Sen. Susan Collins called the FBI report into allegations of sexual misconduct against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh a “very thorough investigation” Thursday.

“It appears to be a very thorough investigation, but I am going back later today to personally read the interviews,” Collins said after leaving a closed-door briefing with her Republican colleagues. “That’s really all I have to say right now.”

But others have taken issue with the thoroughness of the inquest, which was limited in time and scope by the White House and Republican leadership in the Senate.

Senators who reviewed the report said it includes information from FBI interviews with nine witnesses. Five of the witnesses interviewed were related to the allegation by Christine Blasey Ford, the California psychology professor who has claimed that Kavanaugh tried to assault her when the two were teenagers. The other four had to do with a claim by Deborah Ramirez, who accused Kavanaugh of exposing himself to her while they were students at Yale University.

Democratic senators have characterized the investigation as limited and incomplete.

“The most notable part of this report is what’s not in it,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D- California, the ranking Democrat on the Senate’s Judiciary Committee. “It looks to be a product of an incomplete investigation.”

Maine’s other senator, independent Angus King, said that while the FBI report does not confirm or contradict Kavanaugh’s statements, it does not undermine Ford’s testimony, which he described as “credible.” King reiterated his previous position, that he will vote against Kavanaugh’s nomination.

“For me, my decision is based on Judge Kavanaugh’s record, which indicates an overly rigid judicial philosophy that would threaten protections for healthcare, personal liberty and a woman’s right to choose, the environment and campaign finance laws,” King said in a statement.

“It is based on his refusal to recuse himself from any cases that may come before the court involving presidential power as it applies to the president who nominated him for the seat and it is based on his partisan behavior during last week’s hearing, which does not match the temperament and impartiality needed to serve on our nation’s highest court,” King said.

A statement from Ford’s attorneys released late Wednesday said the FBI did not even interview their client in their expanded probe.

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“An FBI supplemental background investigation that did not include an interview of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford nor the witnesses who corroborate her testimony cannot be called an investigation,” the statement read.”We are profoundly disappointed that after the tremendous sacrifice she made in coming forward, those directing the FBI investigation were not interested in seeking the truth.”

The investigation was always unlikely to answer definitively whether Kavanaugh was guilty of sexual misconduct decades ago.

Collins is among three Republicans who called for the expanded investigation into Kavanaugh’s background after three women leveled allegations against him, including Ford’s accusation that he sexually assaulted her during the summer of 1982.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, says the expanded FBI background check of Supreme Court nominee given to senators on Thursday was “very thorough.”

Collins has not said how she will vote on Kavanaugh, but she may have to provide some indication on Friday.

That’s when the full Senate is expected to take a procedural vote, known as cloture, on whether to end debate on the nomination and allow a vote on confirmation to move forward as early as Saturday.

Friday’s vote would require a majority, or 51 of the 100 members of the Senate, to agree to move forward on another vote to confirm Kavanaugh to the high court.

Collins, along with Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska and Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, pushed last week for the additional week-long FBI probe of the allegations against Kavanaugh. If two of the three Republicans were to join with all Democrats in opposing Kavanaugh’s appointment to the court, his nomination could be rejected.

Collins and the other Republican moderates have been under intense pressure on how they will vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation and on Thursday the Maine Council of Churches joined the chorus of those opposing Kavanaugh’s appointment, issuing a statement that said he “is unfit for a lifetime appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

The council said it concurred with a statement released Wednesdy by the National Council of Churches, which is not affiliated with the Maine organization that said: “Judge Kavanaugh exhibited extreme partisan bias and disrespect towards certain members of the committee and thereby demonstrated that he possesses neither the temperament nor the character essential for a member of the highest court in our nation.”

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-North Dakota, said Thursday she would vote against Kavanaugh’s nomination, according a report by TV station WDAY in Fargo, N.D.

Another Democratic senator, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, has not said how he will vote – the remaining 46 Democrats and two independents in the Senate have said they will reject Kavanaugh’s appointment. He needs 51 votes to ascend to the court.

Nacole Palmer of Bowdoin voices her concerns to Sen. Susan Collins’ staffer Rowan Bost during a meeting Thursday on the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh.

On Thursday a group of Maine women, most of them sexual assault survivors, arrived in Washington, D.C., after taking an overnight bus from Portland. The women, one of numerous groups from Maine and elsewhere to descend on the capital, were hoping to speak with Collins and other senators, urging them to reject Kavanaugh’s appointment.

Wednesday both Collins and King both took issue with President Trump’s mocking of Ford, who has said Kavanaugh assaulted her at house party in Maryland when she was 15 and he was 17.

Kavanaugh has emphatically denied the allegations against him.

Speaking to supporters at a rally in Mississippi, Trump questioned Ford’s allegations that only days before he called credible.

Collins said Trump’s comments were, “just plain wrong.” And King said the remarks made him, “feel sort of sick.”

Meanwhile, groups trying to sway opinions on the controversial appointee have spent more on advertising in Maine than in any other state in the nation, another indication of the pressure Collins is under.

Beyond the sexual misconduct allegations, Kavanaugh’s nomination by Trump has been fraught with other contentious issues including whether he would be a deciding vote on a Supreme Court that would overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion under federal law. Kavanaugh also has been criticized by Democratic groups who have claimed his appointment to the high court could lead to a removal of the requirement under the federal Affordable Care Act that health insurance companies are required to cover most pre-existing conditions.

Scott Thistle can be contacted at 713-6720 or at:

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