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Meet One of the Sexual Assault Survivors Who Confronted Jeff Flake & Triggered FBI Kavanaugh Probe

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Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona was on his way to cast his vote, shortly after announcing his intentions to confirm Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, when he was confronted in an elevator by two women who are sexual assault survivors. The women held open the elevator door, telling Flake, through their tears, that he was dismissing their pain. Soon after, Flake surprised his colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee by advancing Kavanaugh’s nomination but asking for an FBI investigation before the full Senate vote. President Trump has now ordered an FBI investigation into Kavanaugh. We speak with Ana María Archila, one of the women credited with helping to delay Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: After a dramatic Friday began with the Republican-led Judiciary Committee planning to approve Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and ended with a pause for a week-long FBI investigation into Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s claims that Kavanaugh tried to rape her in high school, Democrats are now focused on how the probe is being handled.

President Trump ordered the FBI investigation Friday after Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona surprised his colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee by agreeing to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination only if an investigation took place. The committee voted 11 to 10 in favor of Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation for a full Senate vote after the FBI investigation concludes. Top Democrat on the committee, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, is now asking that the White House and the FBI provide Trump’s written directive ordering the investigation into Kavanaugh.

The New York Times reports the FBI’s limited supplemental background check could be finished as early as Monday morning. It says the FBI was directed by the White House and Senate Republicans to interview just four people: Kavanaugh’s high school friends Mark Judge and P.J. Smyth, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s high school friend Leland Keyser, and another Kavanaugh accuser, Deborah Ramirez. Three women have come forward to accuse Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct. He has denied all of the sexual assault allegations against him. As of Sunday, the lawyer for Dr. Blasey Ford, Debra Katz, told reporters she had not been contacted by the FBI, despite repeated efforts to speak with them. The lawyer for Julie Swetnick, the third woman who has accused Kavanaugh of excessive drinking and inappropriate treatment of women in the early ’80s, said Saturday she has not been contacted by the FBI either. The New Yorker magazine reports the FBI has failed to follow up with several individuals who want to speak to the FBI.

In a tweet Sunday afternoon, Trump pushed back on criticism of the FBI investigation, writing, quote, “Wow! Just starting to hear the Democrats, who are only thinking Obstruct and Delay, are starting to put out the word that the 'time' and 'scope' of FBI looking into Judge Kavanaugh and witnesses is not enough. Hello! For them, it will never be enough–stay tuned and watch!” Trump spoke to reporters over the weekend.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Having the FBI go out, do a thorough investigation, whether it’s three days or seven days—I think it’s going to be less than a week—but having them do a thorough investigation, I actually think, will be a blessing in disguise. It’ll be a good thing. I’ll see you in—

REPORTER: Do you have a back-up plan for Mr. Kavanaugh? Do you have a back-up plan, sir?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I don’t have any back—I don’t need a back-up plan.

AMY GOODMAN: On Saturday, Senator Bernie Sanders called for the FBI to investigate whether Kavanaugh committed perjury while testifying under oath at various times in the past, including Thursday. Sanders said, in a letter to committee chair Chuck Grassley, quote, “A fundamental question the FBI can help answer is whether Judge Kavanaugh has been truthful with the committee. This goes to the very heart of whether he should be confirmed to the court,” unquote.

Well, we begin today’s show with one of the two women credited with delaying Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona was on his way to cast his vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee, shortly after announcing his intentions to confirm, to vote yes for Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, when he was confronted by two women, who are sexual assault survivors, in an elevator. The women held the door open, telling Flake, through their tears, he was dismissing their pain. This is one of them, Ana María Archila.

ANA MARÍA ARCHILA: Senator Flake, do you think that Brett Kavanaugh is telling the truth? Do you think that he’s able to hold the pain of this country and repair it? That is the work of justice. The way that justice works is you recognize harm. You take responsibility for it, and then you begin to repair it. You’re allowing someone who is unwilling to take responsibility for his own actions and willing to hold the harm that he has done to one woman—actually, three women—and end and repair it. You are allowing someone who is unwilling to take responsibility for his own actions to sit in the highest court of the country and to have the role of repairing the harm that has been done in this country to many people.

