WASHINGTON — Just before the Senate narrowly voted to advance Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump dismissed Capitol Hill protesters — including those who have told their stories of sexual violence and assault — as "paid professionals" bent on making senators "look bad" in service to Democratic donor George Soros.
A dramatic confrontation at a Capitol complex elevator between two survivors of sexual assault and Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., preceded his decision last week to call for a delay of Kavanaugh's confirmation vote while the FBI conducted interviews in connection with allegations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh.
"No one can pay for someone's lived experiences," Ana Maria Archila, one of the women who approached Flake, said in response to Trump's tweet. "The pain, the trauma, and the rage that I expressed when I spoke with Senator Jeff Flake in an elevator were my own, and I held it for more than 30 years to protect the people I love from it."
Kavanaugh has strenuously denied the allegation that he sexually assaulted Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who testified that she believes he tried to rape her when they were in high school, as well as all other accusations of sexual misconduct against him, including one from a woman who says he exposed himself to her when they were both students at Yale.
Most Republican senators were poised Friday morning to vote to advance his nomination to a final roll call over the weekend.
Soros, a billionaire investor, has long donated money to liberal causes, but Trump offered no evidence that he was paying for demonstrators' signs. Archila works for the Center for Popular Democracy, which gets some of its funding from the Open Society Foundation, which is, in turn, backed by Soros.
Washington lawyer Bradley Moss, a frequent Trump critic, suggested on Twitter that Trump's allegation had anti-Semitic overtones.
"The President of the United States is literally joining the 'all our problems are the fault of this old wealthy Jew' chorus that exists on the fringe of the conservative moment," Moss wrote.
In a statement, Archila added that "President Trump is, again, trying to ignore the experiences of people in this country by discrediting individuals who dare to raise our voices and force elected officials to listen to our stories, to look us in the eye, to not turn away."
"He represents precisely what is wrong with our democracy," she added. "But the lesson from my the elevator conversation is that when we force political leaders to connect with us, with our humanity, we can breathe life into our democracy."