WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans on Wednesday ramped up pressure on a California professor to testify Monday about her sexual misconduct accusations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh — but without the FBI investigation she has demanded.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) sent a letter to attorneys for the accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, saying the special hearing for Kavanaugh and her was still on for Monday and gave her a Friday morning deadline to say if she intends to appear.
But Lisa Banks, a lawyer for Ford, said in a statement that moving forward with a hearing is “not a fair or good faith investigation,” adding, “The rush to a hearing is unnecessary, and contrary to the Committee discovering the truth.”
But Banks did not say if Ford would decline to testify.
The impasse left the nomination in a state of suspension for now in what has been a bitterly fought partisan Senate battle over the nomination of Kavanaugh, a conservative judge chosen to replace the more moderate Justice Anthony Kennedy, who retired.
Grassley stressed he was trying to offer options to Ford to make it more comfortable to testify, including public or private hearings, or a public or private interview in which the staff would be willing to fly to California or elsewhere to meet with her.
President Donald Trump joined several Republican senators — including Susan Collins of Maine, a key vote in Kavanaugh’s confirmation — in urging Ford to testify as they signaled they’re ready to move on to committee and Senate votes on the nomination.
“Look, if she shows up and makes a credible showing, that will be very interesting, and we’ll have to make a decision,” Trump said. “But I can only say this: He is such an outstanding man. Very hard for me to imagine that anything happened.”
Collins said on a Maine radio show: “I think it's not fair to Judge Kavanaugh for her not to come forward and testify.”
Ford alleged that three decades ago at a house party in suburban Washington, a drunken Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed, groped her, tried to disrobe her and put his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream. She said she escaped when his friend Mark Judge jumped on them.
Kavanaugh, a D.C. Circuit Court judge, categorically denied the event happened.
Judge, the friend, said he could not recall such a party. And another friend Ford said she saw at that party, Patrick J. Smyth, on Wednesday said he had no knowledge of it.
Ford had requested the FBI investigate her claims because, her lawyers said, it would “ensure that the crucial facts and witnesses in this matter are assessed in a nonpartisan manner, and that the Committee is fully informed” before it acts.
Their request had a precedent: The contentious hearing over Anita Hill’s sexual harassment allegations against Clarence Thomas in his confirmation process in 1991 did not begin until after a three-day FBI investigation of her claims.
Democrats had already requested that the FBI investigate Ford’s accusation.
“Senate Republicans and the White House should drop their inexplicable opposition to an FBI investigation, allow all the facts to come out, and then proceed with a fair process in the Senate,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) tweeted.
But in a letter to the committee’s Democrats, Grassley said, “We have no power to commandeer an Executive Branch agency into conducting our due diligence. The job of assessing and investigating a nominee's qualifications in order to decide whether to consent to the nomination is ours, and ours alone.”
But Republicans made it clear they want to quickly get past these allegations to allow them to hold a committee vote next week and a full Senate vote soon after that.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a Judiciary Committee member, tweeted: “It is imperative the Judiciary committee move forward on the Kavanaugh nomination and a committee vote be taken ASAP.”