Women who confronted Jeff Flake on elevator before Senate Judiciary meeting speak out
WASHINGTON (ABC7) —
It was the confrontation heard around the country.
Two sexual assault survivors who cornered Sen. Jeff Flake in an elevator as he made his way back to the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing room on Friday.
The intense exchange took place just moments after Flake's office announced he would vote to confirm Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
"What you are doing is allowing someone who actually violated a woman to sit in the Supreme Court!" Ana Maria Archila shouted at Flake.
Moments later, another protester by the name of Maria Gallagher joined Archila in her questioning of the Republican lawmaker who is considered a critical swing vote.
Gallagher also spoke about her own experience as a victim of sexual assault.
"Look at me when I'm talking to you! You are telling me that my assault doesn't matter. That what happened to me doesn't matter," Gallagher said. "And that you're going to let people who do these things into power."
The two women say they were complete strangers prior to this morning, but their message was powerful.
"I needed to get to the people who have power to change something, and tell them they have this power and shouldn't take it so lightly," Gallagher said.
The women first spoke to media shortly after they confronted Flake. Archila said she chose to wait near Flake's office because she knew he was a swing-vote senator who does not always side with his party.
"I thought he was someone that was willing to take a stand, someone that was on the side of justice," said Archila, who is an activist based out of New York.
Within hours of their exchange in the elevator, Senator Flake appeared to have a change of heart. Many on social media credited Archila and Gallagher for helping to change his mind.
Flake told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he would not vote for Kavanaugh on the Senate floor until the FBI is able to investigate the allegation of sexual assault made by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.
"This country is being ripped apart here. We've got to make sure that we do due diligence. I think this committee has done a good job, but I do think that we can have a short pause and make sure that the FBI can investigate," Flake said. "I think it would be proper to delay the floor vote for up to but not more than one week in order to let the FBI do an investigation."
Not long after that, several other key undecided lawmakers said they support Flake's decision to delay a Kavanaugh vote on the floor, pending an FBI investigation.
Then just before 5 p.m., President Donald Trump said he had ordered the FBI to conduct a supplemental investigation "to update Judge Kavanaugh's file." In a statement provided by White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, Trump said the investigation must be limited in scope and completed in less than one week.
Upon learning of the update, Gallagher tweeted a photo of her and Archila, hugging each other and smiling. In the tweet, Gallagher said she feels relieved Senator Flake seems to have heard what they had to say in the elevator.
"We absolutely need an FBI investigation and for him and all Senators to vote NO," she wrote on Twitter.
Archila wrote about the experience on the website for the non-profit where she works in New York.
"Our words, and the words of thousands of women who have shared their stories, moved him," she said of Flake's change of heart. "The fight is not over yet."
Flake was asked whether the confrontation in the elevator played a part in his decision to ask that a floor vote be delayed until the FBI can conduct an investigation.
"I think everything that I've seen and viewed and experienced in the last couple of weeks has had an impact, so it's been everything," Flake said.