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Trump Says He Will Defer To Senate Republicans On Timeline For Kavanaugh Vote


The wrenching battle over Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court took another - yet another unexpected turn today. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to send his nomination to the full Senate. But one senator, Arizona Republican Jeff Flake, called for a delay of up to one week before that vote so that the FBI can investigate the sexual assault allegations made against Kavanaugh by Christine Blasey Ford.


JEFF FLAKE: This country is being ripped apart here. And we've got to make sure that we do due diligence. I think this committee has done a good job. But I do think that we can have a short pause and make sure that the FBI can investigate.

KELLY: After other key senators backed Flake's call, the committee relented and agreed to ask the White House to reopen a limited background investigation. Until now, the White House, which has to initiate that process, had resisted taking that step. But let me bring in NPR White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe. Hey, Ayesha.


KELLY: Hello. Are you about to tell me about yet another unexpected turn today?

RASCOE: Yes. So President Trump has backed down from his earlier stance. He ordered a supplemental investigation into Kavanaugh's background that would update his file. Now, Trump did place some parameters on this. The probe can last no more than a week, and it must be, quote, "limited in scope." This is a turnaround for Trump. The White House had been asked over and over again why not just reopen the background check, and they always argued that's not the process and that the Senate Judiciary Committee was able to look into these allegations.

KELLY: You mentioned an interesting detail there - that the probe must last no more than a week, and it must be limited in scope. Do we know what limited in scope actually means?

RASCOE: Not exactly. Republican lawmakers were clear that they didn't want this to be just digging into any allegation ever made. They want it just what they called current and credible allegations. But the White House has not clarified exactly what they are expecting the FBI to focus on. Kavanaugh has responded to this move by the White House. He said he would cooperate with the FBI. And Ford has also responded in a statement saying she welcomed the additional review.

KELLY: What do we know, by the way, Ayesha, about the president's response to the testimony yesterday - very emotional, fraught testimony by both Ford and Kavanaugh. Did he talk about that today?

RASCOE: Yes. During a meeting with the president of Chile, reporters asked him what he thought about Ford. And he had kind words. Trump said he thought she was credible. Here's more of what he had to say.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I thought her testimony was very compelling. And she looks like a very fine woman to me - a very fine woman.

RASCOE: Now, this is different from what he was saying before when he seemed to be on the attack and calling the allegations a sham and blasting Democrats. There was none of that today. But he also stressed that he was impressed by Kavanaugh's testimony.


TRUMP: And I thought that Brett's testimony, likewise, was really something that I haven't seen before. It was incredible. It was an incredible moment I think in the history of our country.

RASCOE: And we know yesterday Trump tweeted that Kavanaugh's testimony was powerful, honest and riveting.

KELLY: All right. So he was impressed by both of their testimony. But did he - does he still sound confident that his nominee is going to get confirmed, going to survive this process?

RASCOE: He's kind of giving mixed messages. He said he didn't know what's going to happen with the vote or how they would move forward. He said he wasn't pressing senators who are on the fence to vote for Kavanaugh - that it's up to them to do what's best. But when he was asked is he thinking about any other nominees if this doesn't work out with Kavanaugh, he didn't hesitate. He said not even a little bit.

KELLY: All right. Thank you, Ayesha.

RASCOE: Thank you.

KELLY: That's NPR White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.