Key senators undecided as Senate poised to vote on Brett Kavanaugh

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate is poised to take a crucial vote Friday on whether to advance Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court as key Republican senators remain undecided amid allegations of sexual misconduct and intense protests that have divided the nation.

The 53-year-old judge made what were in effect closing arguments by acknowledging that he became "very emotional" when forcefully denying the allegations at a Judiciary Committee hearing last week. "I said a few things I should not have said," he wrote in an op-ed published Thursday evening. But he said he remains the same "hardworking, even-keeled" person he has always been. "Going forward, you can count on me," he wrote in The Wall Street Journal.

The op-ed, as well as a late boost from President Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Minnesota, appeared aimed at winning over the three wavering senators from the slim GOP majority — Susan Collins of Maine, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — and one Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who has yet to announce his position.

Ahead of Friday's voting, Republicans emerged confident that an FBI investigation into the allegations unearthed no new corroborating details, they said. But a level of uncertainty lingered as Collins and Flake spent hours Thursday pouring over confidential FBI documents in the secure basement briefing room long after others had left seemingly satisfied with the findings.

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Protests against Brett Kavanaugh
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Protests against Brett Kavanaugh
Activists hold a protest and rally in opposition to U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh outside the court in Washington, U.S., October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Activists rally inside the Senate Hart Office Building during a protest in opposition to U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and in support for Christine Blasey Ford, the university professor who has accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault in 1982, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Activists hold a protest and rally in opposition to U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in Washington, U.S., October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
A woman thrusts her fist in support of activists rallying inside the Senate Hart Office Building during a protest in opposition to U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and in support of Christine Blasey Ford, the university professor who has accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault in 1982, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., October 4, 2018. REUTERS//Mary F. Calvert
Activists protest and rally in opposition to U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh outside the court in Washington, U.S., October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Protesters demonstrate against Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court in the atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, U.S., October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Mary F. Calvert TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Activists hold a protest and rally in opposition to U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and in support for Christine Blasey Ford, the university professor who has accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault in 1982, in Washington, U.S., October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
A demonstrator sits on the ground during a protest and rally in opposition to U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in Washington, U.S., October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Workers and onlookers watch as activists rally inside the Senate Hart Office Building during a protest in opposition to U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and in support for Christine Blasey Ford, the university professor who has accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault in 1982, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Activists rally inside the Senate Hart Office Building during a protest in opposition to U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Activists hold a protest and rally in opposition to U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in Washington, U.S., October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Activists rally inside the Senate Hart Office Building during a protest in opposition to U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and in support for Christine Blasey Ford, the university professor who has accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault in 1982, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Activists hold a protest and rally in opposition to U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in Washington, U.S., October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Activists hold a protest march and rally in opposition to U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh near the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Activists protest and rally in opposition to U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh outside the court in Washington, U.S., October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Activists march during a rally in opposition to U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in Washington, U.S., October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 04: Demonstrators wait in-line to enter Hart Senate Office Building for a protest against the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh October 4, 2018 at the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Senators had an opportunity to review a new FBI background investigation into accusations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh and Republican leaders are moving to have a vote on his confirmation this weekend. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Protesters occupy the Senate Hart building during a rally against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on October 4, 2018. - Top Republicans voiced confidence Thursday that Brett Kavanaugh will be confirmed to the US Supreme Court this weekend, as they asserted that an FBI probe had found nothing to support sex assault allegations against Donald Trump's nominee.'Judge Kavanaugh should be confirmed on Saturday,' Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told reporters. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)
A protester holds up a sign in the Senate Hart building during a rally against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on October 4, 2018. - Top Republicans voiced confidence Thursday that Brett Kavanaugh will be confirmed to the US Supreme Court this weekend, as they asserted that an FBI probe had found nothing to support sex assault allegations against Donald Trump's nominee.'Judge Kavanaugh should be confirmed on Saturday,' Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told reporters. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 04: Protesters chant their support for fellow demonstrators who are being arrested by U.S. Capitol Police for protesting against the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh in the atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building October 4, 2018 in Washington, DC. Senators had an opportunity to review a new FBI background investigation into accusations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh and Republican leaders are moving to have a vote on his confirmation this weekend. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 04: (L to R) Bob Bland, Co-President, Women's March; model and actress Emily Ratajkowski and actress and comedian Amy Schumer attend the Brett Kavanaugh U.S. Supreme Court Confirmation Protest in front of the Supreme Court on October 4, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/WireImage)
A protester opposed to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh holds a sign outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018. Senate Republicans pushed toward a make-or-break test vote on Kavanaugh as key GOP holdouts Jeff Flake and Susan Collins said an FBI investigation prompted by sexual misconduct allegations against him appeared to be thorough. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Demonstrators protest US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in front of the Supreme Court on October 4, 2018 in Washington, DC. - A new FBI investigation into Kavanaugh found nothing to corroborate sexual assault allegations against US President Donald Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court, US Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa said Thursday. (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP) (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Demonstrators protest US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh near the US Capitol on October 4, 2018 in Washington, DC. - A new FBI investigation into Kavanaugh found nothing to corroborate sexual assault allegations against US President Donald Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court, US Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa said Thursday. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Demonstrators protest US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in front of the Supreme Court on October 4, 2018 in Washington, DC. - A new FBI investigation into Kavanaugh found nothing to corroborate sexual assault allegations against US President Donald Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court, US Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa said Thursday. (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP) (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Demonstrators protest US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in front of the Supreme Court on October 4, 2018 in Washington, DC. - A new FBI investigation into Kavanaugh found nothing to corroborate sexual assault allegations against US President Donald Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court, US Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa said Thursday. (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP) (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Demonstrators protest US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in front of the Supreme Court on October 4, 2018 in Washington, DC. - A new FBI investigation into Kavanaugh found nothing to corroborate sexual assault allegations against US President Donald Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court, US Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa said Thursday. (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP) (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
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Even without locking in support, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pushed ahead with trying to move Trump's nominee forward in what would be an election year win for his party. The Republican leader has little room for error with his party's slim 51-49 hold on the Senate, even if Vice President Mike Pence is called in to break a tie. A final vote is expected Saturday.