SEN. JEFF FLAKE: Thank you.

ANA MARÍA ARCHILA: No. No “thank you.” What do you think?

HANDLER: Ma’am, do you want—

REPORTER 1: Senator, do you care to respond?

HANDLER: Ma’am, do you want to the staffer out here, please?

ANA MARÍA ARCHILA: No, I want to talk to him. Don’t talk to me. What do you think?

SEN. JEFF FLAKE: I need to go to the hearing.

ANA MARÍA ARCHILA: I understand, but tell me. I’m standing right here in front of you. What do you have—do you think that he’s telling the truth?

SEN. JEFF FLAKE: Thank you. I’m going to the hearing.

ANA MARÍA ARCHILA: No. Do you think that he’s telling the truth to the country?

SEN. JEFF FLAKE: Thank you.

STAFFER: Thank you.

MARIA GALLAGHER: You have power when so many women are powerless.

SEN. JEFF FLAKE: Thank you.

STAFFER: Thank you.

REPORTER 2: Can you not give them an answer, Senator?

SEN. JEFF FLAKE: Thank you.

STAFFER: We have our—we have our press available to talk to you guys, if you want.

REPORTER 2: You just released a press statement. You don’t have the courage to give them an answer?

SEN. JEFF FLAKE: Thank you.

STAFFER: OK, thank you. Thank you.

REPORTER 1: Care to respond?

STAFFER: We have to go. You can either come in or out. Thank you.

ANA MARÍA ARCHILA: Saying “thank you” is not an answer. This is about the future of our country, sir!

AMY GOODMAN: That was Ana María Archila. This is Maria Gallagher, who also confronted Senator Flake, next to her, as he was in the elevator right before his vote on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

MARIA GALLAGHER: I was sexually assaulted, and nobody believed me! I didn’t tell anyone. And 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. That’s what happened to me, and that’s what you’re telling all women in America, that they don’t matter, they should just keep it to themselves because if they have told the truth, they’re just going help that man to power anyway. 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 of the land and tell everyone what they can do to their bodies.

REPORTER 2: Do you have an answer, Senator?

AMY GOODMAN: That was Maria Gallagher, along with Ana María Archila, the two women who confronted Senator Flake on Friday. Shortly afterwards, in a stunning reversal, Senator Flake announced to his colleagues on the committee that he was calling to delay the vote on the Senate floor, though he did vote for confirmation of Kavanaugh in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The vote was 11 to 10, down party lines.

SEN. JEFF FLAKE: I have been speaking with a number of people on the other side. We’ve had conversations ongoing for a while with regard to making sure that we do due diligence here. And 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 continue—to do an investigation, limited in time and scope, to the current allegations that are there, and limit in time to no more than one week. And I will vote to advance the bill to the floor with that understanding.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more, we’re joined here in our New York studio by Ana María Archila, one of the two women who confronted Senator Flake. She is co-executive director for the Center for Popular Democracy. She confronted Flake with fellow sexual assault survivor and activist Maria Gallagher, and she wrote about her experience in a USA Today column headlined “I confronted Jeff Flake over Brett Kavanaugh. Survivors like me won’t stand for injustice.”

Welcome to Democracy Now!

ANA MARÍA ARCHILA: Thank you so much.

AMY GOODMAN: So, tell us about Friday morning.

ANA MARÍA ARCHILA: Friday morning, I was getting ready to head back home, after being in Washington, D.C., for many days with hundreds of people that had traveled to D.C. to protest the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh—people who have healthcare stories and who stand to lose their healthcare, survivors of sexual assault, workers, women, people from across the country. And I showed up to the Senate atrium, the building of the Hart—the atrium of the Senate building, and—at around 8:30 and met Maria Gallagher, who was there for the first time, someone who just felt the calling to show up and support those who were protesting. And we had time, so she said, “Well, someone said I should go to Senator Flake’s office,” and we did.

