WASHINGTON — Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh gained the support of a key Republican senator Friday, virtually ensuring his nomination will advance to the full Senate a day after Kavanaugh adamantly denied sexually assaulting Christine Blasey Ford, who insists she's "100 percent" certain he did.
Moments before the panel convened, Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, a member of the committee, announced he would vote to confirm Kavanaugh. Flake said Kavanaugh was entitled to the "presumption of innocence ... absent corroborating evidence."
"While some may argue that a different standard should apply regarding the Senate's advice and consent responsibilities, I believe that the Constitution's provisions of fairness and due process apply here as well," Flake said. "I will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh."
Meanwhile, there were signs the remarkable testimony before the panel — in which Kavanaugh angrily declared his innocence and Ford calmly recounting the moment in which she says he attacked her — had registered negatively with two organizations whose support Kavanaugh had earlier received.
This happened moments after Jeff Flake decided to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Stuck in an elevator, and confronted by two women who said they were sexual assault survivors. “Look at me when I’m talking to you.” pic.twitter.com/wQ9WhFpZpG— Omar Jimenez (@OmarJimenezCNN) September 28, 2018
The American Bar Association, which previously gave Kavanaugh its highest rating of "well qualified," asked the Senate Judiciary Committee and the full Senate to delay the vote until the FBI could do a full background check on the assault claims — something President Donald Trump has refused to order.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders dismissed that Friday, telling reporters that Kavanaugh has already "been through six separate background investigations by the FBI."
Late Thursday, the magazine of the Jesuit religious order in the United States withdrew its endorsement of Kavanaugh, saying the nomination was no longer in the interests of the country and "should be withdrawn."
"If Senate Republicans proceed with his nomination, they will be prioritizing policy aims over a woman's report of an assault," the America magazine editors wrote. "Were he to be confirmed without this allegation being firmly disproved, it would hang over his future decisions on the Supreme Court for decades and further divide the country."
The magazine's reversal is significant given Kavanaugh has repeatedly cited his Roman Catholic faith and his years as a student at the Jesuit-run Georgetown Prep school in Maryland.
Former President George W. Bush has been advocating for Kavanaugh with wavering senators in recent days, according to a person familiar with Bush's outreach who wasn't authorized to speak publicly.
The White House said it was also engaging with wavering GOP senators, but provided few details. Trump is publicly standing by his nominee.
"His testimony was powerful, honest and riveting," he tweeted late Thursday. "The Senate must vote!"
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