Washington D.C., USA : Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh and his accuser Professor Christine Blasey Ford will both testify in a public hearing next week about assault allegations.
Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh’s carefully planned confirmation — once seen as a sure bet — slipped into limbo Monday over allegations from a California professor that Kavanaugh s******y assaulted her when both were in high school in the early 1980s.
After initially vowing to proceed with their confirmation timetable, GOP leaders late in the day abandoned plans for a preliminary vote Thursday by the Senate Judiciary Committee and agreed to reconvene for another hearing next Monday to receive public testimony from Kavanaugh, who denies the allegations, and the woman, Christine Blasey Ford, now a psychology professor at Palo Alto University.
The hearing could be pivotal to Kavanaugh’s confirmation, which was on a glide path until Christine Blasey Ford came forward publicly with her accusations on Sunday.
“There will be a full opportunity for both the accuser and the accused to be heard,” GOP Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) told reporters.
Asked if he meant be heard publicly, Kennedy said “yes.”
It remains unclear now whether Republicans can meet their self-imposed deadline to seat Kavanaugh on the high court by early October. Several key Republicans said they wanted to hear directly from the woman, and Democrats renewed their calls to slow down the process.
President Trump said he was open to a delay, telling reporters that he wants to “go through a full process…and hear everybody out,” but saying that any idea of withdrawing Kavanaugh’s nomination was “ridiculous.”
The president added, ”If it takes a little delay, it’ll take a little delay.”
Ford considers the incident an “attempted rape,” according to her attorney, Debra Katz. Ford told the Washington Post that during a pool party in suburban Maryland, a drunken Kavanaugh pinned her down on a bed, tried to remove her clothing and covered her mouth when she yelled for help. She fled when a second boy at the party jumped on the bed, sending all three tumbling off.
Kavanaugh denied the claim. “This is a completely false allegation,” he said in a statement Monday. “I have never done anything like what the accuser describes — to her or to anyone. Because this never happened, I had no idea who was making this accusation until she identified herself yesterday.”
The announcement came as Republican members of the panel huddled behind closed doors on Monday evening to discuss a path forward for Kavanaugh’s nomination, which was threatening to be derailed by the s****l assault allegation.
Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), who leads the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he planned to make arrangements to hear from Ford and Kavanaugh through follow-up “phone calls,” though Democrats and some Republicans predicted both would likely need to testify in person publicly.
“As I said earlier, anyone who comes forward as Dr. Ford has done deserves to be heard. My staff has reached out to Dr. Ford to hear her account, and they held a follow-up call with Judge Kavanaugh this afternoon. Unfortunately, committee Democrats have refused to join us in this effort. However, to provide ample transparency, we will hold a public hearing Monday to give these recent allegations a full airing,” Grassley said.
Three moderate Republicans — Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Bob Corker of Tennessee — have called on the Senate Judiciary Committee to hear testimony from Ford. Flake sits on the committee.
Republican leaders likely need nearly all of their 51 members to support the nomination, meaning any significant dissent would torpedo the confirmation. The votes of three moderate Democrats — Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota — are also in play, and all three said Ford needed to be heard.
“We need to respect Prof. Ford by listening to her and hearing her story,” Heitkamp said.
Democrats, the vast majority of whom already oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination, were almost universally united in calling for a delay. All 10 Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee said the Thursday vote should be postponed and suggested that the Senate’s work should be delayed until the FBI — which has asked last week to review the matter — can complete its own work.
“To railroad a vote now would be a deep insult to the women of America, a lasting scar on the integrity of the Supreme Court,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said.
Some Republicans defended the nominee. Sen Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), a senior member of the Judiciary panel, said Kavanaugh told him Monday afternoon in a phone call that he wasn’t at the party where Ford said the assault took place.
When asked how Kavanaugh can be so confident when Ford has not shared the exact date, Hatch said he didn’t know, adding that “there is some question whether she is mixed up” on the details. He provided no details to support the assertion that Ford was confused.
“This is a serious charge. It has to be investigated. We need to have hearings,” Hatch said. “The judge, who I know very, very well, is an honest man said he [said] this didn’t happen.”
Katz denied that Ford has any political motive to try to thwart Trump’s nominee.
“No one in their right mind regardless of their motive would want to inject themselves into this process and face the kind of annihilation that she will be subjected to by those who want this nominee to go through,” Katz said. “This is not a politically motivated action.”
The administration is standing by Kavanaugh, who visited the White House on Monday morning. Spokesperson Kerri Kupec recirculated a previous statement in support.