I had been in front of Senator Flake’s office on Monday, and it was the first time that I had decided to tell my story of survival. And it seemed important to me to go back and try to talk to him. I did not think that we were going to find him. I did not think that we were really going to be able to have this interaction with him. But I’m an organizer, and I know that we have to fight the fight up until the very last minute, that that’s how we exercise power together.

AMY GOODMAN: And he had just issued his statement.

ANA MARÍA ARCHILA: Our reaction, the reaction that people are seeing in the elevator, is the reaction of Maria and I just finding out that he issued a statement and he was ready to vote for Brett Kavanaugh, even after hearing the very powerful and gut-wrenching testimony of Dr. Blasey Ford, who stood in front of him and all the Republican men and the Democratic senators to share her story because she felt compelled as a citizen to—she felt compelled to share her story to protect her country. I felt compelled to share my story to join her in solidarity and also to protect my children. I am deadly afraid that Brett Kavanaugh will roll back decades of progress in our country on women’s rights, on civil rights, on LGBTQ equality. And I do not want my children to have fewer rights than I have right now.

AMY GOODMAN: So, explain what happened when he went into the elevator or when you spotted him.

ANA MARÍA ARCHILA: There were some reporters standing around the door of his office. They spotted him first, and they ran behind him. Maria and I ran behind them and asked—

AMY GOODMAN: You didn’t know Maria before.

ANA MARÍA ARCHILA: I did not know Maria. We had just met. I didn’t know her story. I knew—she was telling me that it was her first time trying to talk to an elected official, so I was giving her tips, like “You can share your story. Tell them why you’re there.”

And we just ran into the elevator and just put our foot in the door as it was closing, and then just stayed there. And the adrenaline of running behind him, the fact that we knew that we just had a few minutes, we used those minutes in the best way we could. We, I think, without really explicitly talking about it, we were really demanding a connection. We were really asking him to be there in that moment and feel the pain and the rage that women across the country and survivors across the country are feeling right now.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, you told him you were sexually assaulted.

ANA MARÍA ARCHILA: I said to him, “Senator Flake, just a few days ago, I stood in front of your office and for the first time shared my story of sexual assault. I did it because I recognize myself, my own experience, in Dr. Ford’s testimony. And I want to know, you know, what are you—what message are you sending to your children and my children? Do you think it’s—are you comfortable with the idea of putting someone who’s been accused of sexual assault in the Supreme Court for the next 50 years, and for both of our children to grow up in that country?”

AMY GOODMAN: So you were also just publicly talking about your sexual assault, and you have national cameras on you. Had you told your family yet?

ANA MARÍA ARCHILA: I had not told my father. So, immediately after that interaction, I texted him, and I said, “You’re going to hear something that we haven’t talked about. I want you to know that I am OK.” And the reason why I didn’t tell him for more than 30 years is because I didn’t want him to feel pain. I didn’t want him to feel like he didn’t protect me. It’s the same reason it took me many years, more than 10 years, before I told my mother. And that fear that I had as a child was confirmed. The thing that my father texted back was, “I am so sorry I was not able to protect you.” So, I know that we don’t tell our stories because we are often confused, ashamed, feel responsible and are afraid to cause pain to the people that love us.

AMY GOODMAN: Which is one of the answers to why Christine Ford hasn’t told her story for all of these decades.

ANA MARÍA ARCHILA: That’s exactly right. I want to say, you know, lots of people are talking about—are asking me, “Do you think that you changed Flake’s—Senator Flake’s mind?” And I think if it had just been Maria and I in that elevator and if he had just heard that for the first time, the story of someone for the first time, I do not think that he would have changed his vote. I think it was the accumulative effect of thousands and thousands of people pouring—like, going through this incredibly painful experience to try to change the culture, to bring into existence a new country, a country where we are not constantly ignoring, disbelieving, doubting the truthfulness and the value of women, of our stories, of our voices, a country where we’re not relegated to experiencing not just sexual violence, but political violence, by being, and economic violence. So, I think all of us are doing this incredible kind of labor of love of telling our stories and, through that pain, bringing a new country into existence. And that’s really what’s happening right now.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Senator Flake left you at that point—


AMY GOODMAN: —and voted in the Senate Judiciary Committee to confirm Judge Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court justice. So it was 11-10, party-line vote. Where were you when you heard this and then when you heard that he said he would not vote yes again, where it counts, on the Senate floor, unless there was an FBI investigation?

