Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona said on Wednesday that both Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who has accused President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee of sexual assault, deserve an apology for the way they have been treated and rebuked the President for casting doubt on Ford's credibility.
Flake said that some of the "public comments" about both Kavanaugh and Ford, who will both testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, "have been vile," and said, "we owe you both a sincere apology."
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While Republicans can advance Kavanaugh's nomination without any Democratic support, because they only control the chamber 51-49, Kavanaugh's supporters can only lose one GOP and still advance his nomination. Flake is among a handful of Republicans -- which includes Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska -- being closely watched but Flake is especially significant given that he's a member of the Judiciary Committee.
Flake argued that both Ford and Kavanaugh have been unfairly caricatured by both sides of the aisle.
"I don't believe that Dr. Ford is part of some vast conspiracy from start to finish to smear Judge Kavanaugh, as has been alleged by some on the right," the senator said.
But he added that he also does "not believe that Judge Kavanaugh is some kind of serial sexual predator, as some have alleged on the left."
"And so these witnesses who will testify in a very important hearing tomorrow, these unwitting combatants in an undeclared war -- these people are not props for us to make our political points, nor are they to be 'demolished like Anita Hill' as was said on conservative media the other night," Flake said. "Nor is one them a 'proven sex criminal' as has been circulating on the left side of the Internet."
Flake added later, "And so I will say to these witnesses -- these human beings -- we owe both of you a sincere apology. An apology is inadequate, of course, but it's a start."
The Arizona senator went on to criticize Trump, who tweeted last week that "if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says," charges would have been filed with law enforcement and questioned why she did not come forward with her allegations earlier.
"I must also say that separate and apart from this nomination and the facts that pertain to it, I do not believe that the claim of sexual assault is invalid because a 15-year-old girl didn't promptly report the assault to the authorities, as the President of the United States said just two days ago," Flake said.
He added, "How uninformed and uncaring do we have to be to say things like that, much less believe them? Do we have any idea what kind of message that sends, especially to young women? How many times do we have to marginalize and ignore women before we learn that important lesson?"
The Arizona senator implored senators to keep an open mind during the hearing and suggested that he has not yet made a decision as to who to believe.
"I do not know how I will assess the credibility of these witnesses -- these human beings -- on the grave matters that will be testified to, because I have not yet heard a word of their testimony," he said. "I will have to listen to the testimony before I make up my mind about the testimony."
Flake went on to say, "I say to all of my colleagues: For this process to be a process, we have to have open minds. We must listen. We must do our best, seek the truth, in good faith. That is our only duty."