Republican Sen. Jeff Flake suddenly put Brett Kavanagh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court in doubt Sunday, saying the woman who has publicly accused the judge of sexual assault must be heard first. “If they push forward without any attempt with hearing what she’s had to say, I’m not comfortable voting yes,” Flake told Politico. “We need to hear from her. And I don’t think I’m alone in this.”
Flake, who is retiring this year, has frequently been at odds with fellow Republicans, particularly President Donald Trump. But his opinion on this is particularly important considering Flake is one of 11 Republicans on the 21-member Senate Judiciary Committee. “I’ve made it clear that I’m not comfortable moving ahead with the vote on Thursday if we have not heard her side of the story or explored this further,” Flake told the Washington Post.
The senator spoke shortly after the Washington Post published an interview with Christine Blasey Ford, who came forward as the woman who had previously accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault when they were both high school students in the early 1980s. Ford, a professor in California, said a “stumbling drunk” Kavanaugh forced himself on her, tried to remove her clothing, and prevented her from screaming. “I thought he might inadvertently kill me,” Ford said. “He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing.”
Flake was not alone. Sen. Bob Corker also said the committee needs to hear from Ford. And while he isn’t a member of the committee, his support would be critical considering Republicans have a 51-49 majority in the Senate. Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is a member of the Judiciary Committee, also said he would be willing to hear from Ford, although he suggested it should be sooner rather than later. “If the committee is to hear from Ms. Ford, it should be done immediately so the process can continue as scheduled,” he said.
Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who is the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, are calling for a delay on the vote. The committee “must postpone the vote until, at a very minimum, these serious and credible allegations are thoroughly investigated,” Schumer said in a statement.
Even as Democrats protest, Republican leaders in the Senate and the White House all seem determined to emphasize that they’re standing by Kavanaugh. One lawyer close to the administration even suggested there was a tone of defiance in their way of thinking. “No way, not even a hint of it,” the lawyer told Politico. “If anything, it’s the opposite. If somebody can be brought down by accusations like this, then you, me, every man certainly should be worried. We can all be accused of something.”
While the Republican leadership wants to insist the vote will go on as scheduled, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley was seeking more information and was “actively working to set up such follow-up calls with Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford” ahead of the vote, according to a statement.