Senate Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley is giving Christine Blasey Ford until the end of Friday to provide a definitive response regarding testimony on sexual assault allegations she’s brought against Brett Kavanaugh, Politico reports. The committee is open to holding a hearing with Ford and Kavanaugh on Wednesday, according to the report.
Ford’s attorney had said Thursday that she was still negotiating the terms under which she would testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. She had signaled that it was “not possible” for her to attend the public hearing originally scheduled for Monday, but that she “wishes to testify, provided that we can agree on terms that are fair and which ensure her safety,” according to an email obtained by the Washington Post.
As an unnamed Republican Senator told Politico, the committee has agreed to Ford’s request that Kavanaugh not be in the same room as her when she testifies. “We’ll do it on Wednesday, we expect the accuser before the accused and we do intend to have the counsel do the questioning,” the Senator said.
Republicans on the committee have indicated that they were interested in moving ahead with a vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination if Ford didn’t testify. Ford had previously said she wouldn’t do so unless the FBI first conducted an investigation into the allegations, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen anytime soon.
Judiciary Republicans, the DOJ, and President Donald Trump have all thrown cold water on the idea of an FBI investigation. Committee Chair Chuck Grassley on Wednesday said it was not the job of the FBI to weigh the “credibility” of these allegations.
Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of forcing himself on her while they were at a party in high school, has said she wants to cooperate with lawmakers and is interested in having her story heard. Kavanaugh has unequivocally denied the accusations.
Ford’s announcement on Thursday that she will likely testify ends several days of uncertainty about whether she would appear before the committee. Wednesday evening, her attorney Lisa Banks had argued that the pace and structuring of the process have been fundamentally unfair. “The Committee’s stated plan to move forward with a hearing that has only two witnesses is not a fair or good faith investigation; there are multiple witnesses whose names have appeared publicly and should be included in any proceeding,” Banks wrote in a statement.
Ford and Kavanaugh were originally the only two witnesses expected to testify. Democrats have argued that others, including Mark Judge, whom Ford implicated in the assault as part of her accusation, should speak as well. Ford had said that Judge helped Kavanaugh push her into a bedroom at the party and was intermittently encouraging Kavanaugh during the alleged assault. Judge has said he has no recollection of this incident and that he never saw Kavanaugh act in this way.
Ford’s call for an FBI probe echoes one that Democrats have been making ever since she came forward. The review they are pushing wouldn’t be a new criminal investigation but a reopening of Kavanaugh’s existing background check. The FBI may not be responsible for determining how seriously to consider allegations, but the agency plays a pivotal role in fact-finding and interviewing witnesses, they argue.
In the wake of Anita Hill’s sexual harassment allegations against Clarence Thomas in 1991, President George H.W. Bush directed the FBI to open an investigation. The agency interviewed Hill, Thomas, and at least one other witness, after which the White House determined that Hill’s allegations were “unfounded.”
It’s well within Trump’s ability to do the same, but thus far, he’s shown little inclination that he’s interested in doing so. Ford’s anticipated decision to testify suggests she’s accepted the outcome and remains ready to speak out on her own rather than let the process continue without senators hearing what she has to say.