GOP pushes to move forward with Kavanaugh confirmation if his accuser won’t testify

Republican lawmakers on Wednesday appeared poised to move ahead with a confirmation vote on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who is accused of sexually assaulting a woman while they were in high school, if the woman does not participate in a Senate hearing to air the allegation.

Lawyers for Christine Blasey Ford indicated Tuesday night that she would not agree to attend the hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee scheduled for Monday under the current circumstances.

 

In a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Ford’s attorneys called for an FBI investigation into the allegations, saying that “a full investigation by law enforcement officials will ensure that the crucial facts and witnesses in this matter are assessed in a nonpartisan manner, and that the Committee is fully informed before conducting any hearing or making any decision.”

 
 

Grassley, however, said that no law enforcement investigation was warranted and that the invitation for her to testify on Monday “still stands.”

The chairman responded to Ford’s lawyers Wednesday afternoon in a letter in which he said again that FBI involvement is not needed and that the Senate doesn’t have the power to authorize such an investigation.

“It is not the FBI’s role to investigate a matter such as this,” Grassley wrote, saying the White House requests and provides FBI background investigation files to the Senate “as a courtesy to help us determine whether to confirm a nominee. The FBI does not make a credibility assessment of any information it receives with respect to a nominee.”

“You have stated repeatedly that Dr. Ford wants to tell her story. I sincerely hope that Dr. Ford will accept my invitation to do so, either privately or publicly, on Monday. In the meantime, my staff would still welcome the opportunity to speak with Dr. Ford at a time and place convenient to her,” said Grassley, echoing a statement by spokesman Garrett Ventry earlier Wednesday that the chairman was willing to send committee staff to speak to Ford in California “if that is what she prefers.”

 

Grassley also said that the committee has attempted to contact Ford’s lawyers directly by phone and email “several times to schedule a call at a time convenient for you and your client. We thus far have not heard back from you with regard to that request.” He said Ford would need to submit her biography and prepared testimony by Friday at 10 a.m. if she intends to testify Monday.

In a series of tweets earlier in the day, Grassley said that investigators for the panel are “following up on the leads from Dr. Ford’s allegations & news stories. No other OUTSIDE investigation is necessary…”

On Wednesday, other GOP lawmakers also signaled that without Ford’s testimony, a confirmation vote on Kavanaugh could go forward. President Donald Trump, for his part, said it would be “unfortunate” if Ford chose not to appear before the panel.

 

“I really want to see her. I would really want to see what she has to say. But I want to give it all the time they need. They’ve already given it time. They’ve delayed a major hearing,” he told reporters on the White House South Lawn on Wednesday.

“This is a very tough thing for him and his family, and we want to get it over with but at the same time we want to give it tremendous amounts of time. If she shows up, that would be wonderful. If she doesn’t show up, that would be unfortunate,” Trump added.

The president also criticized the handling of the allegation by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, who said she has been aware of the information from Ford since she received her letter in July.

Feinstein quickly shot back. “President Trump, Dr. Blasey Ford did not want her story of sexual assault to be public,” she tweeted. “She requested confidentiality and I honored that. It wasn’t until the media outed her that she decided to come forward. You may not respect women and the wishes of victims, but I do.”

 

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a member of the Judiciary Committee, said in a tweet that requiring an FBI investigation “is more about stalling the process until after November’s elections than getting to the truth.”

“It is imperative the Judiciary committee move forward on the Kavanaugh nomination and a committee vote be taken ASAP,” Graham said Wednesday.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a possible no vote on Kavanaugh tweeted Wednesday that she hopes Ford “will reconsider” the offer and testify on Monday: “It is my understanding that the Committee has offered to hold either a public or a private session, whichever would make her more comfortable,” wrote Collins.

“After learning of the allegation, Chairman @ChuckGrassley took immediate action to ensure both Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh have the opportunity to be heard, in public or private. Republicans extended a hand in good faith. If we don’t hear from both sides on Monday, let’s vote,” Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., tweeted late Tuesday.

 

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who sits on the judiciary committee, said in a Tuesday tweet: “When Dr. Ford came forward, I said that her voice should be heard and asked the Judiciary Committee to delay its vote on Judge Kavanaugh. It did so. I now implore Dr. Ford to accept the invitation for Monday, in a public or private setting. The committee should hear her voice.”

Ford detailed her allegations in The Washington Post earlier this week in which she claims Kavanaugh drunkenly attempted to sexually assault her while they were teenagers in Maryland in the 1980s. Kavanaugh has vehemently denied the allegations, and accepted Grassley’s invitation to appear before the panel on Monday.

Trump reiterated on Wednesday that he believes the FBI does not want to look into Ford’s allegation.

“Well, it would seem that the FBI really doesn’t do that,” Trump told reporters on the White House South Lawn in response to a question about whether he would order a probe.

 

The only way the FBI can investigate the allegations is if the White House asks the bureau to do so.

Anita Hill, whose 1991 testimony that now-Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her created a political maelstrom, urged the committee on Wednesday to halt the confirmation vote until the allegations against Kavanaugh were fully investigated.

“My advice right now in my experience really is more directed to the senators and to the Senate Judiciary Committee in particular, and my advice is to push the pause button on this hearing, get the information together, bring in the experts and put together a hearing that is fair, that is impartial, that is not biased by politics or by bet, and bring this information to the American public,” she told ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

 

 

This article originally appeared on NBC