The confirmation battle over the Kavanaugh nomination might well come down to what Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski make of the allegation of sexual assault lodged against the nominee 36 years after the “fact.” However, the reaction of two leading GOP members of the Judiciary Committee — Charles Grassly and Lindsey Graham — are certainly worth noting. I found the Graham’s statement particularly interesting.
Chairman Charles Grassley caused this statement to be issued on behalf of the committee majority:
It’s disturbing that these uncorroborated allegations from more than 35 years ago, during high school, would surface on the eve of a committee vote after Democrats sat on them since July. If Ranking Member Feinstein and other Committee Democrats took this claim seriously, they should have brought it to the full Committee’s attention much earlier. Instead, they said nothing during two joint phone calls with the nominee in August, four days of lengthy public hearings, a closed session for all committee members with the nominee where sensitive topics can be discussed and in more than 1,300 written questions. Sixty-five senators met individually with Judge Kavanaugh during a nearly two-month period before the hearing began, yet Feinstein didn’t share this with her colleagues ahead of many of those discussions.
It raises a lot of questions about Democrats’ tactics and motives to bring this to the rest of the committee’s attention only now rather than during these many steps along the way. Senator Feinstein should publicly release the letter she received back in July so that everyone can know what she’s known for weeks.
Judge Kavanaugh’s background has been thoroughly vetted by the FBI on six different occasions throughout his decades of public service, and no such allegation ever surfaced. Furthermore Judge Kavanaugh and others alleged to have been involved have unequivocally denied these claims from their high school days. The Committee has received letter after letter from those who’ve known judge Kavanaugh personally and professionally, including 65 women who’ve known him since high school, speaking to his impeccable character and respect for others, especially women.
Sen. Graham said this:
I agree with the concerns expressed in the Judiciary Committee’s statement about the substance and process regarding the allegations in this latest claim against Judge Kavanaugh.
However, if Ms. Ford wishes to provide information to the Committee, I would gladly listen to what she has to say and compare that against all the other information we have received about Judge Kavanaugh.
If the Committee is to hear from Ms. Ford, it should be done immediately so the process can continue as scheduled.
Graham’s statement is shrewd and on point. He’s opening the door to Ford to speak her piece, while insisting that her claim not become a vehicle for delay. As I argued here, avoiding delay is crucial.
Graham doesn’t say whether, if Ford provides information to the committee, she would be subject to examination. I assume she would be. Otherwise, what’s the point? Hasn’t she already said all she thinks she needs to say?
Ford probably doesn’t relish being cross-examined. Graham, who is rather good at it, would probably love to examine her. It would be a delicate exercise. However, Graham is skillful enough to do it politely but effectively.
In any event, Graham has put the ball in Ford’s court. She can decline to appear before the committee (or try to set ground rules that exempt her claim from scrutiny), which would hurt her credibility or she can risk having her credibility undermined through searching cross-examination.