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‘Look at me when I’m talk­ing to you!’: Crying protesters confront Jeff Flake in Capitol elevator

Protesters blocked Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) inside an elevator on his way to a committee vote for Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh on Sept. 28. (Video: Reuters)
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After Sen. Jeff Flake’s announcement that he would, in fact, vote to confirm Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, the emotional debate over the confirmation spilled into the halls of Congress — on live television — as two women loudly and tearfully confronted the Arizona Republican in an el­e­va­tor Friday, telling him that he was dis­miss­ing the pain of sexual-assault survivors.

“What you are doing is allowing someone who ac­tu­al­ly violated a woman to sit in the Supreme Court,” one woman, who said she had been sexually assaulted, shouted during a live CNN broadcast as Flake was making his way to a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting. The Center for Popular Democracy, a left-leaning advocacy organization, later identified her as the group’s co-executive director, Ana Maria Archila.

“This is horrible,” she told Flake. “You have children in your family. Think about them.”

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Another woman then chimed in, telling the senator that she had also been sex­u­al­ly assaulted and that no one believed her story.

“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’re going to ignore them,” she said as the TV cameras rolled.

“You’re just going to help that man to power anyway,” she added, weeping. “That’s what you’re telling all of these women. That’s what you’re telling me right now.

“Look at me when I’m talking to you! You’re telling me that my assault doesn’t matter, that what happened to me doesn’t matter and that you’re going to let people who do these things into power! That’s what you’re telling me when you vote for him! Don’t look away from me! Look at me and tell me that it doesn’t matter what happened to me — that you’ll let people like that go into the highest court in the land!”

Flake listened quietly, then told the women: “Thank you.”

“Saying ‘thank you’ is not an answer,” Archila responded. “This is about the future of our country, sir.”

A tweet from immigrant rights group Make the Road Action identified the second woman who confronted Flake as Maria Gallagher and showed a photo of her standing with Archila. A woman claiming to be Gallagher later published a tweet with the same image.

When asked whether he had a comment, the senator told reporters: “No, I need to go to the hearing. I just issued a statement. I’ll be saying more, as well.”

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In his statement, issued at 9:25 a.m. Washington time, roughly six minutes before the confrontation, Flake said that Thursday’s emotional Senate Ju­di­ci­ar­y hearing had not persuaded him that Kavanaugh sex­u­al­ly assaulted Christine Blasey Ford in the 1980s.

“I wish that I could express the confidence that some of my colleagues have conveyed about what either did or did not happen in the early 1980s, but I left the hearing yesterday with as much doubt as certainty,” he said in the statement. “What I do know is that our system of justice affords a presumption of innocence to the accused, absent corroborating evidence. That is what binds us to the rule of law. While some may argue that a different standard should apply regarding the Senate’s advice and consent responsibilities, I believe that the constitution’s previsions of fairness and due process apply here as well.”

“I will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh," Flake concluded. But that wasn’t all.

When the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to send Kavanaugh’s confirmation out of committee and to the full Senate, Flake announced that his support for Kavanaugh hinged on an FBI investigation and said that he would not vote to confirm Kavanaugh without it.

On Friday afternoon, the women’s advocacy group Ultraviolet announced that Capitol Police told an organizer that Flake would “potentially press charges” against Archila and Gallagher, but a spokeswoman for Capitol Police told The Washington Post that Flake had indicated to them that he would not press charges.

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The confrontation was hardly the first time in which tensions over this Supreme Court nomination have boiled over on Capitol Hill.

The night before — following the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, the woman accusing Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when the two were teenagers — Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) was similarly confronted by protesters in front of the cameras. Earlier, he had excoriated Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats, saying, “Boy, you all want power. God, I hope you never get it. I hope the American people can see through this sham . . . You had no intention of protecting Dr. Ford; none."

As Graham was walking and talking to Fox News about the hearing — calling the way Kavanaugh was treated “despicable” and saying that he also felt bad for Ford — protesters followed him and heckled him. Graham ignored them, pausing only briefly to tell a reporter, “These people can yell all they want to. Doesn’t matter.” He then resumed the interview, attempting to speak over their shouts.

“It’s all about power,” he said. “It’s all about delaying the hearing to keep the seat open. It’s not about the truth.”

As The Post’s Reis Thebault reported, Graham and Republican senators Mike Lee and Orrin G. Hatch were “doxed” Thursday when their personal information — including their phone numbers and home addresses, were leaked to the public. Graham said Friday on “Fox & Friends” that people were banging on his front door Thursday night and that he had to get a new phone number.

On Monday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and his wife were shouted out of a restaurant about a mile from the Senate building over Cruz’s unwavering support of Kavanaugh.