Kavanaugh confirmation vote to happen Monday unless deal reached with accuser

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee chairman on Friday rejected concessions sought by Brett Kavanaugh's accuser if she is to testify about her claim the Supreme Court nominee sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers, and threatened a Monday vote by his panel on the nomination without a quick agreement.

Deadline further extended for Christine Blasey Ford to respond to hearing proposal

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Las Vegas on Thursday. Trump is defending his latest Supreme Court pick in the face of a sexual assault allegation dating back to the 1980s. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee chairman on Friday rejected concessions sought by Brett Kavanaugh's accuser if she is to testify about her claim the Supreme Court nominee sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers, and threatened a Monday vote by his panel on the nomination without a quick agreement.

Minutes before a 10 p.m. ET deadline set by Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, an attorney for Christine Blasey Ford requested another day to decide. Lawyer Debra Katz said the time limit's "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."

In a near-midnight tweet directed to Ford, Grassley granted Ford an additional extension "to decide if she wants to proceed."

Grassley previously tweeted that if she doesn't wish to testify, "say so so we can move on I want to hear ur testimony."

That capped a tumultuous day President Donald Trump began with an incendiary tweet of his own, stating that if the long-ago incident was "as bad as she says," she or "her loving parents" surely would have reported it to law enforcement.

Trump had previously avoided naming Ford or casting doubt on her account. Ford alleges Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her more than 30 years ago when they were teenagers. Kavanaugh has denied the allegations.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky expressed his determination Friday to get Kavanaugh confirmed. He told evangelical activists at the annual Values Voter conference the Senate will "plow right through."

'Extreme abuse of power'

Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, released a statement criticizing Republicans for "bullying a survivor of attempted rape in order to confirm a nominee, particularly at a time when she's receiving death threats," calling it "an extreme abuse of power."

"From the outset Republicans have tried to push through this nomination at all costs," Feinstein said. "Now, in the face of allegations that Brett Kavanaugh and a friend may have sexually assaulted 15-year-old Christine Blasey Ford, Republicans are turning a blind eye to her story."

"Brett Kavanaugh could serve on the court for 40 years, what's another 24 hours to make sure we get this right?"

The late-night brinkmanship between Grassley and Ford left in question whether she would appear before the Republican-run committee and describe her allegation to a captivated nation. Now a California psychology professor, Ford says an inebriated Kavanaugh pinned her on a bed, muffled her cries and tried removing her clothes when both were teenagers in the 1980s.

Grassley turned down Ford's request that only senators, not attorneys, be allowed to ask questions. The committee's 11 Republicans — all men — have been seeking an outside female attorney to interrogate Ford, mindful of the election-season impression that could be left by men trying to pick apart a woman's assertion of a sexual attack.

He also rejected her proposal that she testify after Kavanaugh, a position lawyers consider advantageous because it gives them a chance to rebut accusations.

"We are unwilling to accommodate your unreasonable demands," Grassley said in a written statement.

Midterms and #MeToo 

The accusation has jarred the 53-year-old conservative jurist's prospects for winning confirmation, which until Ford's emergence last week had seemed all but certain. It has also bloomed into a broader clash over whether women alleging abuse are taken seriously by men and how both political parties address such claims with the advent of the #MeToo movement — a theme that could echo in this November's elections for control of Congress.

Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh, above, of sexual assault, may testify against him in front of the Senate judiciary committee under the right conditions, her attorney said. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

With his comment, Trump went against the advice of advisers who had counselled him to stay out of the fray. He has previously defended friends and other men against the claims of women.

Ford has said she didn't tell anyone at the time about the incident. According to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, a majority of rapes and other sexual assaults are not reported to police.

Trump's tweet could affect Republican support among women going into the midterm elections. It could also threaten Kavanaugh's support with several Republicans — including Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Jeff Flake of Arizona — who have not declared their stances on his nomination. If two Republicans vote against Kavanaugh, his nomination could fail.

In another tweet, Trump, who is in Las Vegas for various events, lauded Kavanaugh:

Ford is willing to tell her story — but only if an agreement can be reached on "terms that are fair and which ensure her safety," the attorney said. She said Ford needs time to make sure her family is secure, prepare her testimony and travel to Washington. No decisions were reached, the aide said.

Katz said anew that Ford has received death threats and has relocated her family to protect their safety.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the judiciary committee, lambasted Trump's stance on Twitter.

Ford's preference is to testify to the Senate committee next Thursday. She doesn't want Kavanaugh in the same room, her attorney told the panel's staff in a 30-minute call that also touched on security concerns and other issues, according to a Senate aide. That aide wasn't authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Accuser seeking conditions

In addition to security, expected to be provided by Capitol Police, Ford has asked for press coverage of her testimony to be the same as for Kavanaugh. Reporters had assigned seating and were kept separated from the nominee, who was whisked to and from the room.

Ford's attorney said Ford would like to testify first — but that might be complicated. Kavanaugh has already agreed to Monday's scheduled hearing.

The discussions have revived the possibility that the panel will hold an electrifying campaign-season hearing at which both Ford and Kavanaugh can give their versions of what did or didn't happen at a party in the 1980s. Kavanaugh, now a judge on the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, has repeatedly denied Ford's allegation.

Ford has told the panel she would prefer the committee not use outside counsel to question her because that would make it seem too much like a trial, the attorney told the panel. All of the Republicans on the panel are men, and the committee is known to be concerned about the optics of having questions from the Republican side come only from men.


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