Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake (R) criticized Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, but said he is waiting to hear from the FBI before making a decision on whether to confirm him.
“I just hope that we find fact. I have an open mind, just like I had in the hearings, and we’ll see what they come back with, I don’t want to prejudge it,” he said at an event on Tuesday hosted by the left-leaning outlet The Atlantic.
Flake told the outlet over the weekend that he was planning to confirm Kavanaugh unless the FBI finds something. “Yes. I’m a conservative. He’s a conservative. I plan to support him unless they turn up something—and they might,” he had said.
The Senate is poised to vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation, after the conclusion of a one-week investigation by the FBI on allegations of sexual misconduct made against the nominee.
But Flake caused confusion Tuesday after he said Kavanaugh’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee last week was “sharp and partisan” and “we can’t have that on the court.”
“I was very troubled by the tone of the, of the remarks. The initial, uh, defense that Judge Kavanaugh gave was something like I told my wife, ‘I hope that I would sound that indignant if I were, uh, if I felt that I was unjustly, you know, maligned,'” he said.
“But then it went on, and the interaction with the members was sharp and partisan, and that concerns me, and I tell myself, ‘Give a little leeway because of what he’s been through.’ But, on the other hand, we can’t have this on the court. We simply can’t,” he added.
Flake appeared to disavow those comments moments after walking off stage, according to a reporter from The Atlantic, who said she asked him if his comments meant he would not vote to confirm Kavanaugh even if the FBI found nothing to corroborate sexual misconduct allegations made against him.
“I didn’t say that …” Flake told the reporter. “I wasn’t referring to him.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) postponed a vote to confirm Kavanaugh to this week, after Flake supported advancing his nomination to the full Senate on the condition the FBI would be given one week to look into the allegations.
Flake said the FBI’s investigation would be limited in time and scope, only to the two “credible” allegations against Kavanaugh, but he also said he hoped the FBI would follow up on any leads from their initial interviews.
During the event on Tuesday, where he spoke next to his good friend Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), he rued the partisanship of today’s politics, and said he hoped to stay involved after he leaves the Senate in November.