Kavanaugh Accuser Wants F.B.I. Investigation Before Testifying
Attorneys for Christine Blasey Ford want the F.B.I. to investigate the charges she has made against Judge Kavanaugh before she testifies, but it's entirely unclear what such an investigation would accomplish.
The attorneys for Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who has accused Judge Brett Kavanaugh of having sexually assaulted her at a Suburban Maryland party more than thirty years, are saying that their client wants an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation before she would sit down before the Senate Judiciary Committee:
WASHINGTON — The woman who has accused President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee of sexual assault all but ruled out appearing at an extraordinary Senate hearing scheduled for next week to hear her allegations, insisting on Tuesday that the F.B.I. investigate first.
Speaking through lawyers, Christine Blasey Ford said she would cooperate with the Senate Judiciary Committee and left open the possibility of testifying later about her allegations against Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh. But echoing Senate Democrats, she said an investigation should be “the first step” before she is put “on national television to relive this traumatic and harrowing incident.”
Republicans signaled Tuesday night that they would not negotiate an alternative date and would go ahead with the hearing without her or declare it unnecessary if she refuses to appear, then possibly move to a vote. They have repeatedly stressed that Monday would be Dr. Blasey’s opportunity to testify, either privately or publicly, and that they planned to move forward with the confirmation process afterward.
The apparent standoff was yet another turn in a high-stakes drama over the president’s second Supreme Court nominee that began Thursday, when the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee revealed that she had referred the sexual assault allegations to federal investigators. Dr. Blasey, a research psychologist in Northern California, has accused Judge Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her more than 30 years ago when they were teenagers at a boozy high school party, a charge that he has categorically denied.
In a letter sent to the committee on Tuesday evening, Dr. Blasey’s lawyers charged that some senators have already “made up their minds,” but she did not explicitly reject appearing before them. In an appearance on CNN, however, one of the lawyers, Lisa J. Banks, seemed to suggest that Dr. Blasey would not show up on Monday.
“She’s not prepared to talk with them at a hearing on Monday,” Ms. Banks said. Even if Republicans agreed to an F.B.I. investigation, it would take time to complete, she added. “No legitimate investigation is going to happen between now and Monday.”
Democratic leaders quickly endorsed Dr. Blasey’s position, but her resistance to coming to the committee on Monday seemed to harden the resolve of Republicans who said they gave her a chance to make her case.
“Republicans extended a hand in good faith,” said Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, one of the Republicans who insisted on postponing a vote until she could be heard. “If we don’t hear from both sides on Monday, let’s vote.”
Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa and the Judiciary Committee chairman, said he would welcome Dr. Blasey for a staff-led interview or a private hearing, if she preferred, but made clear he was sticking with the schedule for Monday.
“Dr. Ford’s testimony would reflect her personal knowledge and memory of events,” he said in a statement. “Nothing the F.B.I. or any other investigator does would have any bearing on what Dr. Ford tells the committee, so there is no reason for any further delay.”
Mr. Trump joined other Republicans in rejecting an F.B.I. investigation of the long-ago episode even before Dr. Blasey’s letter was sent on Tuesday evening. The bureau “said that they really don’t do that, that’s not what they do,” Mr. Trump said during a news conference. “And now they have done supposedly six background checks over the years as Judge Kavanaugh has gone beautifully up the ladder.”
In the letter to the Judiciary Committee, Dr. Blasey’s lawyers said that she has been the target of “vicious harassment and even death threats” since her name was made public on Sunday in an interview published in The Washington Post. Her email has been hacked, she has been impersonated online and she and her family have been forced to relocate out of their home, according to the lawyers, Ms. Banks and her partner, Debra S. Katz.
“While Dr. Ford’s life was being turned upside down, you and your staff scheduled a public hearing for her to testify at the same table as Judge Kavanaugh in front of two dozen U.S. Senators on national television to relive this traumatic and harrowing incident,” the lawyers wrote to Mr. Grassley. The hearing “would include interrogation by senators who appear to have made up their minds that she is ‘mistaken’ and ‘mixed up.'”
