Senate's Kavanaugh Vote Ends in Chaos After GOP Sen. Flake Asks for FBI Sex-Assault Probe
One day after Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford testified about her sexual assault allegations against the Supreme Court nominee, the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday voted to send Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the full Senate — but it wasn’t without drama.
Republican Sen. Jeff Flake tried to make 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 Ford’s sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh, effectively siding with Democrats.
“This country’s being ripped apart here,” said Flake.
But Sen. Chuck Grassley abruptly cut off the meeting, telling Sen. Dianne Feinstein that Flake didn’t present a formal motion.
“This is all a gentleman and woman’s agreement,” he said, ending the session because it had reached its two-hour limit.
Sen. Lindsey Graham was asked outside the hearing room about his position on Flake’s proposal. “I don’t know what ‘this’ is!” a visibly frustrated Graham replied. “We’re not playing this game and opening this up so it goes on forever.”
Asked about the tense Senate session following the vote, President Donald Trump said Friday, “I guess the vote was a positive vote, but there seems to be a delay. … I thought [Ford’s] testimony was very compelling and she looks like a very fine woman to me.”
“Certainly she was a very credible witness,” Trump added. “She was very good in many respects.”
Friday’s party-line 11-10 vote by the Judiciary Committee passes the ball to the full Senate to have a final vote of Kavanaugh’s confirmation. That vote was originally expected to take place early next week, according to The Washington Post. Now, with Flake’s request for a delay, the timing is unclear.
Though Republicans have an 11 to 10 majority on the Judiciary Committee, its vote was unpredictable due to the silence of Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) and Sen. Flake (Arizona), the latter of whom announced just before the 9:30 a.m. ET meeting that he would support Kavanaugh.
Heading to the highly anticipated vote, Sen. Flake was confronted in an elevator by two female protestors who identified as sexual assault survivors.
“What you are doing is allowing someone who actually violated a woman to sit on the Supreme Court,” said one of the women, Ana Maria Archila, according to CNN. “This is not tolerable. You have children in your family. Think about them. I have two children. I cannot imagine that for the next 50 years they will have to have someone in the Supreme Court who has been accused of violating a young girl. What are you doing, sir?”
“I was sexually assaulted and nobody believed me,” Maria Gallagher, a second woman, told Flake, who appeared uncomfortable. “I didn’t tell anyone and you’re telling all women that they don’t matter, that they should just stay quiet because if they tell you what happened to them you are going to ignore them. That’s what happened to me, and that’s what you are telling all women in America, that they don’t matter. They should just keep it to themselves because if they have told the truth you’re just going to help that man to power anyway.”
Crying, Gallagher demanded Sen. Flake’s attention, saying, “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 with their bodies.”
“Thank you,” Sen. Flake repeatedly told them before trying to end the confrontation. “I have to go to the hearing.”
“When Dr. Ford’s allegations against Judge Kavanaugh surfaced two weeks ago, I insisted that she be allowed to testify before the committee moved to a vote,” Sen. Flake said in a statement before the elevator incident on Friday, explaining his support for Kavanaugh. “Yesterday, we heard compelling testimony from Dr. Ford, as well as a persuasive response from Judge Kavanaugh. I wish that I could express the confidence that some of my colleagues have conveyed about what either did or did not happen in the early 1980s, but I left the hearing yesterday with as much doubt as certainty.”
“What I do know is that our system of justice affords a presumption of innocence to the accused, absent corroborating evidence,” he continued. “That is what binds us to the rule of law. While some may argue that a different standard should apply regarding the Senate’s advice and consent responsibilities, I believe that the constitution’s provisions of fairness and due process apply here as well.”
The decision comes after the American Bar Association came out in support of delaying the initial vote, arguing that in the wake of Ford’s powerful testimony on Thursday, an FBI investigation into her allegations should be conducted.
“The basic principles that underscore the Senate’s constitutional duty of advice and consent on federal judicial nominees require nothing less than a careful examination of the accusations and facts by the FBI,” ABA president Robert Carlson wrote in a letter to Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and ranking committee Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein (California) on Thursday, the Post reported.
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Effectively supporting Democrats on the matter, the ABA warned of the damage a premature vote could have on Americans’ faith in the Supreme Court. “Each appointment to our nation’s Highest Court (as with all others) is simply too important to rush to a vote,” Carlson wrote. “Deciding to proceed without conducting an additional investigation would not only have a lasting impact on the Senate’s reputation, but it will also negatively affect the great trust necessary for the American people to have in the Supreme Court.”
Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, Kavanaugh, 53, cited the ABA’s previous recommendation of him for the Supreme Court, saying he was “thoroughly vetted” by the organization.
“For 12 years, everyone who has appeared before me on the D.C. Circuit has praised my judicial temperament,” Kavanaugh said Thursday. “That’s why I have the unanimous, well-qualified rating from the American Bar Association.”
In an emotional three-hour testimony, Ford — the 51-year-old research psychologist and professor at Palo Alto University — went into detail about her allegation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a high school party in the 1980s. Ford claims Kavanaugh allegedly pinned her down to a bed, groped her and tried to remove her clothes.
Her eyes welling with tears and her voice often shaking, Ford recalled her memories of the alleged assault. “I believed he was going to rape me,” she said. “I tried to yell for help. When I did, Brett put his hand over my mouth to stop me from screaming. This was what terrified me the most, and has had the most lasting impact on my life. It was hard for me to breathe, and I thought that Brett was accidentally going to kill me.”
Ford said she was “100 percent” certain Kavanaugh was guilty of sexually assaulting her when they were high school students, but in his fiery and often combative testimony, the judge insisted he was “100 percent certain” he did not.
At times shouting, crying and interrupting senators, Kavanaugh argued that he is the victim of “grotesque and obvious character assassination” planned by Senate Democrats.
“Judge Kavanaugh showed America exactly why I nominated him. His testimony was powerful, honest, and riveting,” President Donald Trump tweeted on Thursday. “Democrats’ search and destroy strategy is disgraceful and this process has been a total sham and effort to delay, obstruct, and resist. The Senate must vote!”
If you or someone you care about is affected by sexual violence, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).