Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake’s surprise call Friday for a delay in the final vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation was affected by encounters with women “emboldened” to share their experiences and his desire to demonstrate that the “process is fair,” he told reporters Friday.
He said it was “remarkable” how many people who “saw Dr. [Christine Blasey] Ford [testify] were emboldened to come out and say what had happened to them,” Flake told reporters. “I heard from friends, close friends. I had no idea.”
Flake referred to his “interactions with a lot of people — on the phone, email, text, walking around the Capitol, you name it.”
Earlier in the day, Flake had issued a statement saying that he wasn’t convinced Blasey’s testimony accusing Kavanaugh of sexual assault was enough to deny the Supreme Court nominee a vote.
A short time later, Flake was confronted as he entered an elevator by two survivors of sexual assault who challenged him on Kavanaugh in an encounter captured on video that went viral. “What you are doing is allowing someone who actually violated a woman to sit on the Supreme Court. This is not tolerable,” one of the women shouted.
Flake, who left the elevator ashen-faced and clearly rattled, did not reveal to reporters if that encounter affected his ultimate decision to call for a one-week delay in a final vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation to allow time for an FBI probe. But he had already been talking the night before with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia about how to deal with the Kavanaugh accusations without rejecting his confirmation outright, sources told Politico. Together they would hold the power to block Kavanaugh’s final confirmation on the Senate floor.
Flake told reporters that his morning statement was a bid to keep Republicans calm about where he stood and not worry that he was going to bolt from their ranks. “I hoped that would help provide leverage,” Flake said.
Flake reached out Friday to Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), who’s a fellow member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and discussions began. After joining Republicans on a party-line vote to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination out of the committee, Flake then called for an FBI investigation into the accusations against Kavanaugh before a final Senate vote. He made clear that he wanted a probe of “not more” than a week.
“This country is being ripped apart here, and we’ve got to make sure we do due diligence,” he told the committee.
“I wanted to support” Kavanaugh, Flake told reporters later. “I’m a conservative, he’s a conservative judge. But I want a process we can be proud of, and I think the county needs to be behind it.”