Washington: Moments after pivotal Senator Jeff Flake announced his support for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, the Arizona Republican was confronted with the consequences.
Two women cornered Flake as he got on an elevator Friday, pleading for him to reconsider his support for the appeals court judge who's been accused of sexual assault when he was a teenager.
The raw, emotional moment was caught on television, capturing the charged atmosphere in the Capitol as a lifetime appointment to the nation's highest court hangs in the balance.
"Look at me and tell me that it doesn't matter what happened to me," said 23-year-old Maria Gallagher. Flake and his colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee had heard hours of testimony Thursday from Christine Blasey Ford, a California psychology professor who told them Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her decades ago.
Kavanaugh strongly denied the allegation. Flake had lobbied Republican leaders to give Ford the chance to speak. He was viewed as a possible "no" vote, until the Friday announcement. But the Capitol confrontation may have made an impact.
Flake, at a committee hearing Friday afternoon, asked for a week delay in the Senate's consideration of Kavanaugh so the FBI to investigate. Gallagher said in a tweet that she felt relieved that Flake seemed to have heard her.
"We absolutely need an FBI investigation for him and all Senators to vote NO," she tweeted. Flake was on his way to the morning hearing when the two women, both affiliated with advocacy groups, told him they were sexual assault survivors.
"On Monday, I stood in front of your office," Ana Maria Archila, co-executive director of the nonprofit Centre for Popular Democracy Action, told Flake. "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. What you are doing is allowing someone who actually violated a woman to sit on the Supreme Court."
Archila, 39, appeared to block Flake from closing the elevator door. Then Gallagher said: "I was sexually assaulted and nobody believed me. 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," she said through tears. She begged Flake to look her in the eye. "Don't look away from me," she said.
Flake, cornered in the elevator, shifted between looking at them and looking down. He said, "Thank you," but didn't response to questions on whether he believed Ford's testimony.
When a reporter asked whether he wanted to respond to the women's questions, he said no. "I need to go to the hearing. I just issued a statement. I'll be saying more as well," he said. The elevator doors closed....