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Evidence verifying assault allegations would disqualify Kavanaugh, Flake says

Mary Schwalm/AP Photo

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Evidence that corroborates the sexual assault allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh would disqualify him from serving on the nation’s highest court, Sen. Jeff Flake said on Monday night, adding that he hoped the Senate could “move on from bitter partisanship” after the fight over the Supreme Court nomination.

“Any nominee who lies to the committee, that is disqualifying,” the Arizona Republican told reporters. “If there’s evidence that comes back that corroborates Christine Ford’s story, then all of us will look at it that way.”

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The senator spoke at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics in Manchester, just days after calling for an FBI investigation into the allegations against Kavanaugh.

Christine Blasey Ford, a California university professor, has accused Kavanaugh of assaulting her at a house party in the Washington suburbs more than three decades ago, when they were both in high school. Other women have since come forward to allege sexual misconduct.

Flake found himself in the spotlight last week after Ford and Kavanaugh testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. The next day, as the panel gathered to vote on whether to advance the nomination, Flake was confronted in an elevator by two protesters who urged him to vote no. The episode aired live on CNN and quickly went viral.

Flake looked visibly distraught in the video and at the hearing. He then broke from his party when he said he would not be comfortable voting to approve Kavanaugh without an FBI investigation into the allegations against the nominee. The bureau is moving ahead with a weeklong inquiry that could delay the Senate vote on the confirmation even further.

“I’m glad we’re doing the investigation,” Flake said. “I have an open mind on this.”

He added that Kavanaugh deserved “some leeway” for his aggressive posture during the hearing. “When you feel you’ve been unjustly accused, you’re going to be angry and he was,” Flake said.

Before the senator headed to New Hampshire, a throng of protesters appeared at his talk at the Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit in Boston, where he urged the FBI to investigate all credible sexual assault allegations. Among the hundreds who rallied to demand that he vote no on Kavanaugh were Boston’s mayor, Marty Walsh; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a democratic socialist candidate for Congress in New York; and the Olympic skater Adam Rippon.

Flake is among a handful of senators who are seen as swing votes on the Judiciary Committee. Republicans likely need him to confirm Kavanaugh, since the margin in the full Senate will be razor thin even with his approval.

Flake isn’t seek reelection to his Senate seat this year, and cited this as a reason he felt comfortable requesting the FBI investigation.

Brett Kavanaugh

In his speech on Monday night in New Hampshire, Flake also rejected “tribalism,” which he says is destroying American institutions.

“Tribalism is ruining us. It is tearing our country apart,” he said. “It is no way for sane adults to act. The only tribe to which any of us owes allegiance is the American tribe.”

Although the speech on unification took place in the nation’s first primary-voting state, Flake swatted away questions about a 2020 presidential run.

“Not really thinking about it,” he told reporters. “There’s too much going on in Washington now. I still have three months left in office.”

But this isn’t Flake’s first time in New Hampshire, and the retiring senator is sometimes floated as a primary challenger to Trump. At a visit to Saint Anselm College in March, Flake said he wasn’t ruling out a 2020 run for the White House. He gave a fiery rebuke of Trump’s leadership during that visit, and told reporters he hoped that a Republican would challenge the president in the upcoming primary.

Flake has a strained relationship with Trump. Earlier this year, he ripped what he called the president’s “bottomless appetite for destruction and division.” Trump fired back, using the senator’s name against him: “Let’s face it, he’s a Flake!”

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