The attorney for Christine Blasey Ford said her client hopes to tell ‘her story in a manner that is a fair proceeding.’
Christine Blasey Ford’s willingness to testify in the Senate about her alleged high-school-era sexual assault by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh added fresh turmoil Monday to his already tumultuous confirmation fight.
And a growing number of Republicans say that GOP leaders’ plans to confirm Kavanaugh by the end of the month may need to be altered in order to hear Ford out. As of midday on Monday, six Republican senators have said that the Senate Judiciary Committee needs to weigh Ford’s account, a large enough group to raise serious doubts about whether the nomination will proceed.
But Kavanaugh himself has only doubled down on a strenuous denial of Ford’s allegation. The judge told Sen. Orrin Hatch in a Monday phone call that he did not attend the party more than three decades ago at which Ford says the assault occurred, the Utah Republican said.
“I believe him. He’s a person of immense integrity,” Hatch told reporters, declining to address how Kavanaugh could speak definitively about not attending a decades-old event that Ford has only discussed in broad terms.
Hatch suggested that Ford may have been “mixed up” in her memory of the night in question.
President Donald Trump — rather than criticizing Ford, as he has blasted the #MeToo movement — told reporters Monday that “if it takes a little delay, it’ll take a little delay” to vet the allegation.
“We want to go through a full process … and hear everybody out,” Trump told reporters, adding that he has not spoken to Kavanaugh about the matter.
Less than 24 hours after Ford publicly came forward against Kavanaugh, her attorney said that she “will do whatever is necessary to make sure that the Senate Judiciary Committee has the full story,” including providing testimony. Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) already had begun seeking follow-up calls for senators on Ford’s charges, and said on Monday that he is “working on a way to hear her out in an appropriate, precedented and respectful manner” — which could further imperil a committee vote on Kavanaugh that’s still set for Thursday.
Hatch, a senior Judiciary member, declined to commit senators to a Thursday vote on Kavanaugh and said the timing would be “up to the chairman.” But for the six Republicans who’ve urged the committee to hear from Ford, winding up the process as scheduled this week wasn’t a primary concern.
“This woman is willing to come forward and tell her story and we should listen to her,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) on Milwaukee radio station WTMJ. “I’m not really sure where this goes from here.”
Grassley said that although “Dr. Ford’s attorney could have approached my office, while keeping her client confidential and anonymous, so that these allegations could be thoroughly investigated,” he and fellow Republicans “are working diligently to get to the bottom of these claims.”
Johnson joins calls from GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alasaka and Arizona’s Jeff Flake and Tennessee’s Bob Corker, who told POLITICO Sunday that the committee shouldn’t vote on Kavanaugh until Ford can be heard. And Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, a member of Republican leadership, said that “These are serious allegations that need to be looked at closely by the committee before any other action is taken.”
Debra Katz, Ford’s attorney, indicated openness to “a fair proceeding” in a Monday interview with “CBS This Morning.”
“My client will do whatever is necessary to make sure that the Senate Judiciary Committee has the full story and the full set of allegations to allow them to make a fully informed decision,” Katz said. “She’s willing to do what she needs to do.”
Ford, a research psychologist and professor in northern California, shared details of Kavanaugh’s alleged assault in a Washington Post interview published Sunday. Ford dated the assault to 1982, when she was 15 and Kavanaugh was 17, and told the Post that it “derailed me substantially for four or five years.”
Kavanaugh on Monday vehemently denied the accusation and said he is willing to speak to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“This is a completely false allegation. I have never done anything like what the accuser describes — to her or to anyone,” he said in a statement. “Because this never happened, I had no idea who was making this accusation until she identified herself yesterday.”
The White House on Monday reiterated its support for Kavanaugh, reasserting his Friday statement that he “categorically and unequivocally” denies the allegation.
“This has not changed. Judge Kavanaugh and the White House both stand by that statement,” White House spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said by email Monday morning.
Allies of Kavanaugh are pressing forward. The Judicial Crisis Network plans to run $1.5 million in ads to push Kavanaugh across the finish line in a campaign featuring a longtime friend of the judge’s, according to a person familiar with the effort.
Although Republicans said Sunday night that they would seek a follow-up call, Ford’s attorney told CNN in a separate interview that lawmakers have yet to contact her client regarding a potential appearance before the committee.
“We’ve heard from no one,” Katz said. “We’ve seen various statements made on television, and statements that are being banded about for political reason, but no one’s asked her, no.”
If Kavanaugh’s accuser testifies in a public forum it would carry significant political risk, summoning echoes of Anita Hill’s explosive 1991 testimony alleging sexual harassment by now-Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and would be difficult to follow through on without definitively derailing the GOP’s plans to push Kavanaugh to a final vote later this month.
Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, sounded a somewhat more conciliatory tone Monday morning than the White House’s official statement. She told Fox News that Ford’s account ought not to be ignored but also should be weighed against Kavanaugh’s account of the decades-old alleged assault.
Kavanaugh remains short of the votes to be confirmed in the 51-seat GOP majority. And moderate Democrats, none of whom said they will support Kavanaugh thus far, are balking at moving too quickly. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) also said the allegations need to be “thoroughly investigated” by the Senate Judiciary Committee, adding that both Ford and Kavanaugh have separately agreed to testify.
“It takes courage for any woman to speak up about sexual assault, and we need to respect Prof. Ford by listening to her and hearing her story,” Heitkamp said in a statement that she tweeted.
Katz, during the CBS interview, said she has heard that Republicans “intend to play hardball” if Ford testifies.
“This is not an exercise that is designed to get at the truth,” she said. This is an exercise that’s designed to terrify somebody that’s already been traumatized.”
Democrats have spent weeks trying to slow down Kavanaugh’s confirmation by pushing for additional documents from the 53-year-old appeals court judge’stenure in the administration of former President George W. Bush. Republicans have sought to portray Democratic calls for delay following the assault allegation as politically motivated, questioning why Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) did not act earlier on a letter she received from Ford in July, but Feinstein has pushed back by noting that Ford herself had insisted on confidentiality before stepping forward on Sunday.
“The Judiciary Committee should treat this with the seriousness it deserves,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, a GOP Judiciary Committee member. “That Democrats have so egregiously mishandled this up until now is no excuse for us to do the same. If Democrats reject the committee handling this swiftly and in a bipartisan way through regular order, then it’s clear that their only intention is to smear Judge Kavanaugh and derail his nomination.”
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), a senior member of the Judiciary panel, told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Monday said Ford’s willingness to testify “puts the burden on” the Senate to ensure she is heard. Durbin added that “an extra week or two” added to Kavanaugh’s confirmation process in order to vet Ford’s allegations might be warranted.
“There’s nothing sacred about this next Thursday vote. This was manufactured by the Republicans to move it quickly,” he said.
Kavanaugh’s future is also being litigated in key Senate races. Democratic Senate candidate Phil Bredesen, who is running to replace Corker, is also calling for the hearings to be delayed, an aide said, while Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee said the nomination should go forward.
And Heitkamp’s opponent, Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), said that “absent significant evidence being brought forth immediately, I feel Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation process should proceed.”