WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats accused Republicans Thursday of using roughshod tactics against the woman who is accusing Brett Kavanagh of a decades-old sexual attack as Republicans forged ahead in their drive to push his Supreme Court nomination through the Senate.
With Kavanaugh’s confirmation in the balance, it remained unclear whether Christine Blasey Ford would appear at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing set for Monday, to which both were invited. Panel Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has told Ford’s attorneys that the panel was giving the California psychology professor until 10 a.m. Friday to submit a biography and a prepared statement “if she intends to testify.”
Republicans say they’ve tried to accommodate Ford, offering to let her testify in public or private and suggesting that committee aides would travel to her California home to take testimony. Kavanaugh, currently a judge on the powerful District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals, has denied her allegation.
Democrats have leapt to support Ford, with Washington state Sen. Patty Murray saying Thursday that Republicans should be “ashamed” for pushing forward without a fair investigation. That echoed Democrats’ effort to broaden the nomination fight into a referendum on whether women who allege abuse are taken seriously by men — a theme that could echo in this November’s elections for control of Congress.
“If you have been assaulted or harassed by a powerful Republican man, you better not talk about it or you’re going to pay a price,” Murray said concerning Ford’s situation.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said Republicans are “bullying” Ford by giving her a Monday deadline to testify to the committee. Gillibrand said Republicans want a “he said, she said” scenario because men are usually believed.
Kavanaugh was spotted at the White House Thursday, and allies say he is eager to address the accusation and will be prepared to address the committee Monday.
President Donald Trump kept quiet on Twitter, though he continues to back his nominee. The White House would like to see Ford testify so it will be clear she has been given the space to speak, but believes that if she doesn’t, the process will continue and he will be confirmed, according to people who weren’t authorized to discuss administration thinking by name.
Through her attorneys, Ford left her attendance at Monday’s hearing in doubt. And despite Grassley’s schedule, it remained unclear if that hearing would occur without her, as a drama that has riveted Washington since emerging a week ago was injected with a fresh burst of election-season suspense.
Ford lawyer Lisa Banks said in a statement late Wednesday that Ford would cooperate with a thorough, nonpartisan probe. After indicating earlier this week that she would appear before lawmakers, Ford wants other witnesses — not just Ford and Kavanaugh — to participate and wants the FBI to reopen its background check of Kavanaugh. Those demands have been backed by Democrats but dismissed by top Republicans.
Banks reiterated that Ford has had to leave her home because of threats to her family’s safety and said, “Fairness and respect for her situation dictate that she should have time to deal with this.”
Ford has contended that at a house party in the 1980s, a drunken Kavanaugh tried undressing her and stifling her cries on a bed before she fled.
Trump and Senate Republicans have been emphatic that an FBI renewal of its background checks on Kavanaugh won’t happen, saying an investigation by committee staff — which Democrats are boycotting — is sufficient.
Republican leaders trying to keep GOP senators behind Kavanaugh are offering Ford a chance to describe her allegation, either in a hearing room before television cameras or in private. Republicans have largely stood by Kavanaugh’s denials.
Democrats are casting Republicans as strong-arming a wronged woman, their eyes on a #MeToo movement that has caught fire and exploded the careers of dozens of male titans.
Republicans are resisting all Democratic efforts to slow and perhaps block Kavanaugh’s confirmation. A substantial delay could push confirmation past the November elections, when Democrats have a shot at winning Senate control, plus allow more time for unforeseen problems to pop up.
There were signs the GOP moves were keeping possible Republican defections in check. The party controls the Senate 51-49 and the Judiciary panel by 11-10, so it cannot afford GOP “no” votes.
Moderate GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who’s had her share of clashes with Trump, said she hoped Ford would reconsider a decision not to testify and “it’s not fair to Judge Kavanaugh” if she refuses. “Otherwise, there are these very serious allegations hanging over the head of a nominee who has emphatically denied them,” she said on radio WVOM in Bangor.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Democrats’ demands for an FBI investigation were a ploy to delay a confirmation vote and said the Judiciary committee should vote on Kavanaugh “as soon as possible.”
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