Mark Judge agrees to 'confidentially' work with law enforcement on Brett Kavanaugh allegations

WASHINGTON (AP) — After a dramatic flurry of last-minute negotiations, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh cleared a key procedural hurdle Friday, but his confirmation prospects were still deeply uncertain as Republicans agreed to ask for a new FBI investigation into sexual assault allegations.

Under pressure from moderate members, Republican leaders said they would allow the new probe for up to one week, slowing their rush to confirm Kavanaugh shortly after the new high court term opens on Monday.

It was unclear whether President Donald Trump backed the new timeline, cobbled together in private negotiations Friday. The talks were forced by Sen. Jeff Flake, a moderate Republican who surprised colleagues by announcing his support for Kavanaugh early Friday only to call for further investigation a few hours later.

Trump, who previously accused the Democrats of obstruction and opposed the FBI probing the allegations against his nominee, said merely that he would "let the Senate handle that." In fact, it's the White House that would have to ask the FBI to investigate.

Friday's developments unfolded a day after Kavanaugh and an accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, testified in an emotional, hours-long hearing that was televised nationwide. Kavanaugh angrily denied the allegation that he assaulted Ford while they were both in high school, but she said she was "100 percent" certain he was her attacker.

RELATED: On the floor of the Senate Judiciary Committee during the vote on Kavanaugh

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On the floor of the Senate Judiciary Committee during the vote on Kavanaugh
Female members of Congress stand in protest as members of the Senate Judiciary Committee meet to vote on the nomination of judge Brett Kavanaugh to be a U.S. Supreme Court associate justice on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 28, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Senator Dianne Feinstein (R)(D-CA), flanked by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Senator Chuck Grassley (C), addresses a markup hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on September 28, 2018, for the nomination of Brett M. Kavanaugh to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. - Kavanaugh's contentious Supreme Court nomination will be put to an initial vote Friday, the day after a dramatic Senate hearing saw the judge furiously fight back against sexual assault allegations recounted in harrowing detail by his accuser. (Photo by Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 28: Members of the House of Representatives, who oppose the nomination of the Supreme Court associate justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh, wait to enter the Senate Judiciary Committee vote in Dirksen Building on his nomination on September 28, 2018. From left are, Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., Sheila Jackson Lee, R-Texas, Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, Brenda Lawrence, D-Mich., and Julia Brownley, D-Calif. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Senator Dianne Feinstein (C)(D-CA), addresses a markup hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on September 28, 2018, for the nomination of Brett M. Kavanaugh to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. - Kavanaugh's contentious Supreme Court nomination will be put to an initial vote Friday, the day after a dramatic Senate hearing saw the judge furiously fight back against sexual assault allegations recounted in harrowing detail by his accuser. (Photo by Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Senator Dianne Feinstein (R)(D-CA), flanked by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Senator Chuck Grassley (L), prepare for a markup hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on September 28, 2018, for the nomination of Brett M. Kavanaugh to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. - Kavanaugh's contentious Supreme Court nomination will be put to an initial vote Friday, the day after a dramatic Senate hearing saw the judge furiously fight back against sexual assault allegations recounted in harrowing detail by his accuser. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Sen. Dianne Feinstein (L)(D-CA), Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) (C), and Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) speak with aids during a markup hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on September 28, 2018, for the nomination of Brett M. Kavanaugh to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. - Kavanaugh's contentious Supreme Court nomination will be put to an initial vote Friday, the day after a dramatic Senate hearing saw the judge furiously fight back against sexual assault allegations recounted in harrowing detail by his accuser. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, left, speaks with Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, center, as Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, stands during a markup hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Sept. 28, 2018. Supreme Court nominee�Brett�Kavanaugh�appears headed toward approval by the Senate Judiciary Committee after pivotal GOP Senator�Jeff Flake�said he'll vote to confirm the nominee. Photographer: Aaron P. Bernstein/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, left, speaks with Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, center, as Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, talks with a staff memeber during a markup hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Sept. 28, 2018. Supreme Court nominee�Brett�Kavanaugh�appears headed toward approval by the Senate Judiciary Committee after pivotal GOP Senator�Jeff Flake�said he'll vote to confirm the nominee. Photographer: Aaron P. Bernstein/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A US Capitol Police Officer tells a group of female members of Congress that they must sit down or leave as they stand in silent protest against Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court during a US Senate Judiciary Committee markup hearing to consider his nomination, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, September 28, 2018. - Kavanaugh's contentious Supreme Court nomination will be put to an initial vote Friday, the day after a dramatic Senate hearing saw the judge furiously fight back against sexual assault allegations recounted in harrowing detail by his accuser. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
A group of female members of Congress stand in silent protest against Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court during a US Senate Judiciary Committee markup hearing to consider his nomination, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, September 28, 2018. - Kavanaugh's contentious Supreme Court nomination will be put to an initial vote Friday, the day after a dramatic Senate hearing saw the judge furiously fight back against sexual assault allegations recounted in harrowing detail by his accuser. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
A group of female members of Congress stand in silent protest against Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court during a US Senate Judiciary Committee markup hearing to consider his nomination, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, September 28, 2018. - Kavanaugh's contentious Supreme Court nomination will be put to an initial vote Friday, the day after a dramatic Senate hearing saw the judge furiously fight back against sexual assault allegations recounted in harrowing detail by his accuser. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, from left, Senator Mike Lee, a Republican from Utah, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, Senator Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah, Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, attend a markup hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Sept. 28, 2018. Supreme Court nominee�Brett�Kavanaugh�appears headed toward approval by the Senate Judiciary Committee after pivotal GOP Senator�Jeff Flake�said he'll vote to confirm the nominee. Photographer: Aaron P. Bernstein/Bloomberg via Getty Images
US Senator Kamala Harris (R), Democrat from California, US Senator Mazie Hirono (L), Democrat from Hawaii, and US Senator Richard Blumenthal (C), Democrat from Connecticut, all members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, speak with survivors of sexual assault and supporters as they protest against Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court as the US Senate Judiciary Committee considers his nomination, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, September 28, 2018. - Kavanaugh's contentious Supreme Court nomination will be put to an initial vote Friday, the day after a dramatic Senate hearing saw the judge furiously fight back against sexual assault allegations recounted in harrowing detail by his accuser. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 28: Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) listens as ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) speaks during a contentious committee meeting September 28, 2018 in Washington, DC. The committee met to discuss and later vote on the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court prior to the nomination proceeding to a vote in the full U.S. Senate. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Senate Judiciary Committee members Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) (L) and Christopher Coons (D-DE) look on after a markup hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on September 28, 2018, on the nomination of Brett M. Kavanaugh to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. - Kavanaugh's contentious Supreme Court nomination will be put to an initial vote Friday, the day after a dramatic Senate hearing saw the judge furiously fight back against sexual assault allegations recounted in harrowing detail by his accuser. (Photo by Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Senate Judiciary Committee chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) listens to Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) after a markup hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on September 28, 2018, on the nomination of Brett M. Kavanaugh to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. - Kavanaugh's contentious Supreme Court nomination will be put to an initial vote Friday, the day after a dramatic Senate hearing saw the judge furiously fight back against sexual assault allegations recounted in harrowing detail by his accuser. (Photo by Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
House members stand in protest during the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting to vote on the nomination of Brett M. Kavanaugh to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States in Washington, U.S., September 28, 2018. REUTERS/Mary F. Calvert
Sen. Kamala Harris's (D-CA) seat is seen vacant after she and fellow democrats walked out of the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting to vote on the nomination of Brett M. Kavanaugh to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, in Washington, U.S., September 28, 2018. REUTERS/Mary F. Calvert
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Flake, a key moderate Republican, was at the center of Friday's drama and uncertainty. In the morning, he announced that he would support Kavanaugh's nomination. Shortly after, he was confronted in an elevator by two women who, through tears, implored him to change his mind. The stunning confrontation was captured by television cameras.