ANA MARÍA ARCHILA: I was in the same atrium of the Senate building where I had met Maria, when I heard both of those events. I was not close to a TV screen. I wasn’t watching the events as they were unfolding. I was hearing reports from people that were watching it. And at both points, I was, you know, surprised and shocked and reminded that, really, like, people, it’s—that if we sit back and allow events to unfold by themselves, we give up all of our power.

This nomination, the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, was a given at the beginning of the summer. And everybody assumed this was going to happen without any snag. And I think people who know that they were going to lose their healthcare, women who knew that our rights were at stake said, “Well, we still have to fight.” And it was that spirit of like, “Well, we still have to do whatever we can to try to stop it,” that brought Maria and I to that building.

AMY GOODMAN: No matter what happens, you have changed history.

ANA MARÍA ARCHILA: I hope that we really change history, all of us, everyone that’s watching today, by showing up this week. I think we have an opportunity to change history. I want to make sure that we don’t sit back and allow the FBI to resolve—to be the deciding factor in who gets nominated to the Supreme Court. The court works for us. We all, in the same way that we’re asking senators to take this decision very—to take this responsibility very seriously, I want to ask people in this country to take this moment very seriously. Call your senators. If you’re near Washington, D.C., come to Washington, D.C. Show up at the Hart Senate Building every day this week at 9:00. Come to a rally that’s going to happen at noon on Thursday in D.C.

AMY GOODMAN: You are a true organizer. I think the media denigrates activists.


AMY GOODMAN: They will often say someone came for the first time of her own volition, she had never protested before. And I think implicit in that are that there are what they call professional activists. You are the co-executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy.

ANA MARÍA ARCHILA: That’s right.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about what that means, “popular democracy.”

ANA MARÍA ARCHILA: I think popular democracy is both what we aspire this country to be—we, the people at the Center for Popular Democracy, the people who are showing up for the first time, the people who have been showing up for years, are—all of us share this idea that democracy is not a spectator sport, that it is—that we breathe life into it every time that we engage, and that it belongs to us. It’s the way—it’s both our protective shield, in some ways, against corporate power, but it is also the way in which we express our love for each other and our willingness to take care of each other. So, that’s—both of those ideas are, you know, why popular democracy is the thing that my organization is trying to inspire people to participate in.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you so much for being with us. What would you like to see the FBI ask? What questions do you feel need to be answered? And the issue of the number of people who have said they want to talk to the FBI who have not been contacted yet? President Trump says they have one week, and the investigation is very limited.

ANA MARÍA ARCHILA: I want to make sure that the women who were so courageous and came out in public to share their experience of Brett Kavanaugh get a full hearing, that the FBI really does everything in its power to understand their stories. I want to make sure that the investigation also reaches into all the people that were around Brett Kavanaugh at that time. I think the country deserves, and we desperately need people to have, trust in the court. But again, I don’t want us to just give up our power and wait for the FBI to resolve this question. I want all of us to—you know, I want all of us to become a legion of elevator women across the country. Let’s make sure that they look at us. Let’s show up and say, “Look at me. Look at me.” That is what social movements are made of: “Look at me.”

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Ana María Archila, you have clearly redefined elevator music. Ana María Archila is co-executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy. She, along with Maria Gallagher, confronted Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona in an elevator just before he was to vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee, right after he announced he was going to support Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Shortly after the confrontation, Senator Flake did vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh, but he said he would not vote yes again unless there was an FBI investigation.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, Lisa Graves joins us to talk about what that investigation should look like and what are the parameters that are being placed on that. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: Willie Nelson, premiering his new song “Vote ’Em Out” at a rally in Austin, Texas, on Saturday for Democratic Senate hopeful Beto O’Rourke, who is challenging incumbent Republican Senator Ted Cruz.

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