Kavanaugh’s Accuser Seeks Concessions From GOP Over Testimony
(Bloomberg) -- With Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination on the line, Senate Republicans must decide whether to wait to hear from the woman who accuses him of sexual assault or push ahead with a hearing on Monday and risk female voters’ ire in November.
A lawyer for the woman, Christine Blasey Ford, a California college professor, asked the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday to push back a hearing on her claims until Sept. 27 and take testimony from additional witnesses.
Earlier on Thursday, Kavanaugh said in a letter to committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, that he was prepared to come before the panel on Monday to "clear my name" of the allegation.
"I will be there," Kavanaugh wrote.
Kavanaugh’s confirmation hangs in the balance. With Nov. 6 elections approaching that will determine control of the House and Senate, Republicans are under intense pressure to consider the allegations in a way that doesn’t turn women and independents away from the party while moving the nomination forward as quickly as possible, as President Donald Trump and other GOP leaders want.
Trump, in a tweet Friday morning, cast doubt on Ford’s allegations. “I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents,” Trump wrote. “I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time, and place!”
Ford’s attorney, Debra Katz, said Ford couldn’t appear on Monday as Grassley had planned, according to a Senate aide familiar with the negotiations. The aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Katz also told the committee by telephone that Ford didn’t want Kavanaugh in the room when she testified and that lawmakers, not outside lawyers, be allowed to ask her questions to avoid a trial-like setting.
She also asked that Mark Judge, a classmate of Kavanaugh’s who Ford says was present when the alleged attack occurred more than 30 years ago, be called to testify, along with other possible witnesses, according to the aide.
The aide added that no final decisions had been made and that the Republicans who control the committee asked for time to consider the requests. Grassley’s office didn’t immediately respond Thursday to queries on whether he’ll agree to a delay, hold the hearing Monday without Ford, or cancel it.
White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said in an interview on CNN Friday that it sounded like Ford’s legal team was issuing a list of demands to the committee.
Ford’s lawyer, in a follow up communication with the committee, said the only “deal breaker” was that Ford can not appear before the committee on Monday and submit written testimony by 10 a.m. Friday.
“It is simply not possible for her to prepare such testimony while at the same time trying to take appropriate security precautions in the face of the avalanche of threats she has been receiving,” Katz wrote.
The move by Ford’s lawyer sought to end a deadlock over the terms of testimony on her allegation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a Maryland house party in the early 1980s when both were high school students. Kavanaugh denies any attack occurred, and Republicans had appeared poised to seek a confirmation vote as early as next week if she didn’t agree to testify on Monday.
‘Clear My Name’
Kavanaugh said in his letter, "I continue to want a hearing as soon as possible, so that I can clear my name." He added, "Since the moment I first heard this allegation, I have categorically and unequivocally denied it. I remain committed to defending my integrity."
Democrats have demanded a delay in the hearing to allow time for the FBI to investigate Ford’s claim. Trump has said he won’t ask the FBI to reopen its background probe of Kavanaugh.
Katz wrote that Ford "wishes to testify, provided that we can agree on terms that are fair and which ensure her safety." Ford has received death threats and has moved her family out of their home, the lawyer said.
Senator Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican and a member of the Judiciary Committee, said at a campaign event in Webster, Texas, on Thursday night that "even if the Democrats are playing games, and it is clear they are playing games, the allegations still deserve to be treated with respect."
Also on Thursday, Alaska Governor Bill Walker and Lieutenant Governor Byron Mallott announced that they opposed Kavanaugh’s confirmation, complicating matters for one of the state’s senators, Lisa Murkowski, a moderate Republican who hasn’t announced how she will vote. The GOP controls the Senate 51-49, meaning two defections in the party would defeat Kavanaugh if all Democrats voted no.
Walker and Mallot, running for re-election as independents, said in a joint statement that Kavanaugh’s confirmation could jeopardize health care, labor laws and the Indian Child Welfare Act. They said a "thorough review" should be made of the allegations against Kavanaugh before a vote occurs.
‘Shouldn’t Be Bullied’
Democrats in Washington sought Thursday to turn up the heat on the GOP for an FBI probe of Ford’s allegation, recommending that she not testify Monday under Republicans’ current plan to hear only from her and Kavanaugh.
"She shouldn’t be bullied into it," said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, at a news conference with alumna from Holton-Arms, the private girls’ school in Maryland that Ford attended. "She’s not asking for extraordinary measures, she’s asking for basic fairness."
Grassley told Democrats on the committee Wednesday that he had no further patience for delays in Kavanaugh’s confirmation process.
“There has been delay and obstruction of this process at every turn and with every argument available,” Grassley wrote. “Therefore, I will view any additional complaints about the process very skeptically.”
Ford says that Kavanaugh was drunk at a house party in about 1982, and that he pulled her into a bedroom then 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."
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