Published 9:03 PM EDT Oct 4, 2018
WASHINGTON – Throughout the day Thursday, senators traipsed down winding steps, past dozens of reporters and into a secure room in the basement of the Capitol Visitor Center.
They walked past Capitol Hill Police officers guarding room 217. Inside, on a rectangular conference table sat a 46-page FBI report on allegations of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Once inside, senators scooted chairs up to that table to read the highly anticipated documents.
The FBI background investigation came as a compromise last week after highly charged testimony by Christine Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh about whether he attacked Ford during their high school years. In exchange for a vote to move Kavanaugh's confirmation to the full Senate, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., was granted his request for an FBI investigation into charges by Ford and one of Kavanaugh's classmates at Yale University, Deborah Ramirez.
Democrats and Republicans alternated poring over the report in two-hour segments, a rotation that continued throughout the day.
On the table there was only one copy, a rule dictated by a 2009 bipartisan agreement on how to handle judicial nominations.
The report was laid out in 12 sections so members could quickly swap them and make the most of their limited time.
Up front, a handful of staffers from the Senate Judiciary Committee kept watch. Sometimes, they took turns reading aloud pages of the document into a microphone, allowing more than one senator at a time to hear a particular passage.
“It's actually a pretty efficient process," said Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis. "I've never seen anything like this (in that room.) This is unusual circumstances calling for kind of an unusual process."
Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., said he had every intention of holding the report in his hands and reading it himself, saying he's a slow reader.
“It’s pretty thick,” he said outstretching his hands. “The whole report, you could stand on it and paint the ceiling.”
During one Republican session, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee stood near the table, reading.
In a corner, four other senators clustered together “kind of shuffling" through pages, Corker later recalled.
When done, senators filed out empty-handed. They were not allowed to take in any electronic devices. And if they took notes, they were not allowed to take them out of the room.
Corker said he didn’t bother to write anything down and he certainly didn’t record anything. “That would be jail time,’’ he said.
As their time ended, GOP lawmakers raced up the steps, complaining out loud that there was no corroboration of the allegations against Kavanaugh in the fewer than a dozen interviews conducted by the FBI.
Some Democrats complained too.
“There is much in there that raises more questions," said Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., after reading the report.
Corker, meanwhile, said had planned to read some of the documents then return later. But when he left, he said he was done.
“I did not learn anything new in reading these 12 documents,” he told reporters waiting outside the room. “It’s time to vote.”
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Contributing: Nicole Gaudiano