Tensions have been high at the Capitol with opponents of Kavanaugh, including survivors of sexual assault, confronting senators in the halls and holding vigil across the street at the Supreme Court. Supporters of Kavanaugh also turned out.

Trump said the protesters' "rage-fueled resistance is starting to backfire at a level nobody has ever seen before." He was referring to polling that shows some improvement for Republicans heading into the midterm election.

Friday's vote is a procedural one to end the debate, and some fence-sitting senators could conceivably vote to advance Kavanaugh's nomination but still hold out their support ahead of a final confirmation roll call over the weekend.

Two of the undeclared Republicans emerged from the secure briefing facility Thursday accepting the FBI report as "thorough," bolstering GOP hopes for confirmation.

Flake told reporters that "we've seen no additional corroborating information" about the claims against Kavanaugh.

Collins also expressed satisfaction, calling it "a very thorough investigation." She paid two visits to the off-limits room where the document was being displayed to lawmakers.

Murkowski said she was "still reviewing" her decision.

Democrats complained that the investigation, running just six days after Trump reluctantly ordered it, was shoddy, omitting interviews with numerous potential witnesses. They accused the White House of limiting the FBI's leeway.

Those not interviewed in the reopened background investigation included Kavanaugh himself and Christine Blasey Ford, who ignited the furor by alleging he'd molested her in a locked room at a 1982 high school gathering.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the Judiciary Committee's top Democrat, said while her party had agreed to a weeklong FBI probe with a finite scope, "We did not agree that the White House should tie the FBI's hands."

18 PHOTOS
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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A hefty police presence added an air of anxiety, as did thousands of anti-Kavanaugh demonstrators. U.S. Capitol Police said 302 were arrested — among them comedian Amy Schumer, a distant relative of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, issued a statement late Thursday that said the FBI reached out to 11 people and interviewed 10. Six of the witnesses involved Ford's claims, including an attorney for one of them, and four were related to Deborah Ramirez, who has asserted that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her when both were Yale freshmen. Grassley said the FBI concluded "there is no collaboration of the allegations made by Dr. Ford or Ms. Ramirez."

Senators said the documents they examined totaled about 50 pages.

The underlying material from the FBI included text and Facebook messages, said Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., including screenshots that "were very helpful" in understanding the communications between various people discussing the situation.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said nine of the pages were about Mark Judge, the Kavanaugh friend who Ford said also jumped on her while Kavanaugh assaulted her. Judge has said he doesn't recall the incident.

White House spokesman Raj Shah rebuffed Democrats' complaints, saying, "What critics want is a never-ending fishing expedition into high school drinking."

Barring leaks, it was unclear how much if any of the FBI report would be made public.

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