Republicans and Kavanaugh accuser in stand-off over Senate testimony
The Senate Judiciary Committee chairman has rejected key concessions sought by US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser if she is to testify about her claim Mr Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers.
Senator Chuck Grassley also threatened a Monday vote by his panel on Mr Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination without a quick agreement.
Minutes before a 10pm deadline set by Mr Grassley, a lawyer for Christine Blasey Ford asked for another day to decide.
Lawyer Debra Katz said the time limit’s “sole purpose is to bully Dr Ford and deprive her of the ability to make a considered decision that has life-altering implications for her and her family”.
The late-night brinkmanship left in question whether Ms Ford, a California psychology professor, would appear before the Republican-run committee and tell politicians about her allegation that an inebriated Mr Kavanaugh trapped her on a bed, muffled her cries and tried removing her clothes when both were teenagers in the 1980s.
Mr Grassley turned down Ms Ford’s request that only senators, not lawyers, be allowed to ask questions.
The committee’s 11 Republicans — all men — have been seeking an outside female lawyer to interrogate Ms Ford.
He also rejected her proposal that she testify after Mr Kavanaugh.
“We are unwilling to accommodate your unreasonable demands,” Mr Grassley said in a written statement.
Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Senator Chuck Grassle (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)
Mr Grassley’s stance underscored a desire by President Donald Trump and Republican leaders to usher 53-year-old Mr Kavanaugh on to the high court by the October 1 start of its new session and before the November elections, when Democrats are mounting a robust drive to grab congressional control.
Friday was the latest in a string of tumultuous days for Mr Kavanaugh, whose ascension to the Supreme Court seemed a sure bet until Ms Ford emerged last weekend and provided details of the alleged assault.
Mr Kavanaugh, a District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals judge, has repeatedly denied the accusation.
Earlier, Mr Trump ended a week of constraint and sarcastically assailed Ms Ford, tweeting that if the episode was “as bad as she says,” she or “her loving parents” surely would have reported it to law enforcement.
At a campaign rally in Missouri later on Friday, Mr Trump did not mention Ms Ford but said Mr Kavanaugh was born to be on the Supreme Court and “it’s going to happen”.
The Judiciary panel’s top Democrat expressed fury at Mr Grassley’s negotiating position with Ms Ford and maintained Democrats’ effort to build the battle into a larger election-year question about the treatment of women.
“Bullying a survivor of attempted rape in order to confirm a nominee — particularly at a time when she’s receiving death threats — is an extreme abuse of power,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein.
Mr Grassley said he would schedule a hearing for Wednesday, not Thursday, as Ms Ford prefers.
“It is not fair to him or to his family to allow this situation to continue without a resolution and without an opportunity for him to clear his name,” he said about Mr Kavanaugh.
Mr Grassley consented to other demands, including that Ms Ford be provided security and that Mr Kavanaugh not be in the hearing room when she testifies.
Ms Ford’s request for security comes after her lawyers said she has relocated her family due to death threats. She planned to meet with FBI agents in the San Francisco area to discuss those threats, said a person close to her.
The Republican letter to Ms Ford’s lawyers said Mr Kavanaugh and his family have received death threats too, “And they’re getting worse each day”.
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