Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court seemed like a foregone conclusion on Friday morning.
Only 24 hours earlier, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee heard compelling testimony from Christine Blasey Ford, the California university professor who accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers in the 1980s.
Kavanaugh had delivered a tearful rebuttal himself that included an extended attack on Democrats he accused of trying to ruin his life.
The fallout was immense, but despite this, Kavanaugh’s confirmation appeared all but certain.
That changed after Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona released a statement announcing that he would vote in favor of moving Kavanaugh’s nomination out of committee and onto the Senate floor.
Shortly after, he was cornered in a Senate elevator by two women who shared their own stories as victims of sexual abuse.
They said his vote for Kavanaugh would send a message to women and girls that “assault doesn’t matter.”
The entire emotional exchange was captured on live television.
Later, as Flake returned to the committee room, the mood shifted and nearly two hours of hushed bipartisan discussion began, led by Flake and his close Democratic counterpart, Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, among others.
Flake offered his vote to move Kavanaugh’s nomination out of committee if the leadership agreed to push for an additional FBI investigation of the nominee’s background as it relates to Ford’s sexual assault allegations and separate claims of misconduct from two other women.
“I’ve had a number of conversations with people on the other side related to doing our due diligence,” Flake said. “I think it would be proper to delay the floor vote for up to, but no more than, one week in order to let the FBI continue to do an investigation limited in time and scope.”
The Judiciary Committee leadership agreed, and later so did Senate leaders, giving federal investigators one week to reexamine Kavanaugh’s background.
By Friday afternoon, President Donald Trump gave the order.