Assault claim against Trump court nominee eases pressure on vulnerable Democrats

Eleanor McManus

Trading accusations, Democratic and Republican senators quarreled Tuesday over who will testify at what promises to be a dramatic and emotional hearing next Monday with Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and the woman who says he sexually assaulted her when they were in high school.

Attorneys for Blasey said Tuesday night that she will not agree to testify before the Senate, which has planned a hearing next week, until the FBI investigates her claims.

There are growing calls for Mark Judge to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee as it considers allegations of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh, but Judge appears unwilling to speak publicly on the matter.

Lisa Banks, an attorney for Ford, told CNN her client was dealing with "hate mail, harassment, death threats" and that her immediate focus was protecting herself and her family.

Republicans including President Trump have cast doubt upon Ford's accusation by pointing out that it came to light mere days before Kavanaugh was set to be approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee - and after his confirmation hearings had already been concluded.

It could mean the committee will only hear Judge Kavanaugh's version of events, as Adam Liptak of the New York Times explains.

Kavanaugh has categorically denied the allegation and said he would testify to "refute this false allegation".

"In fact, I have no memory of this alleged incident". "It's just so polar opposite of the Brett Kavanaugh that I've known for 35 years".

Ford's husband, Russell, put that idea nicely in an interview with The Washington Post, which initially broke the news of the accuser's identity. However, Trump rejected the idea of bringing in the Federal Bureau of Investigation to reopen its background check of Kavanaugh, which would be likely to delay a confirmation vote until after the election.

Said Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, a key Republican on the panel, said, "We should proceed as planned". It did so. I now implore Dr. Ford to accept the invitation for Monday, in a public or private setting.

"Monday is her opportunity", Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday, a line that was echoed by other Republicans throughout the day.

Republicans responded that reopening the investigation is up to the White House and they are sticking with their plans for a Monday hearing - with or without Ford's participation.

Democrats have objected to the proposed hearing format, with Feinstein arguing there should be more than just two witnesses, possibly to include people in whom Ford previously confided.

Even before Ford's eleventh-hour letter Tuesday, Senate Republicans were chafing at what they characterized as political obstruction from the Democrats, who have been eager to delay votes on Kavanaugh's confirmation for as long as possible since long before the allegation became public. While there's little question that we are very late in Kavanaugh's confirmation process, Ford sent a letter to Democratic California Sen.

Meanwhile, Kavanaugh has been calling Republican senators, and John Kennedy of Louisiana said the nominee was committed to moving forward.

Kavanaugh has said that he is willing to testify on this matter "if the Senate is willing to hear him", according to White House spokesman Raj Shah.

The panel's Republican chairman, Senator Chuck Grassley, said he would postpone the vote and would now hold a hearing with both Kavanaugh and his accuser on Monday.

Democrats, already fiercely opposed to Kavanaugh, whose confirmation could consolidate the conservative grip on the top US court, had demanded a delay in the committee's vote to let the FBI investigate.

Expectations of a showdown have led to comparisons with the lurid and high-stakes 1991 Senate hearing on Clarence Thomas, the conservative Supreme Court justice accused of repeated sexual harassment by a former assistant, Anita Hill.

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