Status Of Kavanaugh Hearings Still Up In The Air
The status of a potential hearing in the Brett Kavanaugh nomination regarding the charges made by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford remain unclear, but the likelihood is that she will testify in the end.
At first, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley had given the attorneys for Christine Blasey Ford until 10:00 am yesterday to advise whether or not their client would appear for the hearing still apparently scheduled for Monday to testify about her charges against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Once negotiations had begun on Thursday, though, that deadline was pushed back, first to the close of business yesterday and then to late yesterday evening. As it stands, the parties apparently continue to go back and forth over the conditions under which Dr. Blasey Ford would testify, because that deadline was extended yet again and it’s still unclear whether there will be a hearing on Monday (which seems unlikely now), later next week, or perhaps as late as some time during the week of October 1st:
WASHINGTON — After a tense night of legal brinkmanship, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee late Friday told lawyers for the woman who has accused Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh of sexual assault that they can have until 2:30 p.m. Saturday to negotiate the terms of their client’s testimony before the panel next week.
The chairman, Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, made his announcement on Twitter shortly before midnight, after lawyers for Christine Blasey Ford sent an angry email accusing his staff of bullying their client. He directed his tweet to Judge Kavanaugh, President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, who has flatly denied the assault and has said he is eager to testify to clear his name.
“Judge Kavanaugh I just granted another extension to Dr Ford to decide if she wants to proceed w the statement she made last week to testify to the senate,” Mr. Grassley wrote, using Twitter shorthand. “She shld decide so we can move on I want to hear her. I hope u understand. It’s not my normal approach to b indecisive.”
In an email to the lawyers, aides to Mr. Grassley said that they “absolutely must hear by 2:30 p.m.” that Dr. Blasey — who also goes by her married name, Ford — has agreed to their terms for testifying. It was not clear precisely what those terms were.
The late-night missives were the latest twist in a legal tango that has riveted Washington, with a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court hanging in the balance. The back-and-forth has also infuriated Mr. Trump, who lashed out on Friday at Dr. Blasey on Twitter, saying that if the attack “was as bad as she says,” she or her parents would have reported it to the authorities when it happened more than 30 years ago.
The comment was Mr. Trump’s first direct attack on Dr. Blasey, 51, a research psychologist in Northern California who has accused Judge Kavanaugh of pinning her to a bed, grinding his body against her and muffling her screams at a party when they were teenagers in the early 1980s. She has said that she is willing to testify publicly, though not on Monday, the date Mr. Grassley had scheduled a hearing.
Throughout the day on Friday, Dr. Blasey’s lawyers and Senate Judiciary Committee aides tried to work out details like how many photographers and television cameras would be in the room (Dr. Blasey, fearful of being mobbed by the news media, wanted one of each); who would ask the questions (Republicans wanted an outside lawyer, Dr. Blasey favored senators); and what day the session would take place (Dr. Blasey asked for Thursday, Republicans wanted Wednesday).
But as the workday drew to a close, Mr. Grassley announced that the judiciary panel would vote on Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation on Monday morning unless negotiators reached an agreement by 10 p.m. Friday. One of Dr. Blasey’s lawyers, Debra S. Katz, responded a few hours later with a blistering email, accusing Mr. Grassley’s aides of pressuring her client “to agree to conditions you find advantageous to the nominee,” and of imposing “aggressive and artificial deadlines” whose “sole purpose is to bully Dr. Ford.”
Ms. Katz asked for an additional day to negotiate, and in the end, Mr. Grassley acquiesced.
But he did not seem happy about it. In a follow-up tweet sent after the one directed to Judge Kavanaugh, Mr. Grassley wrote: “With all the extensions we give Dr Ford to decide if she still wants to testify to the Senate I feel like I’m playing 2nd trombone in the judiciary orchestra and Schumer is the conductor.” He was referring to Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader.
Dr. Blasey declined an invitation to testify this coming Monday, but through Ms. Katz, she said she was open to testifying later under several conditions. She said she would be willing to speak with senators on the committee as long as she is questioned by lawmakers — not outside counsel — and as long as Judge Kavanaugh is not in the hearing room while she speaks. She also asked for steps to be taken to ensure her safety, as she has received death threats.
More from Politico:
Attorneys for Christine Blasey Ford sought an additional day to respond to Republicans over whether she’ll testify about her sexual assault allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, calling a GOP-imposed Friday night deadline “arbitrary.”
In response, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley late Friday appeared to extend a previous 10 p.m. cutoff for Ford to reply to a GOP offer sent earlier in the day for her to appear on Wednesday to testify about her decades-old allegation against Kavanaugh.
Ford’s attorney, Debra Katz, had decried that short-notice deadline in a response to the Judiciary GOP’s offer.
