HOUSTON (FOX 26) - The Kavanaugh supreme court nomination hearing and the political partisanship in the Senate judiciary committee hearings are discussed bythis week's panel: Jessica Colon - Republican strategist, Nyanza Moore - progressive commentator and Houston attorney, Bob Price – Associate Editor Breitbart Texas, Tony Diaz- Chicano educator and activist, Tomaro Bell – Super Neighborhood leader, Bill King - businessman, columnist and former Kemah Mayor.
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - As the Senate is divided on President Donald Trump's Supreme Court pick, so too are women across the country.
Female voices have echoed throughout the U.S. Senate this week demanding male senators justify their support for Brett Kavanaugh's U.S. Supreme Court nomination despite an allegation of high school sexual assault.
But other women have spent hours calling Senate offices in support of Kavanaugh, condemning what they saw as an anti-Republican ploy that's damaged not only Kavanaugh's reputation and livelihood but also his accuser's.
To Hannah King, a college senior from Bristol, Tennessee, Christine Blasey Ford's allegations of a drunken attack by Kavanaugh at a 1982 party when both were in high school were jarring and scary. But while King expressed empathy for Ford, she also said she's concerned about the timing of Ford's allegations, which surfaced publicly only after Kavanaugh - already a federal judge - was nominated to the Supreme Court.
"It was too timely and strategic," said King, 21. "Anything like that makes you question how true it is."
King spoke Friday after the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance Kavanaugh's nomination to the full Senate. Hours later, Trump ordered an FBI investigation of Kavanaugh upon Republican Sen. Jeff Flake's insistence. Flake's demand came after two women who said they had experienced sexual assault confronted him on an elevator at the Senate and demanded he take action against Kavanaugh. Two other women besides Ford have also lodged public sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh.
"A lot of times, you cope by suppressing and forgetting," said King, who leads the King University College Republicans. "But someone's promotion isn't something that should prompt someone to come forward."
That sentiment was shared by Sarah Round, 69, a retired elementary school teacher of Newport Center, Vermont, who felt empathy for Ford but not at the expense of Kavanaugh's reputation and future.
"Possibly something happened to her," Round said. "But I think she embellished what happened, or she would have gone to some authority or said something about it years ago."
Nancy Mace, the first woman to graduate from The Citadel and a Republican state representative from Daniel Island, South Carolina, said she had been sexually assaulted as a teen herself. She expressed sympathy for Ford, but said Kavanaugh deserved protection, too.
"I'm very empathetic to women who've been through this type of situation," said Mace, 40. "But on the other side, we have laws in this country that protect individuals from being wrongfully accused."
Emma Scott, an 18-year-old University of South Carolina freshman from Charleston, South Carolina, said that, while she doesn't doubt Ford endured a trauma of some kind, she wasn't convinced it could be tied to Kavanaugh.
"If you're going to use sexual assault to slow somebody down, it had better be the truth," Scott said. "Even if Brett Kavanaugh is innocent, he is still going to live with this the rest of his life."
Mace said that she viewed the testimony as an "at all costs" effort by Democrats to win back control in Congress and possibly hold the seat open until a future Democratic president can fill it.
"Ford is political collateral, and they do not care," Mace said.
Susan Conger, 64, a former math teacher from Augusta, Georgia, who also worked in the Reagan administration, said she turned off her television during Thursday's hearing but has followed the news coverage of the testimony.
"Instead of watching, I decided I would be better served by praying for the people who were talking and listening," Conger said.
Conger has spent time volunteering with her local women's Republican club, calling the offices of senators asking them to support Kavanaugh's nomination.
"I'm sorry that this terrible thing happened to her at the hands of someone," Conger said. "It's not that I think that his accuser is a bad person. It's not my job to judge her because I don't know her."
Kevin Bishop, a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham - who gave a fiery defense of Kavanaugh after the judge's testimony Thursday - said Graham's office has received as many women calling in support of Kavanaugh as in opposition.
Round, of Vermont, said she feels the whole episode could end up hurting Democrats more than helping them in this fall's elections, just more than a month away.
"I am digging my heels in, and I'm hoping that a lot of conservatives are determined to vote Republican," Round said. "I think it's galvanized the women on the right more than it's galvanized the women on the left."
NEW YORK (AP) - Whether or not Republicans ultimately confirm President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, some on the front lines of the GOP's midterm battlefield fear the party may have already lost.
In the days after a divided nation watched Brett Kavanaugh and his accuser Christine Blasey Ford deliver conflicting stories about what happened when they were teenagers, Republican campaign operatives acknowledged this is not the fight they wanted six weeks before Election Day.
