President Donald Trump ordered the FBI to investigate Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's sexual assault claim against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh after Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake said he would not vote for Kavanaugh without one.
"I've ordered the FBI to conduct a supplemental investigation to update Judge Kavanaugh's file. As the Senate has requested, this update must be limited in scope and completed in less than one week," the president said in a statement, reports CBS News.
The sudden decision followed a dramatic hearing for the Senate Judiciary Committee, which voted Friday morning in favor of recommending Kavanaugh's nomination to the main Senate floor. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell planned to vote to confirm Kavanaugh early next week, but Flake asked for a one-week delay so the FBI could investigate the claim. The senators then had to ask Trump to order the FBI to launch the probe.
Ford's attorney, Debra Katz, told The Associated Press that Ford "welcomes this step in the process" and appreciated the efforts. However, Katz said there should be no "artificial limits as to time or scope" to the investigation.
"Throughout this process, I've been interviewed by the FBI, I've done a number of 'background' calls directly with the Senate, and yesterday, I answered questions under oath about every topic the Senators and their counsel asked me. I've done everything they have requested and will continue to cooperate," Kavanaugh said in his own statement to NBC News.
On Thursday, Ford testified before the committee that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in 1982, when they were both in high school. She accused him of a heinous encounter, detailing how he put his hand over her mouth when she attempted to scream, and grinded against her. Kavanaugh also testified, vehemently denying her claims.
Two other women accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct. Julie Swetnick said in a sworn deposition that Kavanaugh of lewd behavior during parties in the 1980s. Deborah Ramirez came forward in a New Yorker article, accusing Kavanaugh of exposing himself to her when they were both Yale students. Kavanaugh has also denied these claims.
Before Friday, most Republicans were opposed to the FBI investigating Ford's claims. However, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, considered a swing vote, voiced support for the investigation.
West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from a deep Red state, also praised Flake and the FBI probe.
"This has been a partisan and divisive process," Manchin said. "The American people have been pulled apart by this entire spectacle and we need to take time to address these claims independently, so that our country can have confidence in the outcome of this vote."
Photo credit: Andrew Harrer - Pool/Getty Images