The atmosphere on Capitol Hill turned especially tense Wednesday amid mounting protests from demonstrators in the halls of Congress, as lawmakers await the release of the FBI’s report on its Brett Kavanaugh background investigation and prepare to vote on his polarizing nomination to the Supreme Court.
The supercharged environment on Capitol Hill led Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Wednesday to decry the harassment of senators during a speech on the Senate floor.
“One of our colleagues and his family were effectively run out of a restaurant in recent days,” McConnell said. “Another reported having protesters physically block his car door. And some have seen organized far-left protesters camp out at their homes.”
An increased police presence was visible Wednesday, as officers were seen protecting Republican senators who were coming and going from their offices. Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a crucial undecided vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination, was seen being escorted to votes by a Capitol Police detail as protesters and journalists rushed the lawmaker.
Hundreds of protesters have gathered in the Russell Rotunda basement to confront senators. Protesters have also approached Republican senators at other locations – like on Monday, when video surfaced of demonstrators badgering McConnell at Ronald Reagan National Airport.
That comes days after left-wing protesters, upset over Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake’s decision to support Kavanaugh, confronted the sullen-looking lawmaker as he tried to get into an elevator last week. Hours later, Flake called for a new, limited FBI investigation, effectively delaying plans to vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination.
While the pressure from the demonstrations appeared to work on Flake, McConnell vowed Wednesday that senators will not be “intimidated by these people.”
Tensions between party leaders have also been rising. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on Wednesday nearly called McConnell a liar from the floor, which would mark a breach of custom. Schumer took issue with McConnell blaming Democrats for the delay in voting on Kavanaugh, calling that “the most blatant falsehood I’ve heard uttered on this floor in a long time.”
McConnell has accused Democrats of working to delay the nomination at any cost. Schumer said McConnell, as majority leader, schedules the votes.
“I’m so tempted to use the L-word but he’s my friend,” Schumer said of McConnell.
McConnell has repeatedly said that the Senate will vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination this week. It’s not clear when McConnell will put steps into motion for that to happen, though he would need to “file cloture” on Wednesday to trigger a procedural vote Friday and a final confirmation vote Saturday.
Affecting the timing of the vote could be the completion of the FBI report, which could come as early as Wednesday. Fox News has learned from two senior Senate sources that report isn’t expected to be released publicly: the FBI is expected to send a single copy of the supplemental report on Kavanaugh to the Hill, where it will be kept in a safe in the Senate Judiciary Committee. All 100 senators and nine staffers will be authorized to read it.
Meanwhile, President Trump ramped things up with his criticism of the sexual assault allegations made against Kavanaugh by accuser Christine Blasey Ford during a rally in Mississippi on Tuesday night.
The president, before a campaign crowd, referenced holes in Ford’s story, portraying the back-and-forth between Ford and her interviewers during last week’s congressional hearing.
"'How did you get home?' 'I don't remember.' 'How did you get there?' 'I don't remember.' 'Where is the place?' 'I don't remember.' 'How many years ago was it?' 'I don't know,'" Trump said as the crowd applauded.
Those comments were not received well by some of the undecided senators, like Collins, who said it appeared Trump was mocking Ford.
“The president’s remarks were plain wrong,” Collins told reporters Wednesday.
She declined to say if it would have an impact on her vote.
Fox News’ Chad Pergram, Mike Emanuel, Jason Donner and Kristin Fisher contributed to this report.