MUNSTER — U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., said he will await an FBI investigation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh before deciding whether to raise him to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Donnelly spoke Friday afternoon before The Times Editorial Board.
“I think Hoosiers are where I am on this. I want to know what happened,” he said.
The Hoosier Democrat announced Friday morning that in light of multiple sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh, which Donnelly described as "disturbing and credible," he cannot support the nomination absent a full inquiry by the FBI.
Donnelly said, “The FBI would have to talk to the people considered witnesses, depending on how these claims come out, so that we can find out as much information as possible to make better decisions.
“As it is right now, without all this information, I don’t know how I vote yes without having what I need.”
Donnelly said he met with Kavanaugh weeks before the current hearings to assess the man.
“I spent an hour and a half with him in my office. That was the kind of person, in my office, you like to see on the Supreme Court.”
He said he was surprised by the vehemence of Kavanaugh’s denials and his demeanor while testifying Thursday.
“The person yesterday was like his twin brother. It was like someone put him in a car and drove him away and his twin brother showed up,” Donnelly said.
He said even the American Bar Association, which previously rated Judge Kavanaugh as "well qualified," has called for an FBI investigation.
Donnelly insisted that his original opposition to Kavanaugh is not partisan since he had no problem supporting Justice Neil Gorsuch, the first Supreme Court nominee of Republican President Donald Trump.
Donnelly said Friday afternoon, “I’ll do this in the most bipartisan way possible. (Hoosiers) want normal. We don’t want extreme. We don’t want ideological. We just want somebody very qualified, who acts in a normal way and we know we can count on for common sense.
"My job as a senator is to gather as much information as I can to make the best-informed decision," he said. "In the interest of getting as much information as possible, I believe the allegations should be investigated by the FBI."
The president late Friday indeed directed the FBI to conduct a supplemental investigation of Kavanaugh to be completed within one week.
Kavanaugh has been accused of sexually assaulting Christine Blasey Ford and other women while intoxicated at parties during high school and college.
He vehemently denied the allegations Thursday during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
Donnelly said, "As I have made clear before, sexual assault has no place in our society. When it does occur, we should listen to the survivors and work to ensure it never happens again. That should not be a partisan issue."
The senator's refusal to support Kavanaugh would narrow the nominee's path to the nation's high court.
If more than one of the 51 Republican senators vote against the nomination, Kavanaugh cannot be confirmed without getting at least some Democratic support.
Donnelly said if Kavanaugh's nomination goes down, he "would gladly welcome the opportunity to work with President Trump on a new nominee for this critically important position."
Kavanaugh is supported by U.S. Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., who said following Thursday's committee hearing that he was not persuaded the sexual assault allegations against the nominee are accurate.
"I believe Judge Kavanaugh was truthful under oath during (the) hearing, and I trust the statements of the witnesses named by Dr. Ford who said under penalty of felony that they have no recollection of the alleged incident," Young said.
Unlike Donnelly, Young is satisfied that he has enough information to thoroughly and objectively evaluate Kavanaugh's fitness to serve on the nation's top court.
"I remain convinced that Judge Kavanaugh is a man of integrity who will be an excellent addition to the Supreme Court. I will be voting to confirm him," Young said.
Former state Rep. Mike Braun, the Republican challenging Donnelly in the Nov. 6 general election, also has endorsed Kavanaugh's appointment.
Braun accused Donnelly of bowing to partisan forces by coming out against Trump's Supreme Court selection.
"This entire process has been an embarrassment to our democracy as Hoosiers watched firsthand how Sen. Donnelly’s liberal colleagues used uncorroborated allegations to create a media circus designed to smear and destroy Judge Kavanaugh’s reputation," Braun said.
"Donnelly’s decision to oppose President Trump’s highly qualified nominee is a grave mistake, but proves he is more concerned with standing with his liberal Democrat leaders than standing for Hoosiers."
The full Senate is likely to vote on Kavanaugh's nomination in early October once the FBI investigation is complete.
If there is a 50-50 tie, the decisive vote will come down to another Hoosier — Vice President Mike Pence — who is expected to put Kavanaugh over the top and onto the court.