In the days since Christine Blasey Ford came forward to accuse Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, an informal Congressional investigation has devolved into a fierce political back-and-forth, presidential tweetstorm, and even death threats.
And it’s far from resolved.
With certain conditions, Ford’s willing to go before the Senate Judiciary Committee — a panel of 17 men and four women — next week to testify about the assault, which allegedly happened in the early 1980s at a high school party. Ford said Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed, groped her, tried to remove her clothes, and covered her mouth when she screamed. But she’s not going to appear before the committee on Monday to talk about those allegations like Republicans had hoped, according to conditions set by her lawyers.
Ford had initially requested an FBI investigation before agreeing to testify. But Republicans have said the Senate Judiciary Committee is conducting its own investigation, so there’s no need for the FBI to get involved. On Thursday night, Ford’s lawyers called members of the committee to lay out their list of ground rules, according to Politico.
Her lawyers want the hearing on Thursday, instead of Monday, and for Kavanaugh to appear first. Ford doesn’t want to be questioned by outside counsel and might not want more than one camera in the room, sources told Politico. She also wants her security assured and might request U.S. Capitol Police detail, and she would like Mark Judge, Kavanaugh’s friend and an alleged witness to the assault, to testify. In exchange, she’s willing to testify publicly.
It’s not clear whether the committee’s chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley, will agree to her conditions.
During an interview on CNN Friday, White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway called Ford’s “laundry list” of demands “very unusual.” Earlier this week, Conway said Ford shouldn’t be “insulted” or “ignored” and assured she would be heard.
Republicans had previously said that if Ford refused to testify on Monday, they’d move forward without her. They accused Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, of holding onto a full copy of Ford’s allegations for weeks and not informing other senators on the committee. But Feinstein said she did that to protect Ford, who wasn’t ready to make her identity public.
Part of Ford’s concerns likely stem from what’s befallen her and her family since she came forward. She’s been driven out of her home after being threatened with death and doxxed, according to her lawyers. At the same time, Kavanaugh has vehemently denied the allegations — and Republicans have rallied to stand by their man. Credible threats have also been made against Kavanaugh and his family.
Some conservatives, meanwhile, have started floating bizarre conspiracy theories about Ford’s allegations. President Donald Trump, after days of uncharacteristic social media restraint, jumped on Twitter Friday to say Ford should reveal the specific time, date, and place of her attack and added that her “radical left lawyers” shouldn’t ask the FBI to get involved this late in the game.
Ed Whelan, a conservative lawyer and a former clerk to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, rolled out floor plans, photographs, and other materials on Twitter that he said pointed to a potential classmate who could be responsible for Ford’s attack, rather than Kavanaugh. He called out a particular classmate by name, and included high school yearbook photos.
After some heavy backlash and zero evidence behind his claim, he walked back his tweets and deeply apologized for revealing the name of the classmate. However, he didn’t apologize for the theory that Ford’s accusations were a case of mistaken identity.
Sen. Orrin Hatch had previously said on CNN that “somebody’s mixed up” in these allegations. On Thursday, Sen. Lindsey Graham said on Twitter that Kavanaugh was “highly qualified, the right person for the job and also right about letting process play out. Kavanaugh nomination is still on track. Stay tuned!”
Trump has also adopted his party’s stance of saying they’ll hear Ford out while cautiously implying the whole thing seems suspect. Earlier this week, he said it was “very hard for me to imagine something happened.”
"You say, why didn't somebody call the FBI 36 years ago?" Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity during a Las Vegas rally on Thursday. "I mean, you could also say, when did this all happen? What's going on? To take a man like this and besmirch … with that being said, let her have her say.”
Cover image: Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., joined by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, right, questions President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, on the third day of his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)