Senator Pushes Woman Accusing Kavanaugh of Assault to Testify
The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee wrote a letter Wednesday to the lawyers for the woman accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of assault when they were teenagers, informing them of steps the woman must take by Friday if she plans to testify about the 36-year-old incident on Monday.
California psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford has accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her 36 years ago when both were in high school, an alleged attack that left Ford fearful for her life. Kavanaugh has denied the claims.
“As you know, I have reopened the hearing on Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination in light of Dr. Ford’s allegations. That hearing will begin again on Monday, September 25, at 10 a.m. I have invited Dr. Ford to testify regarding her allegations against Judge Kavanaugh. And in recognition of how difficult it can be to discuss allegations of this kind in public, I have also offered her the choice of testifying in either a public or closed session of the hearing,” Chuck Grassley said in a letter to lawyers Debra Katz and Lisa Banks.
Banks, in a statement to CNN later Wednesday, said, “The rush to a hearing is unnecessary, and contrary to the committee discovering the truth.”
She said Ford and her family have received threats, which has caused them to leave their home.
“She continues to believe that a full nonpartisan investigation of this matter is needed, and she is willing to cooperate with the committee,” Banks said in the statement. “However, the committee’s stated plan to move forward with a hearing that has only two witnesses is not a fair or good faith investigation; there are multiple witnesses whose names have appeared publicly and should be included in any proceeding.”
Grassley, who oversaw Kavanaugh’s nomination hearing, is from Iowa and has served in the Senate since 1981. He ended his letter by saying, “… consistent with committee rules, Dr. Ford’s prepared testimony and biography are due to the committee by 10 a.m. on Friday, September 21, if she intends to testify on Monday.”
Banks’ statement made no reference to testifying Monday.
Trump: ‘Hard to imagine’
Earlier Wednesday, President Donald Trump said that “it’s very hard for me to imagine” that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted then-teenager Ford.
Trump said he hopes Ford testifies at Monday’s hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is considering Kavanaugh’s nomination for a lifetime seat on the country’s highest court.
“I really want to see her, to see what she has to say,” Trump said of Ford, now 51. He said it “would be unfortunate” if she does not appear.
Ford’s lawyers late Tuesday called for an FBI probe of her claims before she testifies, but Trump and Republicans that control the Senate panel say an FBI investigation is unnecessary. Kavanaugh, who says he will appear at the Senate panel’s hearing, has adamantly denied knowledge of the purported 1982 party at a suburban Washington home and said he has never attacked any woman.
Trump, speaking to reporters at the White House as he headed to North Carolina to view the flood damage from Hurricane Florence, praised the 53-year-old Kavanaugh as “an extraordinary man.” But Trump said, “it’s really up to the Senate” to decide how to proceed with the confirmation process.
Advice from Anita Hill
Meanwhile, Anita Hill, the law professor at the center of lurid 1991 confirmation hearings involving Clarence Thomas as a U.S. Supreme Court justice, supported Ford’s call for an FBI investigation of her claims.
Hill told ABC’s Good Morning America show, “The American public really is expecting something more. They want to know that the Senate takes this seriously.”
Hill, now a law professor at Brandeis University, said Republican leaders are in an unnecessary rush to confirm Kavanaugh.
“Either they don’t take this seriously,” she said, “or … they just want to get it over. I’m not sure which is in play. Maybe they’re not concerned, or maybe they don’t know how to handle this kind of situation.”
The specter of Hill’s allegations 27 years ago that Thomas often sexually harassed her when they both worked for a federal government agency hangs heavy over the current Kavanaugh confirmation proceedings.
Hill’s accusations were largely dismissed then by the all-male Senate committee, but many American women sympathized with her claims against Thomas, saying they resonated with their own experiences in the workplace. Thomas was confirmed on a narrow Senate vote and remains a conservative stalwart on the court to this day.
Republican lawmakers are trying to win Senate confirmation for Kavanaugh ahead of the court’s start of a new term on Oct. 1, or, if not by then, ahead of the Nov. 6 nationwide congressional elections, to show Republican voters they have made good on campaign promises to place conservative judges like Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court.
Ford’s lawyers told Grassley in a letter late Tuesday that some of the senators on the committee “appear to have made up their minds” and believe Kavanaugh.
“A full investigation by law enforcement officials will ensure that the crucial facts and witnesses in this matter are assessed in a nonpartisan manner and that the committee is fully informed before conducting any hearing or making any decisions,” the letter said.
The lawyers also said Ford has become the subject of death threats and harassment, and expressed fears that the committee planned to have her “relive this traumatic and harrowing incident” while testifying at the same table as Kavanaugh and in front of national television cameras.
“Nobody should be subject to threats and intimidation, and Dr. Ford is no exception,” Grassley said in a statement later Tuesday.
The Republican senator said there were no plans to have Ford and Kavanaugh appear at the same time, and that the committee had offered her the opportunity to appear before a private hearing.
Ford alleged in a Washington Post interview that Kavanaugh groped her at the house party when she was 15 and he was 17.
She said Kavanaugh, “stumbling drunk,” threw her down on a bed, grinding his body against hers and trying to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she was wearing over it. Ford said when she tried to scream, he put his hand over her mouth.
She said she feared Kavanaugh might inadvertently kill her before she managed to flee.