Dr. Blasey, who is sometimes referred to by her married name, Ford, “wants to cooperate with the committee and with law enforcement officials” but believes that a “full investigation” by the F.B.I. would be necessary to form a nonpartisan assessment before any hearing, the lawyers wrote.
Both Dr. Blasey, 51, and Judge Kavanaugh, 53, had said on Monday morning that they were willing to come before the committee. In response, Mr. Grassley postponed a vote on the judge’s confirmation and scheduled the hearing for next week. An aide to Mr. Grassley said that the committee never intended to seat the two witnesses together at one table or even on one panel.
Democrats and Republicans spent much of Tuesday arguing over the scope and shape of what such a hearing would entail. Mr. Grassley told the radio host Hugh Hewitt that Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Blasey would be the only witnesses, prompting pushback from top Democrats.
Another potential witness, Mark Judge, a friend of Judge Kavanaugh’s who Dr. Blasey said was in the room when the assault occurred, told the Judiciary Committee he does not remember it. “I never saw Brett act in the manner Dr. Ford describes,” he said in a statement sent by his lawyers, adding that “I do not wish to speak publicly” about the matter.
More from The Washington Post:
The woman who has accused Brett M. Kavanaugh of sexual assault decades ago wants the FBI to investigate her allegation before she testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee — a demand that came as President Trump and Senate Republicans increasingly rallied to the defense of the embattled Supreme Court nominee.
“A full investigation by law enforcement officials will ensure that the crucial facts and witnesses in this matter are assessed in a non-partisan manner, and that the committee is fully informed before conducting any hearing or making any decisions,” lawyers for the woman, Christine Blasey Ford, said in a letter to the panel late Tuesday.
The committee had invited Kavanaugh and Ford to testify at a public hearing Monday, but Ford’s response raises questions about whether the GOP will proceed with the session and ultimately the vote on Kavanaugh, who was nominated in July to replace the retired Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. The two-page letter does not explicitly say she will not attend if there is no FBI probe.
Many Republican officials maintained Tuesday that such a hearing would be Kavanaugh’s best chance at preserving his nomination to the high court, since it would give the judge — who seems determined to fight the allegation — an opportunity to respond to the claims. But Democrats, like Ford, argued that the scheduled Monday session should be delayed until the FBI further investigates her allegation.
The letter from Ford’s lawyers described death threats and harassment since The Washington Post published her account Sunday.
“In the 36 hours since her name became public, Dr. Ford has received a stunning amount of support from her community and from fellow citizens across our country. At the same time, however, her worst fears have materialized,” the letter said. “She has been the target of vicious harassment and even death threats. As a result of these kind of threats, her family was forced to relocate out of their home. Her email has been hacked, and she has been impersonated online.”
The letter also refers to Ford testifying ”at the same table” as Kavanaugh, although a spokesman for Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said it was never the plan, nor was it conveyed to Ford and her attorneys, to have them testify together.
In a statement late Tuesday night, Grassley disputed that the FBI would need to investigate before Ford appeared before the committee and said: ”The invitation for Monday still stands.”
“Dr. Ford’s testimony would reflect her personal knowledge and memory of events,” Grassley said. “Nothing the FBI or any other investigator does would have any bearing on what Dr. Ford tells the committee, so there is no reason for any further delay.”
The FBI declined to comment Tuesday after the letter from Ford’s lawyers was made public. The Justice Department said previously that the FBI updated Kavanaugh’s background-check file to include the allegation and suggested that that is the extent of what the agency plans to do.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, urged Republicans to delay Monday’s hearing after Ford’s lawyers sent their response. The high-stakes hearing was set without consultation with Ford, although Grassley’s office has said his staff offered Ford multiple dates for a potential hearing.
“I agree with her 100 percent that the rushed process to hold a hearing on Monday has been unfair and is reminiscent of the treatment of Anita Hill,” Feinstein said, referring to the woman who testified in 1991 that now-Justice Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her. “I also agree that we need the facts before senators — not staff or lawyers — speak to witnesses.”
