Grassley: Kavanaugh accuser hasn’t yet agreed to testify

Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley said today that Christine Blasey Ford has not yet accepted an invitation to testify next Monday regarding her allegation that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were in high school. Grassley stated:

We have reached out to her in the last 36 hours three or four times by email and we have not heard from them, and it kind of raises the question: Do they want to come to the public hearing or not?

I’ve also heard that Ford’s lawyer is trying to negotiate conditions regarding what the Committee can ask her client. The idea, I’m told, is to preclude questions that go to Ford’s character.

At every stage, Ford has tried to derail Kavanaugh’s nomination with as little personal involvement as possible. First, it appears, she didn’t want her statement used unless necessary. When it became clear that the statement had to be used to have any hope of stopping Kavanaugh, it was made public, but Ford withheld her name. When it became clear that an anonymous statement wouldn’t suffice, she finally stepped forward. Now, it seems, she hopes either to avoid testifying or to testify under ground rules that would prevent a fair assessment of her credibility.

Ford’s attempts to take the easy way out at every turn are understandable. However, if she doesn’t appear on Monday, Kavanaugh will very likely be confirmed.

Therefore, I’m pretty sure Ford will appear.

As for limitations on what she can be asked, there should be none. Her credibility is at issue. All questions that bear on it — including her character — are relevant. If Republican Senators overreach by asking unfair questions, it will redound to Ford’s advantage in the court of public opinion and thus to the disadvantage of Judge Kavanaugh and the GOP.

The other “court of opinion” that counts here is the court of Sens. Collins, Murkowski, Flake, Corker, and maybe a few other GOP members. Thus, the Judiciary Committee must shape the hearings to make sure they satisfy these Senators.

Sen. Collins seems to want a full-blown shooting contest between Kavanaugh and Ford. She has recommended that Ford’s counsel be allowed to cross-examine Kavanaugh and that the Judge’s attorney be allowed to cross-examine Ford. I suspect that Sen. Murkowski, a tough Alaskan, also favors a proceeding in which no punches are pulled (but with no low blows).

So I think the Committee can safely reject a demand to treat Ford with kid gloves. Ford will either have to testify without preconditions or stay home and clinch Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Again, I expect her to appear.

Another question is whether witnesses other than Kavanaugh and Ford will testify. Mark Judge, who supposedly was in the room when the attack on Ford supposedly occurred, says he will not testify. Judge notified the committee, through his lawyer, that he has no memory of the alleged incident and never saw Kavanaugh act in the way Ford describes. Judge said he has “no other information to offer the committee.”

I question whether any constructive purpose would be served by taking live testimony from people who aren’t said to have been present when the incident supposedly occurred, either in the room or at the party (assuming Ford is able to pinpoint a specific party). However, I understand that committee staff may be looking into other potential witnesses. If it appears that some have anything truly important to add, they should be heard.

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