Jeff Flake Straddling the Fence on Kavanaugh Ahead of Friday Vote

Arizona Republican isn’t committing to supporting Supreme Court nominee

Sen. Michael D. Crapo, R-Idaho, left, and Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., listen Thursday as Christine Blasey Ford testifies during the Senate Judiciary hearing on the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/POOL)

Sen. Jeff Flake, seen as a key swing vote who could either put Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court or kill his chances, is not committing to voting for the nominee at a Friday morning Judiciary Committee markup.

The Arizona Republican sounded very conflicted Thursday evening following a meeting of the Senate Republican Conference after the Judiciary panel spent nearly nine hours Thursday hearing from Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused him of sexually assaulting her at a party decades ago when they were both in high school. 

Flake, a Judiciary member, said much of what he and other senators were trying to work through is what the burden of proof or standard of evidence should be in reviewing the testimony of both Ford and Kavanaugh.

“This isn’t a criminal case. This is advise and consent. It has a political element as well,” he said. “It’s like impeachment. They say that you don’t know where it starts and where it ends, but it’s a decision you have to make. We’re doing the best we can.”

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Flake was asked about how he would come to a decision, given that he thought both Ford and Kavanaugh were credible, despite having opposite views of what took place.

“That’s the difficult question, and that’s what we’re wrestling and that’s what we’ve been wrestling with all day, a lot longer than all day,” he said.

Flake seemed skeptical of the idea of delaying the process, however.

“You look at what more time has done in the past couple of days in terms of just ludicrous allegations, some of which have been recanted,” Flake said. “Others … were anonymous to begin with. And what does that do to the accused?”

Ahead of the Senate GOP meeting, Flake huddled with fellow Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, along with Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia.

“There’s talk, and we’re still talking. There’s no decisions made on anything, I can tell you that. There are still some concerns that people have, and we’re going to try and close the loop,” Manchin said.

A Manchin spokesman tweeted Thursday night that the West Virginia Democrat remained undecided on Kavanaugh’s nomination.  

Katherine Tully-McManus contributed to this report.

Watch: Christine Blasey Ford's Full Opening Statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee

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