“On Friday, Judge Kavanaugh ‘categorically and unequivocally’ denied this allegation,” she said. “This has not changed. Judge Kavanaugh and the White House both stand by that statement.”
The White House said that Kavanaugh is ready to testify as soon as Tuesday if the Senate asks him to.
“Judge Kavanaugh looks forward to a hearing where he can clear his name of this false allegation. He stands ready to testify tomorrow if the Senate is ready to hear him,” Raj Shah, a spokesman for the White House, said.
White House advisor Kellyanne Conway said that Ford should be heard and allowed to testify under oath. “This woman should not be ignored and should not be insulted,” Conway said. “She should be heard.”
Republicans accused Democrats — particularly California Sen. Dianne Feinstein — of playing politics in an attempt to derail Kavanaugh’s nomination, noting that Feinstein knew of the allegations weeks ago and referred the matter to the FBI only last week.
“That Democrats have so egregiously mishandled this up until now is no excuse for us to do the same,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the No. 2 GOP leader. “If Democrats reject the committee handling this swiftly and in a bipartisan way through regular order, then it’s clear that their only intention is to smear Judge Kavanaugh and derail his nomination.”
“It’s deeply disturbing that the existence of these allegations were leaked in a way that seemed to preclude Dr. Ford’s confidentiality,” Grassley said.
Feinstein has said she did not reveal the allegations because Ford initially did not want to be publicly identified. Over the weekend, Ford went public in an interview with the Washington Post, saying her name was beginning to leak out and her civic duty outweighed her desire for privacy.
Feinstein said Sunday that “staff calls aren’t the way to handle this” and called for the vote on Kavanaugh to be delayed until after the FBI can investigate.
It wasn’t immediately clear if Ford had agreed to testify next week. But her lawyer said earlier Monday that she was willing to testify before the Judiciary Committee.
A group of women who went to Holton-Arms–the private girls school in Bethesda that Christine Blasey Ford attended–have put together a letter of support for Ford. The list of women who signed the letter spans several decades worth alumni, and apparently includes Julia Louis-Dreyfus, of Veep and Seinfeld fame.
Ford got a vote of support from someone who plays a former U.S. president on TV.
I was class of ‘79 & signed this letter. — Julia Louis-Dreyfus (@OfficialJLD) September 17, 2018
This letter appears to be a response to the letter that emerged on Friday signed by 65 women who attended high school with Kavanaugh during the period of time he’s alleged to have s******y assaulted Ford, and vouched for his upstanding character. (Considering how quickly the letter appeared after news broke about the accusation, it must have been in the works for a while.)
More than 200 women had signed the new letter supporting Ford as of Monday morning. Some of the women reportedly agree that Ford’s claim “is all too consistent with stories we heard and lived while attending Holton. Many of us are survivors ourselves.”
Senate Democrats sue Archives to try to force release of Kavanaugh documents
A group of Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee has filed suit against the National Archives in an attempt to gain access to records related to President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Six Democrats, including Sens. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) Cory Booker (N.J.), Kamala Harris (Calif.), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), Patrick Leahy (Vt.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), filed the lawsuit on Monday. The senators, who say they are being denied access to documents from Kavanaugh’s time in the George W. Bush White House, additionally filed papers asking for a court to take immediate action to order the release.
The suit comes as Kavanaugh’s nomination is also under increasing scrutiny over an allegation of s****l assault against the judge from decades ago.
“The Senate and the American public have a brief opportunity to sift the record of Judge Kavanaugh’s public career before the Senate is expected to make an effectively irreversible decision that would shape the federal judiciary for decades, and the individual Senators have a unique platform to probe and publicize Judge Kavanaugh’s record,” lawyers for the senators at the watchdog group American Oversight wrote in the filing.
The requests before the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia were first made in August to National Archives, the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum and the CIA.
The Freedom of Information Act gives agencies up to 20 days to either approve or disapprove a request for documents. It also offers 10 days to conclude if a demand for an expedited process will be granted.
The lawsuit filed by the Democrats comes a couple weeks after Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, which were marked by intense partisan feuds. Democrats have repeatedly slammed the nomination process due to the lack of documents they were granted access to.
In addition to the fight over documents, Kavanaugh is now at the center of a firestorm over an allegation of s****l assault from his time in high school which was first revealed in an anonymous letter last week.
Christine Blasey Ford, a California psychology professor, came forward publicly on Sunday and detailed her allegations against Kavanaugh for the first time.