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Kavanaugh accuser won't testify Monday, may do so later in week

The Washington Post

September 20. 2018 11:08PM

WASHINGTON — An attorney for Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who is accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers, said Thursday that her appearing at a hearing on Monday to detail her claims is “not possible” but she could testify later in the week.

Debra Katz, Ford’s lawyer, relayed the response to top staffers on the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, requesting to set up a call with them to “discuss the conditions under which [Ford] would be prepared to testify next week.”

“As you are aware, she’s been receiving death threats which have been reported to the FBI and she and her family have been forced out of their home,” Katz wrote to the committee. “She wishes to testify, provided that we can agree on terms that are fair and which ensure her safety. A hearing on Monday is not possible and the committee’s insistence that it occur then is arbitrary in any event.”

Katz reiterated that Ford would like the FBI to investigate before her testimony.

The chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who had asked Ford’s lawyers to respond by Friday morning whether she planned to appear Monday, had no immediate response.

Democratic senators, pointing to the highly-charged Anita Hill hearings in October 1991, have defended Ford’s request to have the FBI do its own probe before she testifies. Back then, the FBI report into Hill’s allegations of sexual harassment against now-Justice Clarence Thomas was finished on Sept. 26, 1991 — three days after its inquiry began, according to a Washington Post report at the time.

“Someone who is lying does not ask the FBI to investigate their claims,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said Thursday at an event on Capitol Hill. “Who is not asking the FBI to investigate these claims? The White House. Judge Kavanaugh has not asked to have the FBI investigate these claims. Is that the reaction of an innocent person? It is not.”

Gillibrand said Senate Republicans’ ultimatum of a Monday hearing was “bullying.”

Republicans have rejected the comparisons to the Hill proceedings. Grassley wrote in a Wednesday letter to Democrats on the Judiciary Committee that the FBI investigated Hill’s accusations against Thomas when they were still not public. Because Ford’s accusation is already public, Grassley argued that it was appropriate for the Senate to step in with their own investigation as lawmakers did when the Hill allegation first became public.

A senior Senate Democratic aide noted that reopening FBI background checks was fairly routine; 10 such probes into judicial nominees had been reopened in the last three months alone, the aide said. A Republican aide didn’t dispute the figure, but said those updates can be relatively minor, such as adding a nominee’s tax records or educational information that had been inadvertently excluded.

A handful of pivotal senators have yet to disclose how they will ultimately vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation, including Republican Sens. Susan Collins, Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, Alaska. On Thursday, Alaska Gov. Bill Walker and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott — both independents — issued a statement opposing Kavanaugh’s nomination.

“Mr. Kavanaugh’s record does not demonstrate a commitment to legal precedent that protects working families,” Walker and Mallott said in the joint statement, remarks that could put political pressure on Murkowski. “Key aspects of our nation’s health-care and labor laws may be at risk if Mr. Kavanaugh receives a lifetime appointment.”

Earlier Thursday, Senate Republicans had reiterated their resolve to press forward with a vote on Kavanaugh in the coming days if Ford chose not to testify before the 21-member Judiciary Committee.

“If she doesn’t want to participate and tell her story, there’s no reason for us to delay,” Sen. John Cornyn, Texas, the No. 2 Republican in the chamber, told CNN. “I think it all depends on what she decides to do. We’ve all made clear this is her chance.”

Ford has alleged that while she and Kavanaugh were at a house party in the early 1980s, when the two were in high school, Kavanaugh drunkenly pinned her to a bed, groped her and put his hand over her mouth to stifle her screams as he tried to take off her clothes. Kavanaugh has repeatedly denied the allegations.

Republicans have largely stuck to the Monday timeline, as well as Grassley’s decision to limit the hearing to two witnesses: Kavanaugh and Ford.

“What is happening with the Judiciary Committee, really, I would call it a railroad job,” Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, said alongside Gillibrand on Thursday. “They are totally intent on getting Judge Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court come hell or high water . . . You have to ask yourself why.”


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