After huddling privately with his colleagues, Flake announced he would vote to advance Kavanaugh's nomination to the full Senate only if the FBI were to investigate the allegations against the judge. Democrats have been calling for such an probe, though Republicans and the White House have insisted it's unnecessary.

The committee vote was 11-10 along party lines.

Flake said that after discussing the matter with fellow senators, he felt it "would be proper to delay the floor vote for up to but not more than one week."

Attention quickly turned to a handful of undecided senators. West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin said he supported Flake's call to push off a full Senate vote until the FBI investigates Ford's allegation. He said the probe should happen "so that our country can have confidence in the outcome of this vote."

It was unclear if Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska would do the same.

With a 51-49 majority, Senate Republicans have little margin for error on a final vote, especially given the fact that several Democrats facing tough re-election prospects this fall announced their opposition to Kavanaugh on Friday. Sens. Bill Nelson of Florida, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Jon Tester of Montana all said they would vote no.

During Thursday's hearing, Democrats repeatedly peppered Kavanaugh with questions about whether he would support an FBI investigation. He demurred, saying he would back whatever the committee decided to do.

The FBI conducts background checks for federal nominees, but the agency does not make judgments on the credibility or significance of allegations. It compiles information about the nominee's past and provides its findings to the White House, which passes them along to the committee. Republicans say reopening the FBI investigation is unnecessary because committee members have had the opportunity to question both Kavanaugh and Ford and other potential witnesses have submitted sworn statements.

If the FBI does reopen the background investigation, agents could interview accusers and witnesses and gather additional evidence or details that could help corroborate or disprove the allegations.

Democrats have been particularly focused on getting more information from Mark Judge, a high school friend of Kavanaugh who Ford said was also in the room during her alleged assault. In her gripping testimony, Ford said Kavanaugh and Judge's laughter during the incident has stuck with her nearly four decades later.

Judge has said he does not recall any such incident. In a new letter to the Senate panel, he said he would cooperate with any law enforcement agency assigned to investigate "confidentially."

Flake, a 55-year-old Arizonan, has made himself a central character in the drama. As a retiring Republican, with no public plans to face GOP voters soon, Flake has emerged this year as a vocal and biting Trump critic and an advocate for bipartisan cooperation in Washington, even has he largely votes with his party.

Flake's post on the committee has given him another platform. In recent weeks, he's acted as a committee liaison to the Democrats and moderates Republicans urging a slower process. Last weekend, he pushed the committee to give Ford more time to decide whether to testify. Democrats have been eyeing him as a possible "no" vote, leaving many surprised to see him announce Friday morning that he backed the judge. He made clear hours later his vote wasn't yet secure.

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