Senators are starting to react to the now completed FBI investigation into sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Predictably, there is a sharp partisan divide. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced in a press conference that the report “looks to be the product of an incomplete investigation that was limited, perhaps by the White House.”
Republicans, even those who are considered swing votes on the Kavanaugh nomination, took the opposite tack. “It appears to be a very thorough investigation,” Maine Senator Susan Collins said. Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, who was instrumental in getting the FBI investigation launched, took the same line. “I had planned to vote for him before, but I certainly wanted the FBI, the professionals, to look at it,” Flake said. “And they have. I think they’ve been thorough.”
The partisan divide is a good portent for Kavanaugh and vindicates the tactics used by the jurist and the Trump administration of turning the nomination into a question of party loyalty. In hearings last Thursday, Kavanaugh painted opposition to him as being politically motivated.
“This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election. Fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record,” Kavanaugh thundered. “Revenge on behalf of the Clintons. and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.”
The message to the GOP was clear: Opposition to me is coming from biased Democrats, so loyal Republicans should rally to my side. In a rally on Monday night, President Donald Trump described Democrats who opposed Kavanaugh as “evil people.”
Kavanaugh and Trump made a gamble that they could afford to alienate Democrats with this strident rhetoric because it would bring Republicans, who have a bare majority in the Senate, in line. This strategy seems to be paying off.