“The FBI has the weight of experience and it has criminal consequences if you do not tell the truth,” the senator said.

In addition to Judge, there may be other acquaintances of Kavanaugh or Ford whom the FBI might want to interview, he said.

jebarker@baltsun.com

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