Earlier, Democrats protested Republicans’ decision to limit the witnesses at Monday’s hearing to just Ford and Kavanaugh, saying it would turn the testimony into a “he said, she said” spectacle.
At a White House news conference Tuesday afternoon, Trump encouraged the hearing to proceed so Ford can ”state her case,” but he predicted that the public setting would ultimately exonerate Kavanaugh and expressed sympathy for his nominee.
“I feel so badly for him that he’s going through this,” Trump said. ”. . . This is not a man that deserves this.”
He called Kavanaugh “a great gentleman” and lamented that his wife and daughters are experiencing the public airing of accusations that Trump said Feinstein should have brought up earlier in his confirmation process. Feinstein has said she kept the accusation confidential at Ford’s request.
Though Kavanaugh’s confirmation prospects looked shaky earlier this week after Ford’s allegations became public, senior Republicans on Tuesday were increasingly determined to press forward with his nomination.
“All I can say is that we’re bringing this to a close,” said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.). “They’ve had tons of time to do this. This has been a drive-by shooting when it comes to Kavanaugh. . . . I’ll listen to the lady, but we’re going to bring this to a close.”
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), a close Kavanaugh friend who introduced him at his confirmation hearings this month, said, ”Obviously, the process was very unfair.” He added: ”I’m not blaming [Ford], I’m blaming the Democrats who misused this process.”
And Sen. John Cornyn (Tex.), the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, sharply questioned Ford’s credibility. Speaking to reporters, Cornyn said he was concerned by “gaps” in the account of Ford, who told The Washington Post that, 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.
“The problem is, Dr. Ford can’t remember when it was, where it was or how it came to be,” Cornyn told reporters at the Capitol.
All of this came at the end of the day when Senators, most White House spokespersons, and Judge Kavanaugh spent most of the day behind closed doors. At the White House, staffers are already working with Kavanaugh on preparation for the anticipated hearings on Monday regarding Dr. Blasey Ford’s charges against Judge Kavanaugh. On Capitol Hill, meanwhile, Senators and staffers were working in preparation of the hearings and, for the better part of the day attempting to work together with the attorneys for Dr. Blasey Ford to allow Monday’s planned hearing before the Judiciary Committee to go forward. For the better part of the day, Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley was telling reporters that his efforts to reach out to the attorneys had not yet been successful. It wasn’t until later in the day, when Blasey Ford’s lawyers had released the letter embedded below and appeared on CNN yesterday evening and stated that her client apparently would not testify before the Committee on Monday notwithstanding the fact that this same attorney had said Monday morning that her client was ready, willing, and able to testify before the committee . Prior to this, every Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, and several crucial Republicans who have the power to defeat or delay the nomination had responded to the revelation of Blasey Ford’s identity with calls for a hearing on the charges before the Committee. Now it seems fair to say that Blasey Ford’s attorneys are attempting to move the goalposts by delaying any potential hearing for weeks at least while the F.B.I. conducts an investigation that most likely would not uncover anything at all.
I can understand why Dr. Blasey Ford may be reluctant to come forward for a hearing that at least has the appearance of being a rushed, pro forma, hearing that would consist of little more than her and Judge Kavanaugh testifying regarding these allegations. I also understand why her attorneys would want to take a position that best protects their client’s interest not only with regard to her legal rights but also her reputation, her well-being, and her ability to recover from what, if she is to be believed, is an assault that left profound scars on her psyche. One need only look at the last time this same Committee, albeit largely with different members, was dealing with sexual harassment allegations against a Supreme Court nominee.1 I’m referring, of course, to Anita Hill’s charges against Clarence Thomas during the consideration of his nomination in 1991 and the manner in which she was treated by both Republican and Democratic members of the Committee. The prospect of being treated in a similar manner on Monday is obviously not something that anyone would be looking forward to, or necessarily want to willingly participate in.
