Politics

Jeff Flake Pledges to Consider FBI Review Before Final Kavanaugh Vote

Senate at its worst when votes happen because one side has the numbers to win, Flake says in N.H.

Sen. Jeff Flake insisted Monday he would take the supplemental reporting of the FBI under advisement before deciding what to do about the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh.

The Arizona Republican made the comments during a broader speech Friday at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire, his latest act that could be read as an early foray into the world of 2020 presidential politics.

At an event in Boston earlier in the day, Flake said he was not a man without a country even though he sometimes feels he currently lacks a party. But he had no regrets about being outspoken in his criticism of the policies and personality of President Donald Trump.

“By the conventions of how party loyalists are supposed to behave, I hope to continue to fail my tribe,” Flake said.

He may not be the one to challenge Trump in the next presidential election, Flake said at the Boston event.

“I don’t see that happening in my case,” Flake said.

Nonetheless, the venue for his speech will only increase talk that the retiring senator may launch a quixotic 2020 presidential campaign.

His desire to talk about compromise and bridging divides certainly had more resonance after Flake acted Friday to slow down (even for a week) the confirmation of Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Flake spoke of his work with fellow Democratic Sen. Chris Coons, a fellow Senate Judiciary Committee member, to craft the agreement to allow space for a brief FBI review.

“We’re friends because we have worked together, and we have worked together because the constitutional framework that created our government ingeniously makes governing hard and compromise inevitable,” Flake said. “It makes me have to consider what’s best for the people of Delaware just as it makes Chris responsive to what’s best for the people of Arizona.”

“The compromise that Chris and I struck on Friday is one that I take seriously, and we did it because fairness required us to do it,” Flake said. “In that moment, our impulse to tribalism was tearing the country apart.”

While Flake was prepared to vote to advance the Kavanaugh nomination earlier in the day Friday before reaching an agreement with Coons and several other senators to effectively force a one week delay to allow time for the FBI to conduct interviews into sexual assault allegations against the nominee, his comments Monday evening rejected the impulse to move ahead as quickly as possible.

“It’s when we try and avoid compromise and take partisan advantage and do things because we have the numbers, especially when we are as terribly and closely divided as we are now that we begin to do serious damage to the country,” he said.

“I, for one, am waiting for the additional information that will come from the supplemental FBI investigation to inform me,” Flake said.

“For the past year, I’ve been speaking about the condition of our democracy because my conscience has required me to do it,” Flake said.

Earlier in the New Hampshire speech, Flake suggested that rather than consider Democrats and Republicans as two warring factions, they might be better viewed as two organs in the same body.

“It’s as if in order to save ourselves, our brains decide to destroy our hearts. That’s about the level of care that we are currently bringing to the proceedings,” he said. “We are harming ourselves, seemingly without regard to what else we might take down with us, or what other institutions we plunder.”

“There is a sickness in our system, and we’ve infected our whole country with it. And that was just last week,” Flake said.

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