Should they give Kavanaugh a lifetime appointment to the nation's highest court after Ford's powerful testimony about sexual assault, Republicans risk enraging the women they need to preserve their House majority. Vote him down, they risk enraging the party's defiant political base.
In swing state New Hampshire, former Republican Party chair Jennifer Horn said Republicans are "grossly underestimating the damage that would be done" at the ballot box in the short and long term should they confirm Kavanaugh.
Horn, a lifelong Republican and frequent Trump critic, described Ford as "the most credible person I have ever seen publicly talk about this." One young friend of Horn's family was so inspired by the testimony that she revealed her own painful experience with sexual assault on social media for the first time Thursday.
"Republicans have to ask themselves if they're willing not only to sell the soul of the party, but sell their own souls to get this particular conservative on the Supreme Court," Horn said in an interview.
Another wing of the party was just as convinced that Republicans would trigger Election Day doom should they fail to confirm Trump's Supreme Court pick.
"If Republicans do not get this vote taken and Kavanaugh confirmed, you can kiss the midterms goodbye," conservative icon Rush Limbaugh boomed from his radio studio this week, a message that Trump echoed on Twitter and Republican strategists repeated privately on Friday.
In what has become the year of the woman in national politics, there are no easy answers for a party aligned with a president who has dismissed more than a dozen allegations of sexual misconduct of his own.
The GOP-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party lines Friday to send Kavanaugh's nomination to the full Senate, with the informal understanding that the FBI would investigate the allegations against Kavanaugh. A final vote would be delayed by a week.
Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona crystalized the challenge before the GOP. After announcing his support for Kavanaugh early Friday, he was confronted by tearful victims of sexual assault as he tried to board an elevator in the U.S. Capitol.
"Look at me when I'm talking to you," one woman cried as Flake stood uncomfortably in the elevator. "You're telling me that my assault doesn't matter, that what happened to me doesn't matter, that you're going to let people who do these things into power."
Flake later insisted on the FBI investigation to secure his vote allowing Kavanaugh's nomination to move out of the Judiciary Committee. He is retiring at the end of the year and the Republican congresswoman seeking to replace him, Martha McSally, said nothing for much of this week before releasing a statement Friday afternoon noting Kavanaugh and Ford were "heard."
"The Senate's role is to provide advice and consent on this nomination, and to seek the truth," McSally said. "I encourage them to use the next week to gather any additional relevant facts, and then act on this nomination."
The balancing act reflects the impossible politics ahead for some Republican candidates, particularly those in swing states and suburban House districts.
McSally has come out as a survivor of sexual abuse at the hands of her high school track coach. At the same time, she has strongly embraced Trump and his combative ethos, which Kavanaugh exemplified during his Thursday testimony.
She indirectly criticized Trump last week after he questioned why Ford didn't report her assault decades ago.
"A lot of people who have not been through this - thank God they have not been through this - don't understand that a lot of us don't immediately go to law enforcement," McSally said.
Two key Republicans - Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Maine Sen. Susan Collins - have also avoided taking a firm position so far. Neither is up for re-election this year, yet both are facing intense political pressure from the right and left back home, with the potential that aftershocks from their votes could be felt for years to come.
Cindy Noyes, a registered Republican in Maine, attended public schools with Collins and usually agrees with her. But not if she backs Kavanaugh.
"It'd be hard for me not to support her, but I really, really, really encourage her to vote against him," Noyes said of Collins, who doesn't face re-election until 2020.
In Alaska, Juneau voter Sally Saddler, an independent, said she voted for Murkowski in the past, but likely wouldn't back her again if the Republican senator decides to confirm Kavanaugh.
Murkowski also faces the prospect of a primary challenge from the right should she break with her party.
That potential has already convinced Anchorage Republican Women's Club president Judy Eledge to consider supporting a Murkowski primary challenger in 2022.
"I would support the other person, and I think there's a lot of other people that would," she said.
Republican candidates in states Trump won overwhelmingly in 2016 have been far more eager to follow Trump's lead on Kavanaugh. Meanwhile, some vulnerable Democratic incumbents like Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly and Montana Sen. Jon Tester announced Friday they would stick with the Democratic minority in opposing the nomination. Others, including Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, remain undecided.
Evangelical leaders in contact with the White House have quietly launched an influence campaign designed to rally 1.5 million evangelical voters behind Kavanaugh across five key states: Missouri, Indiana, West Virginia, Florida and North Dakota. The campaign features a video on social media and a series of direct text messages.
Republicans are on their heels in the nation's suburbs, the region that features the most competitive House races.
