Before Sen. Jeff Flake reversed his guarantee of a “yes” vote for Brett Kavanaugh and demanded an FBI investigation into the allegations, he was confronted by two women who said they were survivors of sexual assault.
“Don’t look away from me. Look at me and tell me that it doesn’t matter what happened to me, that you will let people like that go into the highest court of the land and tell everyone what they can do to their bodies,” Maria Gallagher angrily told Flake.
Gallagher, 23, was accompanied by activist Ana Maria Archila, who broke through a group of reporters to speak with him in an elevator.
“On Monday, I stood in your office. I told you of my story of my sexual assault,” Archila told Flake. “I told it because I recognized in Dr. Ford’s story that she is telling the truth. What are you doing is allowing someone who actually violated a woman to sit on the Supreme Court. This is not tolerable. You have children in your family. Think about them.”
Their confrontation occurred before Flake said he would vote in favor of Kavanaugh’s nomination going forward to the Senate floor. But after Gallagher and Archila’s encounter, Flake made a motion to ask the Senate leadership to delay the full Senate vote for up to one week to make time for an FBI investigation into Dr. Christine Blasey Ford‘s sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh, effectively siding with Democrats.
Flake spoke to reporters about the elevator confrontation, explaining his reason for requesting the one-week delay. “It’s been everything,” he said when asked about what specifically made him make his motion.
Flake also spoke to CNN about his last-minute change of heart, saying: “I cannot pinpoint the reason why” but “close friends did call” him with concerns. “He was concerned the nomination battle was tearing the country apart,” Sen. Chris Coons told CNN, after speaking with Flake.
“I feel relieved that @JeffFlake seems to have heard my and @AnaMariaArchil2’s voices in the Senate elevator today. We absolutely need an FBI investigation and for him and all Senators to vote NO. #StopKavanaugh,” Gallagher tweeted along with a photo of her and Archila in a happy embrace.
Many on social media, including viewers who watched Gallagher and Archila’s confrontation, applauded their decision to approach Flake and noted the women’s impact that could have led to the one-week delay.
“We saw him run into the elevator and we ran behind him. It was a very intense moment of really wanting to talk to him,” she recalled. “I felt he really needed to hear, he needed to understand that women feel incredibly enraged about the thought of our stories, of our experiences of surviving sexual violence being dismissed, laughed at, disbelieved. I felt a great sense of urgency. I saw in his face that he could not escape the emotion.”
Archila added, “He wanted those elevator doors to close and that conversation to end. I wanted him to stay there and be present and think of the people he loves, think of his children. And I wanted him to be a hero. To show up for his children. For my children. For myself. For Maria. For the women who have been telling their stories and to vote with his conscience.”
Ford, a 51-year-old research psychologist and professor at Palo Alto University, claims that Kavanaugh, 53, sexually assaulted her at a high school party in the 1980s, where he allegedly pinned her down to a bed, groped her and tried to remove her clothes. (Kavanaugh has denied the allegations.)
“My motivation in coming forward was to be helpful and to provide the facts about how Mr. Kavanaugh’s actions have damaged my life, so that you can take that into a serious consideration as you make your decision about how to proceed,” Ford said during her emotional three-hour testimony with the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.
Kavanaugh — at times crying — addressed the committee, calling his confirmation process “a circus” and “a national disgrace.”
“I ask you to judge me by the standard that you would want applied to your father, your husband, your brother or your son. My family and I intend no ill will toward Dr. Ford or her family,” he said. “But I swear today under oath, before the Senate and the nation, before my family and God, I am innocent of this charge.”
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On Friday, Donald Trump ordered the FBI to conduct a “supplemental investigation” into the allegations leveled against his Supreme Court nominee.
Kavanaugh also released a statement following the decision. “Throughout this process, I’ve been interviewed by the FBI, I’ve done a number of ‘background’ calls directly with the Senate, and yesterday, I answered questions under oath about every topic the Senators and their counsel asked me. I’ve done everything they have requested and will continue to cooperate,” he said in the statement released by the White House.
If you or someone you care about is affected by sexual violence, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).