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Kavanaugh Gets A Green Card From Senate; FBI Granted Permission to Investigate

When asked if he would consider replacing Kavanaugh, Trump said, "Not even a little bit." He said the Senate has to do what it thinks is right.

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Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., speaks during the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on Sept. 28, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington.VOA

President Donald Trump on Friday directed the FBI to launch a new investigation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh at the request of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In a statement, Trump said the updated investigation, which follows sexual misconduct allegations, “must be limited in scope” and “completed in less than one week.”

The decision is a reversal for the administration, which had argued that Kavanaugh had already been vetted.

The Judiciary Committee voted to send the nomination to the full Senate after securing a vote in favor of the nod from Republican Jeff Flake of Arizona, who had requested the delay and additional background investigation of Kavanaugh. Before voting, Flake consulted with Democrats, who repeatedly had demanded that the FBI investigate the allegations.

Ultimately, the vote by the committee of 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats was along party lines.

“I’m not expecting them [Democrats] to vote ‘yes’ but not to complain that an FBI investigation has not occurred,” Flake said. “This country is being ripped apart here and we’ve got to make sure that we do due diligence. I think this committee has done a good job, but I do think that we can have a short pause and make sure that the FBI can investigate.”

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Republican Senator Jeff Flake reacts during a confrontation with a protester in an elevator in Washington, Sept. 28, 2018 in this still image obtained from a social media video. VOA

The committee vote followed a day of dramatic testimony by the Kavanaugh, an appellate judge, and Christine Blasey Ford, a woman who has accused him of sexual assault when they were teenagers in 1982. Both told their stories to the Judiciary Committee separately in lengthy hearings.

Kavanaugh has angrily denied the allegation that he sexually assaulted Ford at a gathering at a home in suburban Washington.

Kavanaugh needs at least 50 votes to be confirmed by the 100-member Senate. Vice President Mike Pence would cast the deciding vote if the Senate is evenly split. If all Democrats vote against Kavanaugh, two Republicans would also have to do the same to block his confirmation.

Shortly after Flake announced his support of moving the Kavanaugh nomination to the full Senate, Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly of Indiana said he would vote against the appellate court judge. Donnelly said Ford’s sexual assault accusation against Kavanaugh was “disturbing and credible,” and he repeated the Democrats’ call for the FBI investigation.

Senator Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat from North Dakota, a state that voted heavily for Trump, backed Flake’s call for additional FBI investigation. “We need to get politics out of this process and allow an independent law enforcement agency to do its job,” she said.

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Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sept. 27, 2018.. VOA

Senator Doug Jones, a first-term Democrat from Alabama, also a state Trump won by a wide margin, said Thursday he was voting “no” on Kavanaugh’s bid for the Supreme Court. “The Kavanaugh nomination process has been flawed from the beginning,” he said, adding that Ford was credible and courageous.

Democratic Senator Bill Nelson of swing state Florida also said Thursday he would vote against Kavanaugh. Republicans are trying to gain the vote of Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, another state that Trump won comfortably, along with Republican Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Bar Association calls for full background check

The American Bar Association late Thursday called on the Judiciary committee and the full Senate to delay the vote until the FBI has time to do a full background check on the claims made by Ford and other women.

“We make this request because of the ABA’s respect for the rule of law and due process under law,” the ABA letter to committee leadership said. “Each appointment to our nation’s highest court [as with all others] is simply too important to rush to a vote.”

Earlier Friday, committee Chairman Charles Grassley flatly dismissed the ABA’s request, saying, “I’ve explained many times an FBI investigation is not necessary. The ABA is an outside organization like any other that can send us letters and share their advice, but we’re not going to let them dictate our committee’s business.”

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Christine Blasey Ford testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sept. 27, 2018, in Washington. VOA

Shortly after the committee convened Friday, it voted 11 to 10 along party lines to reject a motion by Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut to subpoena Mark Judge, who Ford said witnessed the alleged sexual assault.

“We have a responsibility to subpoena at the very least Mark Judge before we move to vote,” Blumenthal said. “It is our constitutional duty to do everything we can to uncover the truth after hearing yesterday that compelling testimony from Dr. Blasey Ford and we cannot vote in good conscience without hearing at least from Mark Judge.”

Before the motion was voted down, Grassley read from a letter that he received Thursday night from Judge in lieu of testimony.

“When I told the committee that I do not want to comment about these events publicly as a recovering alcoholic and a cancer survivor, I have struggled with depression and anxiety. As a result I avoid public speaking.” Judge’s letter went onto to say, “I do not recall the events described by Dr. Ford in her testimony.”