GOP Rep. Leonard Lance, running for re-election in a suburban New Jersey district Trump lost in 2016, was forced to backtrack this week after being caught on tape questioning Kavanaugh's accusers. After Ford's testimony, he endorsed calls for an expanded FBI inquiry.
Democratic challenger Tom Malinowski says the issue goes beyond whether Kavanaugh should be on the court.
"It's precisely that tendency to dismiss accusers of powerful men that makes it hard for survivors to make what is already a wrenchingly difficult decision to come forward," Malinowski said in an interview, adding that it's particularly important for male politicians to speak up instead of leaving all the difficult votes to women.
Republicans are betting that Democrats are already so motivated by their opposition to Trump that the Supreme Court fight won't make much difference, said Republican pollster Ed Goeas.
Most off-year elections are decided by which side is more energized. Most polls suggest that Democrats have a distinct advantage on that front.
"All Republicans can do is close that gap at this point," Goeas said.
WASHINGTON (AP) - Moments after pivotal Sen. Jeff Flake announced he would vote to confirm Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, the Arizona Republican was confronted with the consequences.
Two tearful women cornered Flake as he got on an elevator Friday, pleading for him to reconsider his support for the appeals court judge who's been accused of sexual assault when he was a teenager. By the end of the day, Flake had, adding a condition to his promise to vote for Kavanaugh. He'd do so, Flake said, if the vote was delayed a week so the FBI could investigate "credible allegations" against the nominee.
It wasn't clear that the raw, emotional elevator exchange changed Flake's his mind by itself. But it's hard to forget. And Flake didn't deny it was one of the factors that made an impression.
"Look at me and tell me that it doesn't matter what happened to me," said 23-year-old Maria Gallagher.
Ana Maria Archila pointed her finger at Flake while she appeared to keep the elevator door from closing.
"On Monday, I stood in front of your office," Archila, co-executive director of the nonprofit Center for Popular Democracy Action, told Flake. "I told the story of my sexual assault. I told it because I recognized in Dr. Ford's story that she is telling the truth. What you are doing is allowing someone who actually violated a woman to sit on the Supreme Court."
Flake said he had to go to a hearing.
He was returning to the committee room where he and 20 colleagues had heard hours of testimony Thursday from Christine Blasey Ford, a California psychology professor who told them Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her decades ago. Kavanaugh strongly denied the allegation.
Flake had lobbied Republican leaders to give Ford the chance to speak. He was viewed as a possible "no" vote on the panel and in the closely-divided Senate - until his morning announcement Friday.
That made the two women staking out his office angry, and they confronted him when he tried to leave for Friday's hearing.
"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 are going to ignore them," Gallagher said.
"That's what happened to me, and that's what you are telling all women in America, that they don't matter," she said through tears.
She begged Flake to look her in the eye. "Don't look away from me," she said.
Flake, cornered in the elevator, shifted between looking at them and looking down. He said, "Thank you," but didn't response to questions on whether he believed Ford's testimony.
Later in the day, Flake voted to advance Kavanaugh's nomination from the committee to the full Senate, but only after announcing his condition.
He said he had been speaking with Democrats to make sure "we do due diligence here."
Flake was later asked whether the elevator confrontation swayed him.
"I can say this whole process has affected all of us," he said. "I can't pinpoint anything to say this is what caused me to come today to say let's postpone."
He said it was "remarkable" the number of people who saw Ford and "were emboldened to come out and say what had happened to them. I've heard from close friends and I had no idea. That's important."
President Donald Trump later agreed to order the FBI to open a supplemental background investigation into Kavanaugh that would be completed in a week.
The women do not identify themselves in the video, but Archila's group sent a press release following the confrontation confirming it was Archila speaking on camera. Gallagher confirmed via phone to The Associated Press that it was her, and she consented to the use of her name.
The AP does not usually name people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they come forward publicly about the allegations, as these women have done.
Speaking to the AP by phone after the confrontation, Gallagher said she didn't intend to tell Flake about her assault - she had never told anyone before. "But I saw him, and I got really angry," she said.
She was in town as a volunteer with the liberal activist group Make the Road New York.
Archila told the AP she was sexually assaulted when she was 5 years old by a teenager when she and her family lived in Colombia. She said she didn't tell anyone before this week.
"I had planned to just talk to him nicely, but once when I saw that he was voting for Kavanaugh my niceties went out the window," she said. "What are you doing to our country? You are sending the wrong message you're saying that all of us who put our pain to the world to confront don't matter."
After hearing about Flake's request, she said the sequence of events suggested their conversation helped move him.
"What it tells me is that telling our stories and showing up can actually change their minds," she said.