Flake joins other senators, wins delay on Kavanaugh after allegation

Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center, joined other groups outside the Supreme Court to protest what they called a rush to approve the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to a seat on the high court. (Photo by Brendan Campbell/Cronkite News)

Center for American Progress President and CEO Neera Tanden praised Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake for bucking party leaders and urging a delay on the vote for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in light of an allegation of sexual assault against the judge. (Photo by Brendan Campbell/Cronkite News)

WASHINGTON – Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake and a handful of other Republican senators broke with leadership Monday and won a delay of a scheduled vote on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, after allegations of a decades-old sexual assault surfaced.

Flake was quoted in published reports Sunday saying he is “not comfortable voting yes” on the nomination until the accuser has a chance to tell her story – that Kavanaugh forced himself on her at a party in the early 1980s, when both were in high school in suburban Washington.

Fellow Republican Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Susan Collins of Maine also called for the Senate Judiciary Committee, which had been scheduled to vote on Kavanaugh Thursday, to hear testimony from Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who made the allegation.

By Monday afternoon, they got their wish, when the committee announced another day of hearings on Kavanaugh’s nomination. It has been set for Monday, Sept. 24.

In a statement released Monday by the White House, Kavanaugh called Ford’s charge “a completely false allegation.”

“I have never done anything like what the accuser describes – to her or to anyone,” his statement said. “Because this never happened, I had no idea who was making this accusation until she identified herself yesterday.”

Ford, who is now an experimental psychologist and professor at Palo Alto University, originally made her charge confidentially in a letter to California lawmakers, but came forward this weekend after her allegation was leaked.

-Cronkite News video by Lillian Donahue

“Anyone who comes forward, as Dr. Ford has done, deserves to be heard,” said Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley in a statement announcing the new hearing date. “My staff has reached out to Dr. Ford to hear her account and they held a follow-up call with Judge Kavanaugh this afternoon.”

But the Iowa Republican complained that Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, the ranking Democrat on the committee, was only now bringing forward Ford’s charge, which she received in July.

“Ultimately, committee Democrats have refused to join us in this effort,” he said of the new hearing. “However, to provide ample transparency, we will hold a public hearing Monday to give these recent allegations a full airing.”

That was echoed by President Donald Trump, who said Monday that he wished “the Democrats could have done this a lot sooner … but with all of that being said we want to go through the process.” He defended Kavanaugh as someone who “never even had a little blemish on his record.”

Judiciary Committee Democrats, meanwhile, called on the White House to instruct the FBI to investigate Ford’s “credible allegations of serious misconduct,” which Feinstein sent to the agency on Sept. 12.

In a statement Monday, White House spokesman Raj Shah said Kavanaugh “looks forward to a hearing where he can clear his name of this false allegation. He stands ready to testify tomorrow if the Senate is ready to hear him.”

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But outside the Supreme Court Monday afternoon, advocates and liberal groups rallied to demand a delay on the nomination vote or a withdrawal of his nomination – a notion Trump called “ridiculous.”

The protest, originally planned as a Constitution Day event organized by the Center for American Progress, included groups advocating for everything from reproductive rights to transgender equality, who attacked the Kavanaugh nomination.

Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center, began her remarks by reminding the dozens gathered in the pouring rain of Anita Hill’s testimony against then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas in 1991, calling Hill’s treatment a continued “stain on this country and this court.”

“This moment deserves more,” Goss Graves said. “It calls out for something that is fair, that is comprehensive, that tells not just Dr. Ford, but tells all survivors that we see you, we hear you, we know you deserve better.”

Neera Tanden, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, praised Flake for stepping forward over the weekend.

“The people of Arizona should be very proud of Sen. Flake for standing up at a time when many wouldn’t, to get to the truth of what happened. It honors the women of Arizona and America as well,” Tanden said. “Americans deserve a public hearing in which Dr. Ford is able to testify to her experience.”

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