“That letter is no substitute for an FBI interview,” Blumenthal said.

Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota also called for an FBI probe and said Friday that Kavanaugh had the opportunity to do the same at Thursday’s hearing to clear his name.

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From left, Senate Majority Whip Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa, and Ranking Member Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., gather before a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sept 28. 2018.. VOA

“Judge Kavanaugh could have easily said, ‘Mr. President, for this to move forward, I want to at least clear my name but mostly I want to have the American people know whether this is true or not.’ He could have done that. Why didn’t he do it? Because they are afraid of what they will find out.”

Kavanaugh’s testimony

“I have never sexually assaulted anyone, not in high school, not in college, not ever,” Kavanaugh told the senators. “I have never done this to her or to anyone.”

Kavanaugh cried as he spoke of how the ordeal has affected his family. He presented the senators with what he said were handwritten calendars from 1982 showing his activities and whereabouts. He said they did not include the party. He said he welcomes whatever investigation the committee wants but would not directly answer whether he would seek an FBI probe.

Kavanaugh acknowledged a love for drinking beer, but he also pointed to what he said were his outstanding academic record and dedication to high school sports and church.

Ford’s testimony

Ford told the panel she was “100 percent certain” a drunken Kavanaugh pinned her down on a bed, groped her, tried to take off her clothes, and put his hand over her mouth to muffle her screams for help.

Rachel Mitchell, a prosecutor chosen by Republican members of the committee to question Ford on their behalf, asked her about timelines and peripheral issues and did not challenge her basic account of sexual assault. But Ford’s account lacked firm corroboration of her claims by others at the party.

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U.S. President Donald Trump holds a news conference in New York. VOA

Trump stands by nominee

Trump nominated Kavanaugh to replace the retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Following Friday’s development, Trump told reporters at the White House that he thought Ford’s testimony was very compelling, adding, “She looks like a very fine woman to me.” He also said that Kavanaugh’s testimony, likewise, was “really something that I haven’t seen before,” describing it as “an incredible moment” in the history of the country.

When asked if he would consider replacing Kavanaugh, Trump said, “Not even a little bit.” He said the Senate has to do what it thinks is right.

Earlier, Trump tweeted that Kavanaugh’s testimony showed America why the judge was nominated.

“His testimony was powerful, honest, and riveting. Democrats’ search and destroy strategy is, disgraceful and this process has been a total sham and effort to delay, obstruct, and resist. The Senate must vote!” Trump’s tweet did not mention Ford.

Also Read: Christine Ford Testifies Against Brett Kavanaugh; Decision Pending

A senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, Ilya Shapiro, says it is not clear if anyone came out ahead after Thursday’s testimony.

“We’re at a dangerous point because if we have no more evidence and Kavanaugh’s rejected, that sets the precedent that accusations are enough to derail…and if he’s approved, then still there will be people who think that he’s a sexual assaulter or rapist and there he is sitting at the Supreme Court.” (VOA)

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“Let it Come Out, Let the People See,” Trump on Mueller Report

Trump’s Republican allies in Congress are also poised to leap to his defense

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U.S. President Donald Trump waves as he arrives at Akron-Canton airport in Canton, Ohio, March 20, 2019. VOA

Democratic congressional leaders have, for the time being, ruled out pursuing impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. That could all change depending on what is in the eagerly awaited report on the Russia investigation being prepared by special counsel Robert Mueller.

On his way to Ohio Wednesday, Trump told reporters outside the White House that the public should have access to the Mueller report.

“Let it come out. Let the people see,” Trump said. “Let’s see whether or not it is legit.”

The decision by Democratic congressional leaders to pass on impeachment seems to be mindful of recent history, especially the Republican-led impeachment effort against President Bill Clinton in 1998.

In announcing her opposition to impeachment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said simply that Trump “wasn’t worth it.”

Pelosi is sticking to her position despite pressure from liberal activists.

“Impeachment is a divisive issue in our country, and let us see what the facts are, what the law is, and what the behavior is of the president,” Pelosi recently told reporters at the Capitol.​

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“Let it come out. Let the people see,” Trump said. “Let’s see whether or not it is legit.” VOA

Trump: ‘Great job’

For President Trump, the idea of impeachment is, not surprisingly, a non-starter.

“Well, you can’t impeach somebody that is doing a great job. That is the way I view it,” Trump said when asked about the issue in January.

