Jeff Flake, Chris Coons discuss compromise

USA TODAY

Published 7:00 PM EDT Sep 30, 2018

Jeff Flake, Chris Coons discuss compromise

WASHINGTON – GOP Sen. Jeff Flake had a message for his friend Democratic Sen. Chris Coons on Friday when they left a meeting on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination together, just before the Senate Judiciary Committee was set to vote.

“He said very intently, ‘This is tearing our country apart.’ We have to do something,” said Coons, a Delaware Democrat.

Their meeting would lead to the advancing of Kavanaugh's nomination to the full Senate – but the circuit court judge now faces an FBI inquiry into the sexual assault allegations against him.

In their first interview together since reaching that remarkable compromise, the two senators described on "60 Minutes" Sunday how they agreed on a limited, week-long FBI probe.

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Coons and Flake met in a tiny hallway outside the Senate meeting, and as other members of the committee got involved in the discussions, the two squeezed into “literally a phone booth that we can barely fit in” to continue discussions with another senator, Coons said.

"It was quite a moment," Flake said.

Coons had been talking to friends and colleagues about taking a “one week pause, one week only.”

“I was, principally, concerned about helping my friend listen to his doubts and his conscience,” Coons said of Flake. “And I cannot tell you how grateful I am. Jeff’s the hero here.”

If he had been running for re-election, Flake acknowledged, there is "not a chance" that he would have been able to reach an agreement. The Arizona Republican is retiring at the end of this year.

“There’s no value to reaching across the aisle,” Flake said. “There’s no currency for that anymore. There’s no incentive.”

Kavanaugh faces sexual misconduct allegations, including those from Christine Blasey Ford, who testified last week that a drunken Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her while they were in high school. He has vehemently denied all allegations.

After Flake's call, President Donald Trump on Friday ordered the FBI to reopen its investigation into Kavanaugh’s background after Flake called for the probe.

Earlier on Friday, Flake announced he would vote for Kavanaugh, but he looked shaken after being cornered in an elevator by two sexual assault survivors as he headed to the committee meeting.

“I couldn’t move forward without hitting the pause button,” Flake said on "60 Minutes." “Because, what I was seeing, experiencing, in an elevator and watching it in committee and just thinking, this is tearing the country apart.”

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