The Republican senator Jeff Flake declared that he wanted the FBI to make sure any “current, credible allegation” against the supreme court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was “fully investigated”, when he spoke at an event in Boston on Monday.
His comments came just hours after more than 1,500 protesters, including progressive congressional candidates Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ayanna Pressley of Boston and Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon called for Flake to vote “No” on Kavanaugh’s confirmation if he reaches a full Senate vote.
Flake told a crowd of young entrepreneurs attending a Forbes “Under 30” business summit that his staff is in contact with White House counsel to make sure the investigation into accusations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh is “up to standard”.
Despite White House assurances of an unrestricted investigation, there have been complaints about limited time and scope for the FBI to investigate allegations by California professor Dr Christine Blasey Ford that Kavanaugh attempted to rape her in high school, and allegations by two other women of sexual misconduct.
“We ought to have more information, not less,” he said. He called Ford’s testimony before the Senate judiciary committee last Thursday “compelling and credible”.
He then called the furious rebuttal from Kavanaugh that followed “an impassioned, raw defense”. That drew boos from the audience on Monday, some holding signs condemning the nominee.
Flake was pivotal in voting last Friday for the nomination to go forward to the next stage. But, after being confronted in an elevator by two female protesters on Capitol Hill and consulting with Democratic opponents on the committee, the senator said it was only on the condition that the FBI investigate the allegations for a week. The White House agreed.
Flake said on Monday that his decision to announce the caveat of an FBI investigation stemmed from the fact that there “were lots of doubts, still” following the hearing.
In addition to the elevator incident, he added that Ford’s testimony had emboldened “a lot of women to come forward”, and that he has received many calls and emails from women that he “never thought he would hear from”.
Many women on Monday gave their own testimony on the city hall steps in Boston prior to the Forbes event, some holding signs that read “I Believe Her” and “Kava Nope”.
Assault survivor Delia Harrington said she was a teenager at a party when her attack happened, “when someone decided they were more entitled to my body than I was”. Harrington said she spent the next decade trying to figure out how to cope with the trauma. She told the crowd: “Dr Ford is not a scared teenager anymore, and neither am I.”
Boston city councilor and congressional candidate Ayanna Pressley also spoke to the crowd, as the survivor of rape during her studies at Boston University, saying: “I am angry. I am outraged because this is outrageous.” Cheers were so loud they drowned her out. She said of last week’s hearings: “There were men in positions of power, of privilege and prestige who described those proceedings as a disgrace to our nation, when the real disgrace is a tolerance of rape culture.”
During Kavanaugh’s response to Ford’s allegations, Republican senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina had said: “I hope the American people will see through this charade.” Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has predicted a full senate vote this week.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said at the event: “Sexual assault is about the abuse of power … that is why a man believes that an elite education, a high-income and his rich friends can get away with sexual assault.”
Emerson College students Annie Noel and Erin Swauger had organized the rally on Monday morning in response to Flake’s panel event being moved from an Emerson-owned venue on Friday. College president Lee Pelton canceled that event “for safety reasons” and it was moved to the city hall plaza.
Noel, 19, said she had experienced a sexual assault at the hands of “people that I knew and that I trusted”. She recounted the unpleasant experience of then dealing with the Boston police department, “which made me repeat my story to seven different officers, all men”.
She encouraged everyone to pull out their phones and message friends in Maine, Alaska, North Dakota, West Virginia and Arizona, all states with senators on the fence about voting for Kavanaugh.
Former secretary of state and Massachusetts senator John Kerry said in an earlier panel: “There’s no reason in the world to be bum-rushing this nomination.”