The bitter Senate fight to confirm Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court plunged into deeper chaos Thursday as a top Democrat disclosed she had referred “information” about President Trump’s nominee to the FBI.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) issued a brief, cryptic statement about the referral, but the absence of any details only raised questions. The information came in a letter that describes an alleged episode of sexual misconduct involving the 53-year-old Kavanaugh when he was in high school, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The White House decried the move as a desperate, last-minute campaign to tear down a qualified nominee, and the FBI does not plan on investigating the matter, which erupted publicly as Democrats complained that Kavanaugh is unfit for the high court.
The abrupt disclosure came as an intensely political battle over Kavanaugh’s confirmation continued to escalate, with a handful of moderate senators who would decide his fate deliberating on how they would vote on a nominee who could shift the balance of the court to the right for generations.
Top Senate Republicans said Kavanaugh’s nomination remains on track, but two swing GOP votes — Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — have not announced their positions and face intense pressure at home to oppose Kavanaugh, injecting uncertainty into the outcome. Collins said she had lingering questions and plans to speak to Kavanaugh on Friday. In Alaska, the state’s largest Native American organization urged Murkowski to reject the nominee.
Democrats have thrown increasingly charged questions at Kavanaugh as they face a furious liberal base pushing senators to do everything within their power to sink his nomination — sometimes without offering public evidence of their claims.