Brett Kavanaugh and accuser say they will testify about assault allegations



Supreme Court Associate Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018. (Christy Bowe/Globe Photos/Zuma Press/TNS)

Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh’s carefully planned confirmation — once seen as a sure bet — slipped into limbo Monday after he and the woman accusing him of a decades-old sexual assault offered to testify about the allegations.
The Senate now appears increasingly unlikely to move ahead with a preliminary vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday because several key senators said they need to hear from the woman, Christine Blasey Ford, a psychology professor at Palo Alto University.
Republicans defended Kavanuagh and promised to investigate the claims. Democrats renewed their calls to slow down the process.
President Donald Trump said he was open to a delay, telling reporters that he wants to “go through a full process … and hear everybody out,” but saying that any idea of withdrawing Kavanaugh’s nomination was “ridiculous.”
The president added, “If it takes a little delay, it’ll take a little delay.”
Ford considers the incident, which allegedly occurred when both Ford and Kavanaugh were in high school in the early 1980s, an “attempted rape,” according to her attorney, Debra Katz.
Ford told The Washington Post that during a pool party in suburban Maryland, a drunken Kavanaugh pinned her down on a bed, tried to remove her clothing and covered her mouth when she yelled for help. She fled when a second boy at the party jumped on the bed, sending all three tumbling off.
Kavanaugh denied the claim. “This is a completely false allegation,” he said in a statement Monday. “I have never done anything like what the accuser describes  to her or to anyone. Because this never happened, I had no idea who was making this accusation until she identified herself yesterday.”
Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, who leads the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he planned to make arrangements to hear from both Ford and Kavanaugh through follow-up “phone calls,” though Democrats and some Republicans predicted both would likely need to testify in person publicly.
“Anyone who comes forward as Dr. Ford has deserves to be heard, so I will continue working on a way to hear her out in an appropriate, precedented and respectful manner,” Grassley said of the California professor.
Three moderate Republicans  — Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Bob Corker of Tennessee — have called on the Senate Judiciary Committee to hear testimony from Ford. Flake sits on the committee.
Republican leaders likely need nearly all of their 51 members to support the nomination, meaning any significant dissent would torpedo the confirmation. The votes of three moderate Democrats — Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota — are also in play, and all three said Ford needed to be heard.
“We need to respect Professor Ford by listening to her and hearing her story,” Heitkamp said.
Democrats, the vast majority of whom already oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination, were almost universally united in calling for a delay. All 10 Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee said the Thursday vote should be postponed and suggested that the Senate’s work should be postponed until the FBI — which has asked last week to review the matter — can complete its own work.
“To railroad a vote now would be a deep insult to the women of America, a lasting scar on the integrity of the Supreme Court,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y.
Some Republicans defended the nominee. Sen Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, a senior member of the Judiciary panel, said Kavanaugh told him Monday afternoon in a phone call that he wasn’t at the party where Ford said the assault took place.
When asked how Kavanaugh can be so confident when Ford has not shared the exact date, Hatch said he didn’t know, adding that “there is some question whether she is mixed up” on the details. He provided no details to support the assertion that Ford was confused.
“This is a serious charge. It has to be investigated. We need to have hearings,” Hatch said. “The judge, who I know very, very well, is an honest man said he (said) this didn’t happen.”
Katz denied that Ford has any political motive to try to thwart Trump’s nominee.
“No one in their right mind regardless of their motive would want to inject themselves into this process and face the kind of annihilation that she will be subjected to by those who want this nominee to go through,” Katz said. “This is not a politically motivated action.”
The administration is standing by Kavanaugh, who visited the White House on Monday morning. Spokeswoman Kerri Kupec recirculated a previous statement in support.
“On Friday, Judge Kavanaugh ‘categorically and unequivocally’ denied this allegation,” she said. “This has not changed. Judge Kavanaugh and the White House both stand by that statement.”
White House adviser Kellyanne Conway told Fox News that Ford should be heard and allowed to testify under oath. “This woman should not be ignored and should not be insulted,” Conway said. “She should be heard.”
Republicans, however, accused Democrats — particularly California Sen. Dianne Feinstein — of playing politics in an attempt to derail Kavanaugh’s nomination, noting that Feinstein knew of the allegations weeks ago and only referred the matter to the FBI last week.
“That Democrats have so egregiously mishandled this up until now is no excuse for us to do the same,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the No. 2 GOP leader. “If Democrats reject the committee handling this swiftly and in a bipartisan way through regular order, then it’s clear that their only intention is to smear Judge Kavanaugh and derail his nomination.”
“It’s deeply disturbing that the existence of these allegations were leaked in a way that seemed to preclude Dr. Ford’s confidentiality,” Grassley said.
Feinstein has said she did not reveal the allegations because Ford initially did not want to be publicly identified. Over the weekend, Ford went public in an interview with the Post, saying her name was beginning to leak out and her civic duty outweighed her desire for privacy.
Feinstein said Sunday that “staff calls aren’t the way to handle this” and called for the vote on Kavanaugh to be delayed until after the FBI can investigate.