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Kavanaugh accuser to testify before Senate committee


September 17. 2018 9:29PM
U.S. President Donald Trump listens to his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court Brett Kavanaugh speak during his nomination announcement in the East Room of the White House on July 9. (REUTERS/Jim Bourg)

WASHINGTON — U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and the woman who accused him of a 1982 sexual assault will be called to testify in the Senate next Monday, the chamber’s Judiciary Committee chairman said, pushing back a key vote in the judge’s confirmation process.

With Kavanaugh’s once-safe nomination for a lifetime job on the top U.S. court now appearing in jeopardy, the conservative federal appeals court judge had meetings at the White House earlier on Monday and issued a fresh denial, calling the assault allegation “completely false.”

Trump’s fellow Republicans in the Senate, which must confirm Supreme Court appointments, looked for a way forward.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said the committee would hold a public hearing with Kavanaugh and his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, next Monday.

“As I said earlier, anyone who comes forward as Dr. Ford has done deserves to be heard. My staff has reached out to Dr. Ford to hear her account, and they held a follow-up call with Judge Kavanaugh this afternoon,” Grassley said.

“Unfortunately, committee Democrats have refused to join us in this effort. However, to provide ample transparency, we will hold a public hearing Monday to give these recent allegations a full airing,” Grassley said.

The move would delay a planned vote in the Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

Ford has accused Kavanaugh of trying to attack her and remove her clothing while drunk 36 years ago in a Maryland suburb outside Washington when they were students at different high schools.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he wants to hold a full Senate vote on Kavanaugh before the Oct. 1 start of the Supreme Court’s new term. It was unclear whether that goal will have to be adjusted.

Democrats, already fiercely opposed to Kavanaugh, demanded a delay in the committee’s vote to let the FBI investigate.

Republicans control the Senate by only a narrow margin, meaning any defections could sink the nomination and deal a major setback to Trump, who has been engaged in a so-far successful effort since becoming President last year to move the Supreme Court and broader federal judiciary to the right.

In careful remarks at the White House in which he did not offer his view on the actual allegation against his nominee, Trump called for the Senate to go through a “full process” and accepted a small delay, though warned that “it shouldn’t certainly be very much.”

“If it takes a little delay, it will take a little delay,” said Trump, who dismissed as a “ridiculous question” a reporter’s query about whether Kavanaugh had offered to withdraw his name from consideration.

“I think he’s very much on track,” Trump said.

Ford has accused Kavanaugh of trying to attack her and remove her clothing while drunk 36 years ago in a Maryland suburb outside Washington when they were students in different high schools.

In television interviews on Monday, Ford’s Washington-based lawyer, Debra Katz, said her client would be willing to speak out publicly. Asked if that included sworn testimony at a public hearing before senators, Katz told CBS’s “This Morning” program: “She’s willing to do what she needs to do.”

The confirmation fight comes just weeks before the Nov. 6 congressional elections in which Democrats are seeking to take control of Congress from Trump’s party.

Trump picked Kavanaugh to replace the retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, a conservative who sometimes sided with the court’s liberal wing. Without Kennedy on the court, the justices are split 4-4 between liberals and conservatives.

Like Trump, McConnell criticized Democrats for raising a matter dating back to high school at the last minute “in an irregular manner” after a week-long confirmation hearing this month.

Trump, who himself faced multiple accusations of sexual misconduct that emerged during the 2016 presidential election, said he did not meet with Kavanaugh when the nominee visited the White House.

“I have never done anything like what the accuser describes — to her or to anyone,” Kavanaugh said in a statement issued by the White House, his first comment since Ford’s identity was revealed on Sunday.

“Because this never happened, I had no idea who was making this accusation until she identified herself (Sunday),” added Kavanaugh.

Kavanaugh has said he was not at the party where the incident allegedly occurred, according to a White House official.

Republicans hold a slim 11-10 advantage on the Judiciary Committee and a 51-49 majority in the Senate.

Under Senate rules, the committee could forward the nomination to the Senate floor without an affirmative vote.

Trump and other prominent Republicans refrained from attacking Ford. “This woman should not be insulted and she should not be ignored,” White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway told Fox News.

The comments by Ford’s lawyer suggested a public hearing could be explosive. Ford believes Kavanaugh’s alleged actions were “attempted rape” and “that if it were not for the severe intoxication of Brett Kavanaugh, she would have been raped,” Katz told NBC’s “Today” program.

Katz told CBS that Ford had consumed a beer but was not drunk. Ford was 15 at the time of the alleged incident. Kavanaugh was 17.

Ford detailed her story in a letter sent to Sen. DianneFeinstein in July.

The letter’s contents leaked last week and Ford identified herself in an interview with the Washington Post published on Sunday.

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