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After announcing he’d vote to confirm Kavanaugh, Sen. Jeff Flake was confronted by survivors of sexual assault on his way to the committee vote

Matt Linden

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Sen. Jeff Flake announced on Friday morning that he would vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh, who’s been accused by three women of sexual misconduct, to the Supreme Court — and faced immediate backlash from protesters, some of whom were survivors of sexual assault.

Minutes before the Senate Judiciary Committee met on Friday morning to vote on the nominee, Flake and an aide were cornered in a Senate elevator by several women. The encounter was streamed live on cable news, and quickly went viral online.

“On Monday, I stood in front of your office. I told the story of my sexual assault. I told it because I recognized in Dr. Ford’s story that she is telling the truth,” said Ana Maria Archila, executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy, referring to Christine Blasey Ford, who testified before the committee on Thursday about her allegation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in the 1980s when they were in high school.

“What you are doing is allowing someone who actually violated a woman to sit in the Supreme Court,” Archila went on. “This is not tolerable.”

She added: “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?”

Flake, who had been seen as a possible swing vote in the confirmation, nodded and said he needed to get to the vote.

“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’re going to ignore them,” said a second protester, 23-year-old Maria Gallagher, who was close to tears.

“That’s what you’re telling me when you vote for him,” she added. “Don’t look away from me.”

Gallagher added, “You have power, but so many women are powerless.”

Archila told The New York Times after the encounter that Flake “looked ashamed” and “had a hard time looking us in the face.”

Archila, who is also a national committee member of the Working Families Party, added, “He knows that this is wrong and it sends the wrong message to my children and his children, but despite all that, he chooses party.”

Flake released a statement on Friday morning describing Ford’s testimony as “compelling” and Kavanaugh’s subsequent testimony denying the allegation as “persuasive,” but said he would never know for sure which person is telling the truth. The senator never called for an FBI investigation.

“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,” Flake said. “What I do know is that our system of justice affords a presumption of innocence to the accused, absent corroborating evidence. That is what binds us to the rule of law.”

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