The woman who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her decades ago has not yet confirmed her appearance at a public hearing the GOP is planning next week, a top Republican senator said Tuesday.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said that his staff has reached out to Christine Blasey Ford’s camp several times since the California-based professor came forward with her story of a high-school-era assault by President Donald Trump’s high court pick. Although Ford’s lawyer said that her client would be open to “a fair proceeding,” it remains unclear whether she would agree to a planned hearing on Sept. 24 that Republicans have set up to help save Kavanaugh’s nomination.
The lack of response so far “kind of raises the question, do they want to come to the public hearing or not,” Grassley told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Tuesday.
Republicans have billed the public hearing as an opportunity for both Kavanaugh and Ford to share their sides of the story. GOP leaders made that decision under pressure from undecided members of their conference — chiefly Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a Judiciary member said he would vote against Kavanaugh in the committee if senators didn’t get more of a chance to hear from Ford. One Kavanaugh ally suggested that Katz, a well-respected veteran of high-profile sexual misconduct cases, has “tried to impose some serious conditions on” Ford’s testimony, though it’s unclear what those conditions are.
Democrats had received no new commitments from Ford as of Tuesday morning.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) pushed back hard on the fast turnaround of the hearing and called for testimony from Mark Judge, the third person whom Ford alleges was in the room at the time of the assault. The GOP’s plan to omit Judge and hear only from Kavanaugh and Ford is “simply inadequate,” Schumer said.
Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, a Judiciary Democrat, said he would attend a hearing if it’s just Kavanaugh but is also pushing for far more, including an appearance from Judge.
“I do not think we will be meeting the test of a full and fair hearing without Mark Judge present, without Dr. Ford present and without the FBI doing an expanded background check,” Coons said. “There are questions to ask of [Kavanaugh] now. I do hope Dr. Ford comes forward and is treated respectfully.”
If Ford and her lawyer ultimately opt out of the GOP’s public hearing invitation — Democrats have skipped a staff-level call with Kavanaugh on the matter, casting doubt on their participation — Republicans will face another tough decision on whether to press ahead with the nomination.
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