(Bloomberg) — Christine Blasey Ford will testify in an open hearing on Thursday at 10 a.m. about what she says was a sexual assault by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh at a party decades ago, her lawyers said on Sunday, even as negotiations continue over certain details.
“Despite actual threats to her safety and her life, Dr. Ford believes it is important for Senators to hear directly from her about the sexual assault committed against her,” the California professor’s lawyers said in a statement following a call with staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The deal sets up a final showdown in the bitter fight over President Donald Trump’s second high court pick. The White House in a statement on Saturday continued its support for Kavanaugh, saying he’s “eager to testify publicly to defend his integrity and clear his good name.”
Sunday’s call was bipartisan and lasted about an hour, said a person familiar with the conversation who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.
Among the issues still being ironed out are how long senators will have to ask questions, the person said. Ford’s lawyers also added details for other witnesses they would like to be called, including two trauma experts; Republicans have so far declined to accommodate that request, the person said.
Republican lawmakers and the White House this weekend have cast doubt on Ford’s allegations, citing others she said also were at the party in question saying they have no recollection of it.
Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, said on “Fox News Sunday” said he wouldn’t vote against Kavanaugh without additional evidence.“Unless there’s something more, no, I’m not going to ruin Judge Kavanaugh’s life over this,” he said.
Graham said there’s no way Kavanaugh could be prosecuted based on the evidence presented so far. “You couldn’t get a warrant because the three people named by Dr. Ford as having been at the party outside of Kavanaugh all say they don’t know what she’s talking about,” he said.
In a statement late Saturday, the White House addressed the specifics of Ford’s case: it said the four other people Ford claimed were at the party where the incident allegedly occurred all denied “any knowledge of the incident or having attended such a party.”
According to the White House, a fourth denial was sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Saturday by Leland Keyser, whose lawyer said in a statement she “does not know Mr. Kavanaugh and she has no recollection of ever being at a party or gathering where he was present with, or without, Dr. Ford.” The Washington Post reported late Saturday that Keyser said in an interview that she was close friends with Ford and believed Ford’s allegation.
Debra Katz, one of Ford’s attorneys, noted that her client has said she didn’t share her story with anyone for years.
“It’s not surprising that Ms. Keyser has no recollection of the evening as they did not discuss it,” Katz said. “It’s also unremarkable that Ms. Keyser does not remember attending a specific gathering 30 years ago at which nothing of consequence happened to her. Dr. Ford, of course, will never forget this gathering because of what happened to her there.”
Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, also a Judiciary Committee member, questioned why Ford would have come forward if the allegation wasn’t true.
Nothing to Gain
“It really speaks to her credibility at this moment. What in the hell did she have to gain by doing this?” Durbin said on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday. “These are serious allegations that need to be investigated.”
A public hearing would be a high-stakes confrontation echoing the 1991 event when Anita Hill accused now-Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of sexually harassing her when he was her supervisor at two federal agencies. Thomas was confirmed after a hearing that infuriated many women who believed the all-male committee mistreated Hill.
“Dr. Ford will tell her story in the face of an impossible choice and vile bullying by Republican leadership,” said Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, a Judiciary Committee member. “I will support her steadfast bravery.”
Ford says Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a party during the early 1980s, when both were high school students in suburban Washington D.C. Kavanaugh strongly denies the claim.
In a Saturday email, attorneys Katz and Lisa Banks said many aspects of the proposal made by the Senate panel “are fundamentally inconsistent with the committee’s promise of a fair, impartial investigation into her allegations, and we are disappointed with the leaks and the bullying that have tainted the process.”
After several days of restraint by the president, Trump attacked Ford’s credibility on Twitter Friday, saying she should have filed charges decades ago if the alleged attack was “ as bad as she says.”
The president’s comments infuriated Democrats, dismayed many Republicans and risked further alienating women voters ahead of the Nov. 6 mid-term elections, in which Democrats have a chance to win control of the House and perhaps the Senate. On Twitter, the hashtag #WhyIDidntReport trended among women — and men — who explained why they didn’t report instances of assault from years or decades ago.
Senate Republicans hope to confirm Kavanaugh before the Supreme Court begins its new term on Oct. 1. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky expressed confidence to a gathering of conservatives in Washington that Kavanaugh will be confirmed.
‘Keep the Faith’
“In the very near future, Judge Kavanaugh will be on the Supreme Court,” McConnell said at the Values Voter Summit Friday. “Keep the faith, don’t get rattled by any of this.”
Trump’s tweet on Friday said: “I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents. I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time, and place!”
Ford, a professor at Palo Alto University, has said she didn’t tell anyone about the alleged attack at the time, in part because she didn’t want to tell her parents about underage drinking at a party where she said it occurred.
Ford says that Kavanaugh was drunk at a house party in about 1982, and that he pulled her into a bedroom then pinned her down on a bed, tried to remove her clothes and put his hand over her mouth to stop her from screaming. She said she was able to escape, but the Washington Post reported that she described the episode to a therapist in 2013 as a “rape attempt.”
In a letter Thursday to Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Kavanaugh wrote, “Since the moment I first heard this allegation, I have categorically and unequivocally denied it. I remain committed to defending my integrity.”
Kavanaugh appeared on a likely path to confirmation in a Senate controlled by the GOP 51-49 until Ford’s allegation came to light on Sept. 13, when Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California told the FBI about unspecified information she received in July about the nominee. Ford revealed her identity and details of the claim days later in an interview with the Washington Post.
Grassley and other Republican leaders were gearing up to muscle Kavanaugh’s confirmation through without testimony from the accuser, until her lawyers on Thursday began negotiations for the hearing.
Kavanaugh’s confirmation appears to turn mostly on the support or opposition of three Republican senators: Jeff Flake of Arizona, who is on the Judiciary panel that Republicans control 11-10; Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
“Congress failed the test in 1991 with Anita Hill,” Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington state, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday. “How the Senate handles this, and the Senate Republicans handle this, will be a test of this time — of 2018.”
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