All that being said, I’m skeptical of the demand now being made for an investigation by the F.B.I. of an incident that occurred more than thirty years ago when it seems clear that there are few avenues that could possibly be investigated that would give the committee any additional information. In her statements to The Washington Post on Sunday, Dr. Blasey Ford states that she can’t recall the exact date that the attack occurred other than to say that it happened at a party sometime in the summer of 1982. She also said that she didn’t know where the attack occurred other than to say that it happened somewhere in the Suburban Maryland area in one of the many suburbs near Washington, D.C. Although she doesn’t say so, it doesn’t appear that she was personally acquainted with many of the people at the party, although she must have known at least some of them given the fact that she was too young at the time to have driven herself there. While the fact that she doesn’t remember these details does not mean that the attack did not occur, it does raise the question of what exactly the F.B.I. or anyone else can investigate beyond speaking to the three people she says were in the room when this happened, Judge Kavanaugh, the accuser herself, and Mark Judge, a friend of Kavanaugh’s who has already said he doesn’t remember any incident and isn’t willing to testify before the committee. Judge Kavanaugh, meanwhile, denies the incident ever took place. Finally, it’s worth mentioning that Judge Kavanaugh has been the subject of several F.B.I. background checks over the past two decades due to the positions he has held in government. Presumably, this would have included conversations with people who knew him when he was a student at Georgetown Prep. If one of those people knew about this then one would think some hint of it would have come out at some point during those investigations. Taking all of this into account, I am not at all certain exactly what there is for the F.B.I. to investigate unless there are people out there who remember some unnamed party at an unidentified house somewhere in Suburban Maryland thirty-six years ago. Absent blindly going through the yearbooks of basically every High School, public and private, in the D.C. area from the relevant time period and randomly reaching out to people to see if they remember an unspecified party at an unspecified location on an unspecified date I’m not at all sure what exactly the Bureau can do in this situation that would be productive or which would shed any more light on what is obviously a disputed set of facts.
As things stand now, Monday’s hearing is still on the docket and the Committee intends to go forward at that time. If Blasey Ford doesn’t show up, though, or if she declines to cooperate unless her request for an F.B.I. investigation is honored, I’m not sure what the Committee can do. Chairman Chuck Grassley is saying that he sees no need for such an investigation and that the Committee remains ready to hear from Dr. Blasey Ford on Monday, whether in public or in private, but that he sees no need for an F.B.I. investigation. Blasey Ford’s demands also don’t seem to be going over well with many of the Republicans who had initially called for a hearing after Blasey Ford came forward. Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, for example, said that if Blasey Ford isn’t willing to testify before the committee then the committee and the Senate should move forward with a vote both in the Committee and, after that, the full Senate. Additionally, both Senators Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins have said that the Monday hearing should go forward, although Collins has suggested changing the format of the hearings somewhat. Senator Lindsey Graham, who also called for a hearing after the charges became public, is now saying that the committee should move forward if Blasey Ford declines to testify. Most importantly, Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, who sits on the Judiciary Committee and previously said that he would not vote for the nomination without a further committee investigation of the charges, has said that he would most likely vote to approve the nomination in committee if Blasey Ford declines to appear before the committee as scheduled.
Where this goes from here is unclear. This has been a fast-moving story as it is, so it’s entirely possible that there could be more developments as the days unfold between now and Monday. As things stand, I tend to believe Dr. Blasey Ford. Not only is it unlikely that a woman would make up an allegation like this, but we already know that she had told her husband and therapist about this incident six years ago, long before Judge Kavanaugh was nominated to the Supreme Court. It’s also apparent that, at least initially, she did not wish to come forward. All that being said, if she isn’t willing to come forward and tell her story in public and under oath then I am not sure what else there is the committee can or should do other than go forward with the normal process that would still likely result in Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
Here’s the letter from Dr. Blasey Ford’s attorney:
Christine Blasey Ford Lette… by on Scribd
And the letter from Mark Judge’s attorney:
Mark Judge Letter To Judici… by on Scribd
1 And yes, I am aware that the charges against Kavanaugh, if true, amount to sexual assault and perhaps even attempted rape and are therefore far more serious than the charges leveled against Justice Clarence Thomas by Anita Hill in 1991.