“Its sole purpose is to bully Dr. Ford and deprive her of the ability to make a considered decision that has life-altering implications for her and her family,” Katz wrote in an email.
The impasse raised the prospect that Republicans will attempt to press ahead with a Monday vote on Kavanaugh despite not hearing from Ford.
Earlier Friday, Grassley had set a meeting on Monday that he said would allow the committee to vote on Kavanaugh if Republicans and Ford’s attorneys could not reach a “reasonable resolution” on terms to hear her testimony about an alleged high-school-era sexual assault by the Supreme Court nominee.
Democrats lashed out at Grassley for what their top member on the committee, Dianne Feinstein, also described as “bullying.” And Ford’s attorneys reminded Grassley on Friday night that while the GOP was accelerating the deadline for her to respond, the California-based professor was meeting with the FBI about threats she’d received since coming forward.
“The imposition of aggreCossive and artificial deadlines regarding the date and conditions of any hearing has created tremendous and unwarranted anxiety and stress on Dr. Ford,” Katz wrote. “Your cavalier treatment of a sexual assault survivor who has been doing her best to cooperate with the Committee is completely inappropriate.”
Grassley’s office did not return a request for comment on the Friday night response from Ford’s attorneys.
However, late Friday, Grassley tweeted: “Five times now we hv granted extension for Dr Ford to decide if she wants to proceed w her desire stated one wk ago that she wants to tell senate her story Dr Ford if u changed ur mind say so so we can move on I want to hear ur testimony. Come to us or we to u.”
Minutes later, he added: “Judge Kavanaugh I just granted another extension to Dr Ford to decide if she wants to proceed w the statement she made last week to testify to the senate She shld decide so we can move on I want to hear her. I hope u understand. It’s not my normal approach to b indecisive.”
Grassley followed with a candid lament that he was being outmaneuvered by Democrats: “With all the extensions we give Dr Ford to decide if she still wants to testify to the Senate I feel like I’m playing 2nd trombone in the judiciary orchestra and [Senate Minority Leader Chuck] Schumer is the conductor.”
There’s no word on where the negotiations stand as of this morning, but the reports on Friday indicated that Republicans had responded to the requests made by Dr. Blasey Ford’s attorneys, which I discussed yesterday, with some concessions and some issues where there was still obvious disagreement. For example, while Blasey Ford is asking for a hearing next Thursday, Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans said they’d agree to a hearing on Wednesday. Additionally, they continue to insist that Dr. Blasey Ford testify first, which makes sense to me given the nature of the proceedings, but agreed to the request that Kavanaugh and Blasey Ford would not be in the hearing room at the same time. Also up in the air is the request that the Committee subpoena Kavanaugh friend Mark Judge, who Blasey Ford says was in the room at the time of the alleged incident in 1982. Instead, the committee appears willing to accept Mr. Judge’s representation, sent via a letter to the committee, that he has no recollection of any such incident. Additionally, the committee appears reluctant to set a precedent that would allow a witness to make their appearance before the committee contingent on another person being subpoenaed. Committee Republicans also appear to be standing by the idea of potentially using an outside or committee counsel, preferably a woman, to conduct the questioning of Dr. Blasey Ford, although it’s unclear exactly how set they are on this strategy, especially since it seems like a strategy that would backfire just as badly as the prospect of an all-male Republican majority questioning a woman about her allegation that she was sexually assaulted when she was fifteen.
As I said yesterday, I suspect that, in the end, there will be a hearing and that Dr. Blasey Ford will testify. From her perspective, she is, for better or worse, thrust into the middle of this political battle and there seem to be many people, including many women, who are looking forward to her getting the opportunity to tell her story. From the Republican point of view, the political risks of pushing ahead with a vote on Monday as Senator Grassley is threatening are fairly obvious. We are now just over six weeks away from Election Day, and early voting has already started in many states and will begin opening up in many others over the coming days and weeks. While Republicans are facing some political pressure from their base to “plow through,” as Mitch McConnell put it yesterday, and confirm Kavanaugh without further delay, the prospect of being seen as having prevented a woman from telling her story of having been sexually assaulted as a young teenager carries with it the risk of even further angering women voters in a year in which that segment of the demographic is already highly motivated to turn out to vote by the Trump Administration and the presence of a record number of women on the ballot. Of course, Republicans could end up paying a price even if the hearing does go forward, especially if they are seen as being condescending, dismissive, or hostile to a witness who comes across as credible when telling her story. Much as the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearings of 1991 led to the “Year of the Woman” in 1992, the Kavanaugh/Blasey Ford hearing, and how the GOP handles it could have a profound impact on elections that, this time, are far closer in time.