A Sexual Assault Survivor Stopped Jeff Flake's Elevator. Did She Change His Mind?

In an 11th hour move, Sen. Flake may have brokered a deal for an FBI investigation.

Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, on the brink of retirement, has brokered a last-minute deal to force the White House into calling for an FBI investigation into sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. 

Flake, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked to speak before the panel advanced the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to a floor vote. In brief comments, Flake suggested that he would vote to move Kavanaugh out of committee under the condition that the Senate floor vote to confirm Kavanaugh was delayed up to and no longer than a week, to give time the FBI to investigate. 

"This country is being ripped apart here," Flake said. "We've got to ensure we do our due diligence."

At first, congressional reporters were skeptical that Flake's words would have much of an impact. Immediately after he called for the investigation, he voted to advance Kavanaugh's nomination with no ironclad assurances that an investigation would happen. But then, in the hours that followed, news began to break that other key swing votes — including Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican, and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat — would also refuse to vote on the Senate floor until an FBI investigation took place. By late afternoon Friday, Sen. John Cornyn, a high-ranking Republican, said leaders of the party had agreed to delay the Kavanaugh confirmation to allow for a "one-week supplemental FBI probe," according to Bloomberg News reporter Laura Litvan

The vote was originally scheduled for Saturday, but Republicans in the Senate only has a slim 51-49 majority. Without Murkowski or Flake on board, and with every Democrat but Manchin committed to voting against Kavanaugh, it'd be nearly impossible to secure his seat.

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Notably, Flake had announced in a statement to the press his support for Kavanaugh early Thursday morning. Then, on his way to the judiciary committee vote, he was stopped in an elevator by two women. The women, later identified by  The Daily Beast, pleaded with Flake to change his vote and to retract his support of Kavanaugh. 

"I was sexually assaulted and nobody believed me," Maria Gallagher, who is 23 years old, said to Flake. "I didn't tell anyone, and you're telling all women that they don't matter."

Flake stood quietly in the elevator with a grim look on his face, hearing the women out and then apologizing before insisting that he had to go. Afterward, he was seen huddling with several Senate Republicans and Democrats before he offered his deal to the judiciary committee. Speculation that the women changed his decision to support Kavanaugh with no further investigation has been shared widely across social media.

Now, it appears an FBI investigation into the actions of Kavanaugh is imminent. Kavanaugh was accused of sexually assaulting Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday that, when the two were in high school, he held her down on a bed, attempted to remove her clothes and covered her mouth so she couldn't scream before she escaped. Later in the day, Kavanaugh vociferously denied the allegations in an emotional testimony of his own.

Shortly after news broke about Flake, Murkowski and Manchin's plan to delay the vote, Mark Judge — a central witness who was allegedly in the room during the alleged assault — said through his lawyer that he would cooperate with an FBI investigation.

"If the FBI or any law enforcement agency requests Mr. Judge's cooperation, he will answer any and all questions posed to him," Judge's lawyer Barbara Van Gelder told CNBC in an email.

Throughout the proceedings to get Kavanaugh confirmed, Senate Democrats have been calling for an FBI investigation into the allegations against him. On Friday, several Republican governors across the country spoke out in support of investigating Ford's claims. During her testimony, Ford said she would be in favor of an investigation into her allegations. The American Bar Association, which has supported Kavanaugh, also said it would support an investigation. The Dean of Yale Law School, which Kavanaugh attended, also spoke out in support of investigating the claims. 

On Friday, they all got their wish. 

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