Judge Brett Kavanaugh's temperament and credibility emerged as flashpoints Tuesday in the battle over his Supreme Court nomination, with Democrats increasingly pointing to his at times testy and emotional performance at last week's Senate hearing.
The strategy came as the FBI conducts a limited investigation into allegations of sexual assault by Kavanaugh but with great uncertainty about whether the probe will unearth anything conclusive by the end of the week, when Republicans are pressing for a vote.
During remarks on the Senate floor, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said last week's hearing, at which Christine Blasey Ford alleged a drunken sexual assault in the early 1980s, left him and others with great concerns about Kavanaugh's truthfulness.
"He has grossly mischaracterized his relationship with alcohol," Schumer said, characterizing Kavanaugh as someone who "tiptoes around the truth."
During the hearing, Kavanaugh acknowledged sometimes drinking too many beers in high school but said he did not have a problem with alcohol and never forgot his behavior - characterizations that have been questioned in news reports by some former classmates.
Regardless of what he did as a teenager, senators need to look at what Kavanaugh is saying now, Schumer argued.
"You cannot discount what he is saying and professing at age 53 when it flies in the face of being truthful," Schumer said. "That is the key question here . . . His credibility is in real doubt - doubt enough for a lot of Americans to say this man should not be on the Supreme Court."
Other Democrats - and one key Republican, Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona - also raised questions Tuesday about whether Kavanaugh has the right temperament to be on the high court.
Appearing at a forum sponsored by The Atlantic, Flake said he was concerned about some of Kavanaugh's sharp interactions with Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee last week. While Flake said Kavanaugh deserves some leeway given what he and his family been through, he said, "We can't have this on the court."
Flake, who pushed for a delay for the FBI to investigate the assault allegations, said he was keeping an open mind on the nomination.
Democrats offered harsher assessments. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., weighed in, saying at The Atlantic event that Kavanaugh was "hysterical" during the Senate hearing. She argued that yelling and crying by a woman would be viewed far differently.
"If a woman ever behaved that way - to me it was behavior that was not suitable for a person who would be a judge on any court, much less the Supreme Court of the United States," she said.
And Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., referenced the over-the-top lampooning of Kavanaugh's hearing performance by actor Matt Damon in a "Saturday Night Live" sketch last weekend.
"Unfortunately, that was too accurate," Leahy said during an interview on MSNBC. "I've never seen a judicial nominee like this. It does not reflect a judicial temperament."
Nevertheless, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., doubled down Tuesday on his vow to hold a vote by the end of the week on Kavanaugh, saying he was the victim of open "floodgates of mud and muck."
"One thing we know for sure: The Senate will vote on Judge Kavanaugh here on this floor, this week," McConnell said during a floor speech in which he also dismissed some recent media reports about Kavanaugh's decades-old behavior.
His comments come as Democrats are pressing for a more expansive FBI investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh. Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have called for FBI interviews of about two dozen people who might have information relevant to three Kavanaugh accusers.
And on Tuesday, Schumer called for a briefing by the FBI to the full Senate before a vote on whether to move Kavanaugh's nomination forward.
McConnell said that Democrats continue to try to "move the goal posts" on Kavanaugh's confirmation and predicted they would be unsatisfied when the FBI completes its work this week.
Democrats, McConnell said, "will not be satisfied unless they have brought down Judge Kavanaugh's nomination."
As he left the White House on Tuesday, President Donald Trump continued to voice support for Kavanaugh but told reporters it would "not be acceptable" if the FBI demonstrated that he had lied.
"I think that Judge Kavanaugh is doing pretty well, it seems to me, over the last 24 hours," Trump said. "I think that Judge Kavanaugh is doing very well right now."
"Hopefully, as Mitch said, they'll have a vote by the end of the week, and it'll be a positive vote."
Kavanaugh's fate is largely dependent on a small number of Republicans who have said they want to see what a limited FBI investigation yields.
Flake said that he is pushing the White House for "a fulsome investigation" of the allegations against Kavanaugh.
Appearing at a forum sponsored by the Atlantic, Flake said he hopes FBI agents will be allowed to immediately follow up on any leads they get while interviewing witnesses.
"I just hope that we find fact," Flake said.
A spokesman for McConnell noted that the agreement with Flake and other swing senators was to have a procedural vote on Kavanaugh's confirmation by Friday, so the majority leader would have to take steps to tee up that vote on Wednesday.
"People will know what the FBI says before we end up voting on anything," Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, said.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, considered a swing vote on the nomination, refused to be drawn into the issue of Kavanaugh's credibility or the timing of an eventual vote on Tuesday.
"I'm not going to do a hypothetical, I really want to go with facts and that's why I pressed for a supplemental FBI investigation," she told reporters.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who also remains undecided said that it would be devastating for Kavanaugh if the FBI discovered he has lied about anything.
"That finishes everything," Manchin said. "If they can corroborate and there's lying I think everyone's said that. Democrats, Republicans, even the president. So I don't think that's a question."
The White House has given the FBI permission to expand its probe beyond an initial group of witnesses but its full scope remains unclear.
A lawyer for Mark Judge, a friend and high school classmate of Kavanaugh, said Tuesday morning that the FBI had completed its interview with Judge. Ford has alleged that Judge was in the room when Kavanaugh assaulted her. He has previously said he doesn't recall the events recounted by Ford.
"Mr. Judge completed his FBI interview," attorney Barbara Van Gelder said in a statement. "We are not commenting on the questions the FBI asked Mr. Judge."
A second Kavanaugh accuser, Debbie Ramirez, met with the FBI for about two hours on Sunday, according to two people familiar with the investigation.
Her legal team provided the FBI with a list of at least 20 people they believe may have relevant information and should be interviewed, the people said.
Ramirez has accused Kavanaugh of exposing himself to her while both were college students.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, considered a key swing vote on the nomination, believes the scope of the FBI's investigation should include allegations brought by a third accuser, Julie Swetnick, but the senator is deferring to the FBI itself on who should be interviewed, a spokeswoman said.
Swetnick said in a declaration that Kavanaugh was physically abusive toward girls in high school and was at a house party in 1982 where she says she was the victim of a gang rape. She also said she had seen Kavanaugh try to get girls inebriated and disoriented at multiple earlier parties so they could be raped by a " 'train' of numerous boys."
During his remarks, McConnell dowplayed those allegations.
McConnell referred to Michael Avenatti, the attorney representing Swetnick, as a "tabloid lawyer" and said he is pushing allegations about "one wild party after another filled with sexual violence for which there happened to be zero witnesses."
Avenatti, who has said he is considering a Democratic run for the presidency in 2020, is also representing Stormy Daniels, the adult-film actress who was paid to remain silent about an alleged affair with Trump.
During his remarks, McConnell also mocked new reports that Kavanaugh was involved in a bar fight while in college, sarcastically calling it a "bombshell."
"One can only image what new bombshell might be published today or tomorrow," he said.
McConnell said a "mudslide" has emerged since Ford's allegations first became public.
"The mudslide was cheered on and capitalized on at every turn by the far left that has been so eager to stop this nomination," he said.
The Washington Post's Gabriel Pogrund, Seung Min Kim, Emma Brown, Felicia Sonmez and Carol D. Leonnig contributed to this report.
This story was first published in The Washington Post.