Washington, Sept. 18, 2018
A Republican U.S. Senate committee chairman on Tuesday said the woman who has accused President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault decades ago has not yet agreed to appear at a public hearing.
Senator Chuck Grassley said Christine Blasey Ford, a university professor in California whose allegations have put Kavanaugh’s once-safe nomination in serious jeopardy, has not responded to attempts by the Judiciary Committee, which oversees the confirmation process, to contact her.
The hearing represents a potential make-or-break moment for the conservative federal appeals court judge’s confirmation chances for the lifetime post on the top U.S. court, as Trump seeks to continue his goal of moving the federal judiciary to the right.
Kavanaugh, who has denied the assault allegation, met with officials at the White House for a second straight day.
“We have reached out to her in the last 36 hours, three or four times by email, and we’ve not heard from them.
“So it kind of raises the question, do they want to come to the public hearing or not?.
“I want to hear from Dr. Ford, she deserves to be heard because these are serious accusations. I would surely hope she’d come on Monday.
“I mean, after all, read all the details she put in the Washington Post. She’s surely prepared. She hired a lawyer, I understand, back in August,’’ Grassley said.
Ford detailed her allegation in a letter sent in July to Senator Dianne Feinstein, the committee’s top Democrat.
The letter’s contents leaked recently and Ford identified herself in an interview with the Washington Post published on Sunday that included details about the alleged assault.
The committee announced on Monday it would postpone its planned vote on Thursday on Kavanaugh’s nomination, which requires Senate confirmation, and scheduled the high-stakes hearing on Sept. 24 with the nominee and his accuser to testify.
Ford has accused Kavanaugh of trying to attack her and remove her clothing while he was drunk 36 years ago in a Maryland suburb outside Washington when they were students at different high schools.
Debra Katz, a lawyer representing Ford, said in television interviews on Monday that the professor would be willing to testify and called the alleged incident “attempted rape.”
Katz did not respond to Reuters requests for comment.
Grassley said the hearing would be televised and would include just two witnesses, Ford and Kavanaugh.
He questioned whether the hearing would take place if Ford declined to appear.
“What would be the purpose of the hearing if Dr. Ford doesn’t want to respond?” Grassley asked.
Democrats have so far also refused to cooperate with the committee’s Republican leadership.
They have asked that the FBI conduct an investigation, a request that Republicans have rebuffed.
According to Grassley, the FBI is not doing any further investigation.
Feinstein said on Tuesday there should be more than just two witnesses, possibly to include people who Ford previously confided in.
“This is another attempt by Republicans to rush this nomination and not fully vet Judge Kavanaugh,” Feinstein said in a statement.
The confirmation fight came just weeks before the Nov. 6 congressional elections in which Democrats are seeking to take control of Congress from Trump’s party, which could be a major blow to the president’s agenda.