Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley on Tuesday raised the possibility that next week’s high-stakes open hearing to examine the sexual assault allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh could be canceled if the accuser doesn’t accept the committee’s invitation.
Grassley, R-Iowa, scheduled a hearing for Monday for Kavanaugh and accuser Christine Blasey Ford to answer questions from senators about the allegation. But Grassley said during a Tuesday radio interview that his office has reached out several times to Ford and her attorneys to discuss her allegation, but has heard nothing back.
“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?” Grassley said on The Hugh Hewitt Show.
Asked whether there would be a hearing if Ford did not agree to appear, Grassley suggested he couldn’t see a reason to hold one.
“What would be the purpose of the hearing if Dr. Ford doesn’t want to respond?” Grassley said.
In the case Ford accepts the invitation, Grassley said he is considering the possibility of having an independent questioner ask all the questions to Ford.
Ford, a California-based professor, revealed her identity over the weekend in a Washington Post report. She said that Kavanaugh, while in high school, pinned her down, tried to remove her bathing suit and put his hand over her mouth when she attempted to scream. Kavanaugh has denied the allegation.
The announcement of the last-minute hearing evoked memories of the 1991 Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings, where senators scrambled to arrange a hearing after Thomas was confronted with sexual harassment accusations by law professor Anita Hill. Thomas denied the accusations and was narrowly confirmed.
During television appearances on Monday, Ford’s attorney, Debra Katz, indicated her client was “willing to take whatever it takes to get her story forth,” and would testify before the committee under oath. But Katz has not confirmed that Ford will show up for Monday’s open hearing, which would be aired live on television.
Speculation about whether Ford will ultimately accept the invitation follows reports she was reluctant to go public with her accusation after tipping off congressional Democrats.
Grassley, announcing the Monday hearing, said it would “give these recent allegations a full airing.”
White House spokesman Raj Shah said Kavanaugh is willing to testify.
“Judge Kavanaugh looks forward to a hearing where he can clear his name of this false allegation. He stands ready to testify tomorrow if the Senate is ready to hear him,” Shah said.
Democrats have called for delaying Kavanaugh’s vote until there is a full FBI review of the matter.
But Grassley told Hewitt on Tuesday that the FBI investigation “is closed” and that the FBI is not doing any further investigation.
Meanwhile, Kavanaugh was spotted Tuesday arriving at the White House for meetings – as he did the day before.
President Trump on Monday stood by Kavanaugh, calling him one of the “finest people that I have ever known” while acknowledging a “little delay” may be necessary before the nomination is voted on in the Senate.
In his first public comments on the controversy, the president also criticized Democrats over the timing of the allegation.
“I wish the Democrats could have done this a lot sooner because they had this information for many months,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “And they shouldn’t have waited until literally the last days. They should have done it a lot sooner.”
The president said he’s open to delaying the confirmation proceedings in Congress while the allegations are investigated.
“If it takes a little delay it’ll take a little delay,” Trump said. “It shouldn’t certainly be very much.”
Kavanaugh has forcefully denied the sexual assault accusations Ford alleged took place while the two were in high school.
“This is a completely false allegation. I have never done anything like what the accuser describes — to her or to anyone,” Kavanaugh said in a statement. “Because this never happened, I had no idea who was making the accusation until she identified herself yesterday.”
All 10 Democrats on the committee on Monday have urged Grassley to postpone the vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination. Multiple sources told Fox News Thursday’s committee confirmation vote has been postponed amid the newly scheduled hearing.