Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) wouldn’t say that a confrontation with a sexual assault survivor while he was in an elevator Friday morning played a role in his move, soon after, to successfully seek delay in the confirmation vote for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanugh, who’s been accused by three women of sexual misconduct.
Speaking to reporters after Senate leaders and the White House agreed to delay the floor vote for a week while the FBI investigated the allegations, Flake said he couldn’t “pinpoint” a single conversation that led him to make the request for a delay – which came after he had already issued a statement announcing his “yes” vote on Kavanaugh.
“There were interactions with a lot of people on the phone, email, text, walking around the Capitol, you name it,” Flake said. He said it was “remarkable” the “number of people” who saw the testimony Thursday of one of Kavanaugh’s accusers, Christine Blasey Ford, and “were emboldened to come out and say what had happened to them.”
“I heard from friends, close friends, and I had no idea,” Flake said. “I think that’s important, and people out there need to know that we’ve taken every measure that we can within reason to make sure this process is worthy of this institution.”
Since Blasey Ford came out publicly with her allegations a week and a half ago, she and Democrats have called for the investigation Republicans have now, in a limited form, agreed to seek.
Flake stressed to reporters that, before the allegations came out, he was fully behind Kavanaugh’s confirmation, which would be no surprise to anyone who saw his beaming face at the first round of the judge’s confirmation hearings. He had also asked for the delay in the confirmation process last week so Blasey Ford could testify.
“I am a conservative, I would love to see Judge Kavanaugh confirmed and I hope to be able to do that,” Flake said, “But I want a better process and I think involving the FBI, reopening the background investigation that so many of my colleagues have been asking for and people across the country have been asking for, this can be done.”
The first inkling that Flake was going to throw a wrench in Republicans’ plans to confirm Kavanaugh by early next week came in a Judiciary Committee meeting where members were scheduled to vote the judge out of committee. Flake waved off his opportunity to make remarks ahead of the vote, and disappeared into a room connected to the hearing room with Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE). Other Judiciary Democrats shuffled in and out of the side room, as did Republican members of the committee.
“What really I wanted to do, is to meet with some of my Democratic colleagues and say ‘What would cause you to say we have a better process. Not to say that you’ll vote for judge Kavanaugh,’” he said, later adding that, “Some of us on the Republican side will feel more comfortable moving to the final vote once the FBI has done a supplemental background check.”
After he announced his call for a delay on the floor vote, he and other Judiciary Republicans headed to Majority Leader Mitch McConnel’s office. They were joined by Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who backed the delay.
He played coy when a reporter asked him after the meeting how ticked off McConnell was.
“Everybody agreed that this was the way to move forward,” Flake said.