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US Politics

US Supreme Court nominee’s accuser won’t testify on Monday but open to doing so later next week

A lawyer for Christine Blasey Ford says her client ‘wishes to testify, provided that we can agree on terms that are fair and which ensure her safety’

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 September, 2018, 5:47am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 September, 2018, 6:49am

A lawyer for Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers, said on Thursday that her client’s appearance at a hearing on Monday to detail her claims is “not possible” but that she could testify later in the week.

Debra Katz, Ford’s lawyer, relayed the response to top staffers on the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, requesting to set up a call with them to “discuss the conditions under which [Ford] would be prepared to testify next week”.

“As you are aware, she’s been receiving death threats which have been reported to the FBI, and she and her family have been forced out of their home,” Katz wrote to the committee.

“She wishes to testify, provided that we can agree on terms that are fair and which ensure her safety. A hearing on Monday is not possible and the committee’s insistence that it occur then is arbitrary in any event.”

Katz continued: “Dr. Ford has asked me to let you know that she appreciates the various options you have suggested. Her strong preference continues to be for the Senate Judiciary Committee to allow for a full investigation before her testimony.”

The statement to the Senate came after Republicans vowed Thursday morning to press forward with a vote on Kavanaugh if Ford declined to testify on Monday. It was not immediately clear how Republicans would respond to Ford’s request to testify later in the week.

“If she doesn’t want to participate and tell her story, there’s no reason for us to delay,” Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas told CNN. “I think it all depends on what she decides to do. We’ve all made clear this is her chance.”

‘He was trying to attack me’: Supreme Court nominee accused of sexual misconduct

The timetable brought cries of protest from Democrats, who have called on the FBI to investigate the allegations made by Ford, a professor from California, and to expand the number of witnesses who would be called beyond Ford and Kavanaugh.

“What is happening with the Judiciary Committee, really, I would call it a railroad job,” Senator Mazie Hirono, Democrat of Hawaii, said. “They are totally intent on getting Judge Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court come hell or high water … You have to ask yourself why.”

Hirono spoke at an event on Capitol Hill on Thursday held to highlight a letter of support that was said to have been signed by more than 1,000 alumnae of Ford’s high school in Maryland.

Speaking at the same event, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, said she considered the Republican ultimatum of a Monday hearing to be “bullying”.

Gillibrand also contended that Ford’s call for an FBI investigation bolstered her credibility.

“Someone who is lying does not ask the FBI to investigate their claims,” she said. “Who is not asking the FBI to investigate these claims? The White House. Judge Kavanaugh has not asked to have the FBI investigate these claims. Is that the reaction of an innocent person? It is not.”

Brett Kavanaugh denies claim of sexual misconduct

In a letter sent to Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, Ford wrote that while she and Kavanaugh were at a house party in the early 1980s, when the two were in high school, Kavanaugh drunkenly pinned her to a bed, groped her and put his hand over her mouth to stifle her screams as he tried to take off her clothes. Kavanaugh has denied the allegations.

Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Charles Grassley, Republican of Iowa, on Wednesday told Ford’s lawyers to respond by 10am Friday, submitting her written testimony and biography, if she planned to appear before the panel at a hearing planned for Monday.

Ford, through her lawyers, has requested that the FBI conduct an investigation into the alleged incident before she speaks to the committee, and Senate Democrats have lined up behind her.

But Republicans have not budged from their view that the FBI does not need to intervene, or from their plan to hear testimony from Kavanaugh and Ford on Monday.

Trump defends Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh

Cornyn said on Thursday that he sees no reason to call additional witnesses, noting that the committee already held a full hearing on President Donald Trump’s nominee.

“We already had a hearing,” Cornyn said. “That’s what I call hijacking the regular committee process to accommodate political interests.”

On Thursday, a group of eight Democrats wrote to Trump, asking him to direct the FBI to reopen its background check on Kavanaugh, a judge on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

The Democrats, all of whom served as prosecutors or state attorneys general, noted that President George H.W. Bush asked the FBI to investigate after law professor Anita Hill raised allegations of sexual harassment against Clarence Thomas in 1991. That investigation took three days. Thomas went on to be appointed to the Supreme Court.

“Senate Republicans are attempting to make Dr. Blasey Ford testify on just a few days’ notice – without having the FBI follow up on her allegations and provide a report first,” said the letter, which was spearheaded by Senators Kamala Harris of California and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

“This strikes us as simply a check-the-box exercise in a rush to confirm Judge Kavanaugh.”