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FBI discards sexual assault claims against Brett Kavanaugh

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US Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said that the FBI report on sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was the “product of an incomplete investigation”.

Brett Kavanaugh.jpg

Image shows Brett Kavanaugh testifying before the Senate

The White House received the much-anticipated FBI report on Wednesday night, local time, and will now send the findings to the Senate for review.

According to a report from The Age, all 100 senators began reading the report on Thursday (Friday AEST) under tight security and strict rules but the contents will not be made public.

“The most notable part of this report is what’s not in it,” Feinstein told reporters, adding that Kavanaugh, his accuser Christine Blasey Ford and several witnesses had not been interviewed by investigators.

However, Chuck Grassley, the Republican chair of the Judiciary Committee, said the FBI report found “no hint of misconduct”.

Crucially, two Republican senators who had not yet confirmed their support for Kavanaugh, appeared to react positively to the report.

Senator Jeff Flake said the FBI found no corroborating information regarding the allegation.

In the words of Sen. Susan Collins, “It appears to be a very thorough investigation.”

Completion of the FBI probe has started the clock for a final Senate vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation this weekend; a procedural vote will take place on Friday, followed by a final vote on Saturday (Sunday AEST).

Kavanaugh’s fate is still unclear because Flake, Collins and Senator Lisa Murkowski are undecided. Several Democrats are also said to be wavering, the news outlet added.

McConnell needs at least two of three undecided Republicans, assuming all Senate Democrats oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination.

Kavanaugh was initially set to face a Senate vote earlier this week, but the three Republicans abruptly joined Democrats on Friday in requesting an FBI inquiry into allegations by California professor Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when both were in high school in 1982. He has denied the allegations.

President Donald Trump gave the FBI a week to look into the matter and said publicly that the law enforcement agency had free rein. But Democrats accused the administration of restricting the probe behind the scenes.

Not interviewing Kavanaugh, Ford and other key witnesses raises “serious concerns that this is not a credible investigation and begs the question: what other restrictions has the White House placed on the FBI?” Feinstein said before the report was completed.

“Last week’s hearing is no substitute for FBI interviews, especially when you consider the tenor of Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony.”

The White House hasn’t said what, if any, restrictions were placed on the FBI probe. Democrat senator Chris Coons said he would have expected the FBI to use the entire week it was afforded.

Senator Joe Manchin, one of the few Democrats who remain undecided, said the FBI report would be instrumental in his decision.

He said on Wednesday: “I’m going to read whatever they’ve got… Before I start jumping in, let me just read what they have and we’ll go from there.”

The report – which is confidential – has been given to the Senate and all senators are able to access it in a secure room.

There is debate on Capitol Hill as to whether all or some of the report should be made public. A key part of Flake’s drive to push for an FBI probe was to have a more transparent public process. Other Republicans have voiced similar concern.

 “I’m of the view that whatever could be made public should be, but that would be well outside the normal way these things are treated,” said Republican senator Roy Bunt.

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