Even for Flake, this would be pretty Flake.
What “issues” could he be having? He said himself this morning that the FBI report produced nothing new by way of corroboration. Collins sounded downright chipper about it. Others were pissed off at how thin the evidence against Kavanaugh had proven to be:
Even the ancillary claims against him, like the real meaning of “Devil’s Triangle” in his yearbook, are tilting his way.
NRO appealed to Senator Hamlet this morning to sack up and drop the hammer:
Democrats are, predictably, complaining that the FBI investigation was too limited in duration and scope. But since there is no evidence for Ford’s account beyond her own memory — and she herself testified before the Senate last week under oath — there wasn’t much for the FBI to probe. Flake specifically said he wanted the FBI to talk to Kavanaugh’s friend Mark Judge, and it did. Flake today said he considers the probe thorough. Despite what Democrats say now, Flake’s idea last week wasn’t to undertake a weeks-long investigation into whatever is the latest Democratic assault on Kavanaugh, from college drinking to the meaning of slang terms.
Flake’s own convictions should move him to vote for Kavanaugh — not just his constitutionalism (as Flake has said repeatedly, he’s a conservative inclined to support the conservative Kavanaugh) but his concern about our political norms. If he votes against Kavanaugh, he will reward a disgraceful campaign of character assassination that is a low point in our recent politics and in the history of the U.S. Senate. If Flake wants our political debate to be more elevated, he can’t join the lynch mob that has accused Kavanaugh of everything from lying about the term “boofing” to helping run a gang-rape ring as a teenager.
It can’t be that Flake is having doubts about Kavanaugh’s innocence. Literally everything, including Flake’s own remarks this morning, is breaking towards vindication for the nominee. If Plott is right that he’s “still having issues,” it must have to do with the scope of the FBI probe. His buddy Coons, whom he wants to talk to, complained this morning on CNN that the feds never interviewed Ford herself or Kavanaugh’s Yale classmates, never mind that Ford gave public testimony under oath and no one in the media can find any classmates who witnessed the alleged incident with Deborah Ramirez. Does Flake want the FBI back in the field for a few more days to run down those leads? Do Collins and Murkowski?
More importantly, will McConnell allow it? He had to postpone cloture last week because he knew he wouldn’t have 50 votes if he didn’t bow to the centrists’ demand for an FBI probe. Now, though, he may think the balance of evidence in Kavanaugh’s favor is strong enough that he can afford to call their bluff. If he insists on a Friday cloture vote, as scheduled, what do the three amigos do?
When push comes to shove, the GOP doesn’t need Flake’s vote. As long as Collins and Murky are onboard with confirmation he can soothe his conscience by voting nay, handing Democrats a nice talking point about how opposition to the nominee was bipartisan as a consolation prize when Justice Kavanaugh is sworn in next week. Collins and Murkowski are the only two important people onstage. Unless some other Republican gets cold feet.
I think Flake will bite the bullet. Even people who believe he acted in good faith last week will be annoyed if he orders another last-minute diffident delay. To boost your spirits, here’s 85-year-old Chuck Grassley throwing jabs at the very biased media.
Sen. Chuck Grassley calls for collegiality, telling the media, "You folks can have something to do with it."
"I would never use the word 'fake news.' I consider you folks policemen to our Democratic system of government, but I want to show you where some of you have bias." pic.twitter.com/3RiJUpe9lJ
— ABC News (@ABC) October 4, 2018
Update: Flake can’t sink the nomination or force another delay on his own. But with another Republican by his side…
One source pointed to Collins still being on the fence and not settled in her decision after spending two hours in the SCIF reading the FBI rpt. “All of that time she still doesn’t know?” asked the source rhetorically.
— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) October 4, 2018
There is also some thought that Collins and Murkowski may be using their leverage as a negotiating tactic. But the bottom line: they may get the votes to confirm Kavanaugh. But they are not there yet. It’s getting late in the game.
— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) October 4, 2018
Update: A hopeful sign from Plott:
Keep him away from Coons!