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.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Donald Trump, Law and the Courts, Politicians, Supreme Court, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Teve says:

    When Roe is overturned, inequality will get worse. California and New York, where abortion will be legal, will be fine, and Arkansas and Mississippi etc will get even poorer.

    “Trumpers voting against their own interests” is redundant.

  2. Teve says:

    Now, if SCOTUS somehow goes hard-core dipshit and rules abortion illegal at the federal level, the GOP will go the way of the Whigs.

  3. Teve says:

    This is pretty cogent:

    Lauren Martin Day
    September 18 at 5:59 PM
    Rape culture:

    If a woman is drunk when she is sexually assaulted, that fact is used against her — both to insinuate her own culpability in her assault, and further, as a mark against her character and judgment.

    If, on the other hand, a man sexually assaults a woman while drunk? The fact that he was drunk is used to *downplay* his culpability for the assault, and to *uphold* his character and reputation — the implication being that if he was drunk when it happened, he’s not *really* that kind of guy.

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  4. CSK says:

    Ford has agreed to testify, but the date has not been established.

  5. MBunge says:

    @Teve:

    Except it’s exactly the opposite in this case. NO ONE is accusing Dr. Ford of being drunk at the party. Yet in the face of Kavanaugh’s explicit denial, I have read multiple references (including around here, I believe) to Kavanaugh’s supposed teenage drinking by those trying to make him guilty. The following argument has actually been made by supposedly intelligent people:

    1. Kavanaugh drank as a teen.
    2. He must have gotten blackout drunk and can’t remember what he did.
    3. Therefore, how can he deny something he might not remember?

    So, you are referencing a statement that is completely the opposite of what’s happening in this situation. I mean, I suppose somebody out there has made the general argument that it might not be entirely fair to equate a drunken teen who gropes a girl at a party with a cold sober rapist, but it is overwhelmingly true that booze references in this case are being made against the man to try and establish his guilt.

    Oh, and of the other four people supposedly at the party where Dr. Ford says she was attacked, every single one has gone on record under oath and stated it never happened (Kavanaugh) or they have no memory of any such incident or any such party. A woman acknowledged as a life-long friend of Dr. Ford says she can’t even remember Ford and Kavanaugh being at the same party.

    Guess who is the only person who hasn’t made a statement under oath?

    Mike

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  6. Grewgills says:

    @MBunge:

    it is overwhelmingly true that booze references in this case are being made against the man to try and establish his guilt.

    I know this is pointless, given how you have fled another thread where your bs was rebutted and how differently you regularly speak about Clinton, but…
    His apparent regular drunkenness isn’t direct evidence that he did it and no one is saying that it is. What people are actually saying and you are (intentionally) misrepresenting is people talking about relative credibility. Someone who was regularly blackout drunk saying categorically that they were not at particular party decades ago at a time when they were regularly black out drunk is simply not credible, particularly relative to someone who was not drunk and suffered trauma at said party. That you either don’t understand this or willfully misrepresent it says far more about you than anyone else (other than Kavanaugh and Judge).