Trump Says He Wants to Hear From Woman Who Accuses Kavanaugh
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump said he wants to hear from the woman who accuses Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, saying it would be "unfortunate" if she doesn’t testify before a Senate committee.
"If she doesn’t show up, that would be unfortunate," the president told reporters Wednesday as he left the White House to view hurricane damage in North Carolina. "If she shows up and makes a credible showing, that’ll be very interesting, and we’ll have to make a decision."
Lawyers for California college professor Christine Blasey Ford said Tuesday she wants the FBI to investigate her claims before she appears at a Senate hearing. Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley responded that there’s no need for an FBI investigation and that the invitation for Ford to testify on Monday still stands.
Trump reiterated his defense of Kavanaugh, who strongly denies the allegation, saying, "He is such an outstanding man, very hard for me to imagine that anything happened."
Still, the president said, "I really would want to see what she has to say." The matter should be given all the time needed, he said.
Grassley hasn’t said whether the hearing scheduled for Monday would go on without Ford or whether the panel would vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination without hearing her testimony.
Some GOP senators including Bob Corker of Tennessee and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina say they see no reason to wait beyond Monday for Ford’s testimony, and that they want the Senate to vote next week.
Yet plowing ahead with the nomination, which seemed all but assured before going sideways less than a week ago, carries the risk of alienating moderate Republican senators like Maine’s Susan Collins, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and Arizona’s Jeff Flake in a chamber where the party holds a narrow 51-49 majority.
Flake on Tuesday night tweeted that the committee had put off its vote to confirm Kavanaugh at his request and "I now implore Dr. Ford to accept the invitation for Monday, in a public or private setting."
"I really hope Dr. Ford changes her mind," Republican Senator John Kennedy, a Judiciary Committee member, said Wednesday on Bloomberg Television. "The hearing’s scheduled. Please come, Dr. Ford.”
“We are doing all we can to be fair," Kennedy of Louisiana added, "but we’ve got to be met halfway.”
Republicans want the Senate to confirm Kavanaugh before the Supreme Court begins its new term Oct. 1.
Grassley, an Iowa Republican, said late Tuesday that Ford’s testimony "would reflect her personal knowledge and memory of events. Nothing the FBI or any other investigator does would have any bearing on what Dr. Ford tells the committee, so there is no reason for any further delay.”
‘The First Step’
In a letter to the Judiciary Committee, lawyers for Ford said she is prepared to cooperate with the panel but that an FBI investigation should be "the first step" before she appears before the senators to describe her allegation.
Kavanaugh has repeatedly denied Ford’s claim that he sexually assaulted her at a party in Maryland when they were in high school. The Judiciary panel had been scheduled to vote on his nomination Thursday, but postponed it and scheduled the public hearing for Monday. Ford was invited to testify only after the hearing had been set.
"The hearing was scheduled for six short days from today and would include interrogation by senators who appear to have made up their minds that she is ‘mistaken’ and ‘mixed up,’” Ford’s lawyers, Debra Katz and Lisa Banks, said in the letter. "A full investigation by law enforcement officials will ensure that the crucial facts and witnesses in this matter are assessed in a non-partisan manner."
Ford says that Kavanaugh was drunk at a house party in about 1982, pinned her down on a bed, tried to remove her clothes and put his hand over her mouth to stop her from screaming. She said she was able to escape, but the Washington Post reported that she described the episode to a therapist in 2013 as a "rape attempt."
Kavanaugh said in a statement released by the White House Monday, “This is a completely false allegation. I have never done anything like what the accuser describes -- to her or to anyone."
Not ‘Their Thing’
Trump said Tuesday he doesn’t think the FBI should investigate because "they don’t want to be involved," adding that "this is not really their thing."
However, a person familiar with the matter said the FBI did not tell the president or the White House that it doesn’t want to investigated the allegations against Kavanaugh or that it’s not something the bureau wouldn’t do. The FBI could do further investigation if the White House requests it and provides direction, the person said.
In 1991 the FBI did investigate Anita Hill’s allegations of sexual harassment against then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas before their testimony on the matter to the Judiciary Committee. Hill accused him of harassing her when he was her supervisor at two federal agencies.
The Judiciary panel’s top Democrat, Dianne Feinstein of California, said Tuesday the plan to hold a hearing in only a week was "reminiscent of the treatment of Anita Hill." Thomas was confirmed, but Hill’s allegation caused a nationwide uproar, and many women contended she was unfairly treated by the then all-male Judiciary Committee.
Only Ford and Kavanaugh were being called to testify at Monday’s hearing, and Democrats objected to that arrangement. They said they needed testimony from Kavanaugh classmate Mark Judge, who Ford said was present during the alleged attack.
"I have no memory of this alleged incident," Judge said in a statement sent to the committee by his lawyer, Barbara Van Gelder. "I never saw Brett act in the manner Dr. Ford describes." Judge’s statement added that he didn’t want to speak publicly about the matter.
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