One of the key swing votes in the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court said Sunday the judge’s emotional denial of sexual misconduct convincingly sounded like someone who had been “unjustly accused.”
In an interview with 60 Minutes set to air Sunday night, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said when Kavanaugh delivered his opening statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Flake “heard someone who I hoped I would sound like if I had been unjustly accused.”
Kavanaugh has come under scrutiny for his impassioned and, at times, teary opening statement in which he spoke about his love of beer, referenced his 1982 calendar to assert his innocence and blasted Democrats for their “coordinated and well-funded efforts to destroy my good name and destroy my family.” The hearing focused on allegations that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted professor Christine Blasey Ford at a high school party, which has been bolstered by subsequent accusations by Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick.
“It was anger,” Flake said. “But if I were unjustly accused, that’s how I would feel as well. As it went on, I think his interaction with some of the members was a little too sharp, but the statement, the beginning, I thought was pretty raw, but in keeping with someone who had been unjustly accused.”
Flake later said he did not agree with Kavanaugh’s attacks on Democrats in the opening statement and the insinuation the sexual assault allegations were “revenge on behalf of the Clintons,” noting that those attacks “seemed partisan.”
“But boy, I had to put myself in that spot, you know. I think you give a little leeway there,” Flake added.
Flake has emerged as a key swing vote in the fight for Kavanaugh’s Senate confirmation. While Flake initially said Friday he would vote in favor of Kavanaugh, the senator partially reversed his position. Flake ultimately said he would vote for Kavanaugh in the Senate Judiciary Committee but could not support his full Senate vote without an FBI investigation into the assault allegations, which is now underway.
Fellow Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) diverged from Flake’s views during the 60 Minutes interview, saying while “a part of [him] thought, ‘This is a man who believes that he did nothing wrong, and he is completely unjustly accused,’” Kavanaugh’s “belligerent, aggressive [and] angry” behavior made Coons “wonder about his suitability” for the Supreme Court.
“There were some lines he delivered that were sharper, more partisan, more ‘this is the Clinton’s paying me back, this is a Democratic smear campaign,’” Coons, who plans to vote against Kavanaugh, said on 60 Minutes. “That I was surprised — struck, to hear from a judicial nominee.”
“I’m not at all surprised to hear from other colleagues in the committee or on television,” Coons continued. “But I was really struck that I thought his anger got the best of him. And he made a partisan argument that would’ve been best left to be made – for his advocates and defenders on the committee.”