US Senate braces for key vote on Brett Kavanaugh

Vastavam web: The US Senate girded Friday for a critical, too- close-to-call vote on moving ahead with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, as Republicans brushed aside complaints by Democrats that a new FBI probe of sexual assault allegations against him was rushed and incomplete. A final vote could come Saturday on President Donald Trump’s embattled candidate, who if approved would seal a conservative majority on the nine-seat court for decades.

It is not a done deal, however. Republicans hold a 51-49 majority in the chamber and three of their members are seen as undecided on Kavanaugh, as a confirmation process that has gripped the city and the nation and aggravated already deep political divisions reaches its climax with just weeks to go before mid-term elections. Democrats assailed the probe as an incomplete vetting constrained by a White House determined to push through the lifetime appointment of Trump’s man.

And the New York Times said more than 2,400 law professors signed a letter opposing the nomination, saying that at the hearing Kavanaugh “did not display the impartiality and judicial temperament” required for the Supreme Court. The nominee himself closed out Thursday’s fast-moving events by taking the extraordinary step of publishing an op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal to defend himself as impartial. That teacher, Christine Blasey Ford, said he drunkenly groped her and attempted to rape her when they were teenagers attending a party in suburban Washington in the early 1980s. Two other women have accused him of sexual misconduct during his university years.

In his testimony, Kavanaugh complained about “a calculated and orchestrated political hit fuelled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election.” He also said the allegations against him were part of what he called a leftwing conspiracy to keep him off the court. But his Journal piece, headlined “I am an independent, impartial judge,” appeared aimed squarely at Republicans on the fence who have expressed concerns about his temperament and partisan attacks during the hearing.

“I know that my tone was sharp, and I said a few things I should not have said, Kavanaugh wrote, arguing he was “forceful and passionate” in denying the allegations against him. “I do not decide cases based on personal or policy preferences,” he added, saying the country’s top court “must never be viewed as a partisan institution.” The self-defence came too late for John Paul Stevens, a retired Supreme Court justice who on Thursday said he once believed Kavanaugh to be a fine judge. Capitol Police said the 300-odd detainees were processed on site and released after being charged with offenses such as obstructing a public space or unlawful demonstration.

“I believe Kavanaugh is part of a Big Old Boys club that is going to protect him no matter what,” said Angela Trzepkowski, 55, from Delaware. Republicans defended him. “This investigation found no hint of misconduct,” Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley said. “There’s nothing in it that we didn’t already know.” Two of the three Republican lawmakers undecided on the nominee boosted his confirmation chances by signalling they believed the bureau had done a thorough probe. Speaking to reporters after reviewing the FBI report, Collins said it “appears to be a very thorough investigation.”

Flake, a vocal Trump critic who pushed the White House into giving the FBI an additional week to address the accusations against Kavanaugh, signalled his apparent satisfaction, saying the report contained “no additional corroborating information.” The top Senate Judiciary Democrat, Dianne Feinstein, said the report appeared insufficient to lay to rest concerns about Kavanaugh.