Late last year, Trump told Reuters that he was not concerned about impeachment.

“I think that the people would revolt if that happened,” he said.

Trump’s Republican allies in Congress are also poised to leap to his defense.

“I don’t think it is good for the country,” House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters last week. “The Democrats made a decision (to want to impeach) on the day President Trump one.”

Some Democrats want to keep pushing, including former Hillary Clinton senior adviser Philippe Reines. Reines wrote recently in the New York Times that Democrats would be doing a “civic duty” to pursue impeachment.

“There is a mounting political cost to not impeaching Mr. Trump,” Reines wrote last week. “He will hail it as exoneration and he will go into the 2020 campaign under the banner, ‘I Told You So.’”​

Polls say no

Recent polls show most voters do not favor impeachment at this time. A Quinnipiac University poll earlier this month found that 59 percent of those surveyed do not think House Democrats should initiate impeachment proceedings against the president, while 35 percent support the idea.

Given that the 2020 election cycle is underway, Democrats may prefer to have the voters try to oust Trump during next year’s election, according to George Washington University analyst Matt Dallek.

“By the time impeachment proceedings were even to ramp up, you are talking about the end of 2019 or early 2020,” Dallek told VOA this week. “That creates its own complication because there is another remedy for removing a president and it is called the election.”

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FILE – Then-first lady Hillary Clinton watches her husband, President Bill Clinton, pause as he thanks those Democratic members of the House of Representatives who voted against his impeachment, Dec. 19, 1998. VOA

Political risk

Democrats clearly recall what happened to Bill Clinton in 1998. Clinton lied about and tried to cover up his affair with intern Monica Lewinsky, which led to his impeachment by the House. Clinton remained in office after he was acquitted in a trial in the Senate.

Historically, impeachment has been a rare event. Clinton was only the second president impeached by the House. Andrew Johnson was the first back in 1868. Johnson avoided removal by a single vote in the Senate.

Presidential impeachments have been rare and that is by design, according to University of Virginia expert Larry Sabato.

“They (the founders) did not want presidents impeached and convicted and thrown out of office for minor offenses. They expected Congress to do it only in extreme circumstances.”

Republicans paid a price for the Clinton impeachment, losing five House seats in the 1998 midterm elections. And Sabato said that lesson could have resonance for Democrats today as they mull impeaching Trump.

“Given the fact that the Republicans took a wounded Bill Clinton and made him almost invulnerable for the rest of his term, it should serve as a warning to Democrats,” he said.

Experts also note that the damage to Republicans from the Clinton impeachment was not long-lasting. George W. Bush narrowly beat Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election, and the political fallout from Clinton’s scandal may have cost Gore the presidency.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., center, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 6, 2019. VOA

Senate obstacle

The biggest obstacle facing any impeachment effort of Trump is the Republican-controlled Senate. Democrats would have to bring over at least 20 Republican senators in any impeachment trial in order to get a conviction and remove the president from office.

A vote to impeach a president only requires a majority vote in the House, now controlled by Democrats. But in a Senate trial, it would take 67 of 100 senators to vote for conviction in order to remove the president from office, and Democrats concede that is not a possibility at the moment.

“It has less than zero chance of passing the Senate,” Sabato said. “Why would you go through all this in the House of Representatives, torpedo your entire agenda to impeach Trump in order to send it to the Senate to have him exonerated and not convicted?”

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FILE – President Richard M. Nixon and his wife, Pat Nixon, stand together in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Aug. 9, 1974. VOA

Nixon case

President Richard Nixon was not impeached over the Watergate scandal in 1974, but the process was well underway. The House began impeachment proceedings through the House Judiciary Committee and was preparing to move Articles of Impeachment to the House floor when Nixon decided to resign.

Several Republican senators including Barry Goldwater went to the White House and made it clear to Nixon that he had lost Republican support and would not survive an impeachment trial in the Senate.

Some analysts predict that President Trump could face renewed calls for his ouster depending on the findings of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

“I think if the Mueller report indicates some serious wrongdoing by the president and his campaign, it really empowers Democrats to begin deliberating how to move forward with impeachment proceedings,” said Brookings Institution scholar John Hudak.

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But other experts caution that it would have to be something quite serious for Republicans to even consider abandoning the president.

Given the lack of bipartisan support for impeachment at the moment, it does seem more likely that Trump will face the voters again in 2020 before he has to contend with a Democratic-led impeachment inquiry in the House. (VOA)