The sexual assault allegations suffocating Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation process have an expiration date, as Republicans see it. Either his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, testifies on or by Monday — just a week after she stepped forward publicly — or the Senate Judiciary Committee moves forward, without hearing from her directly, with the votes that could put Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court. Ford’s lawyers and Democrats say the speed at which the senators are considering the allegations is reckless, especially as it took her decades to feel safe coming forward, and that there should be a federal investigation into Kavanaugh’s actions. Republicans say this is all suspiciously last-minute and that it’s not fair to stall Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote. Committee investigators are supposedly looking into the matter, so there’s no need for the FBI to investigate, chairman Chuck Grassley said Wednesday. (Kavanaugh has vehemently denied the allegations against him.)
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump is remaining unusually muted on Twitter about accusations surrounding his nominee, who would flip the court to a decidedly conservative majority and clinch Trump’s efforts to fill open judge seats across the country with comfortably right-leaning jurists. Trump said Wednesday that he hopes Ford testifies and that he “really would want to see what she has to say.” Here’s where we’re at now:
All these letters
Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a letter to Ford’s lawyers Wednesday that the panel has offered Ford plenty of ways to tell her story: testifying in a private, closed session, or in a public hearing before the committee. Grassley also wrote that he’s been unable to schedule a call with Ford and her attorneys despite repeated attempts.
Republicans on the committee also want to see Ford’s full, original allegations, delivered by letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, weeks ago. They apparently didn’t know about Ford’s accusations until they were made public in a Washington Post report on Sunday. Ford alleges Kavanaugh pinned her down, groped her and tried to remove her clothes during a party in the early 1980s, when they were teenagers.
“You have stated repeatedly that Dr. Ford wants to tell her story. I sincerely hope that Dr. Ford will accept my invitation to do so, either privately or publicly, on Monday,” Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, wrote. (If the allegations had not surfaced, the vote recommending that Kavanaugh be confirmed by the full Senate likely would have happened Sept. 20.)
However, Ford’s lawyers have said via letter that she’s facing death threats and has fled her home. She’d like an FBI investigation into her allegations before she comes before the senators.
Newly voting no
Before all this, Sen. Claire McCaskill was among the five undecided Democrats when it came to voting to confirm Kavanaugh. Wednesday night, she said she’d be a sure down vote on the judge.
However, McCaskill said in a statement it’s not about the sexual assault allegations. She’s soured on Kavanaugh over “his positions on several key issues, most importantly the avalanche of dark, anonymous money that is crushing our democracy.”
It remains to be seen whether other undecided Democrats — Sens. Joe Manchin, Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Donnelly and Jon Tester — will come up with a similarly firm position.
Didn’t a corroborator come forward?
A high school classmate of Ford’s, Christina King Miranda, caused a stir Wednesday with a long Facebook post saying the incident happened and that many people in their school had heard about it. After the ensuing media frenzy and interest from the Senate Judiciary Committee, Miranda told NPR that she “can’t say that it did or didn’t happen.” She has since deleted her Twitter account and the Facebook post. "In my [Facebook] post, I was empowered and I was sure it probably did [happen]," Miranda told NPR. "I had no idea that I would now have to go to the specifics and defend it before 50 cable channels and have my face spread all over MSNBC news and Twitter."
Cover: In this Sept. 6, 2018, file photo, President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh waits to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee for the third day of his confirmation hearing, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)