Mon | Dec 10, 2018

Kavanaugh, accuser say they're ready to testify - but how?

Published:Tuesday | September 18, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Kavanaugh

WASHINGTON (AP):

Brett Kavanaugh and the woman accusing him of a decades-old sexual assault both indicated Monday that they would be willing to testify to a Senate panel as the confirmation of President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee shifted from seemingly painless to problematic.

However, top Republicans seemed to be trying to limit any new testimony by Kavanaugh and his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, to telephone interviews. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said he was trying to arrange to hear Ford in "an appropriate, precedented and respectful manner".

The Iowa Republican said standard procedure for late-breaking information would involve follow-up phone calls with "at least" Kavanaugh and Ford. No. 2 Senate GOP leader John Cornyn of Texas backed him, lauding Grassley for seeking a process that "respects confidentiality".

Kavanaugh was seen arriving at the White House, with no immediate reason given, while all 10 Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee wrote to Grassley asking him to postpone a scheduled Thursday vote on the nominee to give the FBI more time to investigate.

Democrats and some Republican senators have expressed concern over Ford's private-turned-public accusation that a drunken Kavanaugh groped her and tried to take off her clothes at a party when both were teenagers at high schools in suburban Maryland.

'COMPLETELY FALSE'

Kavanaugh released a new statement calling the allegation "completely false" and saying he "had no idea who was making this accusation until she identified herself" on Sunday to The Washington Post.

"I am willing to talk to the Senate Judiciary Committee in any way the committee deems appropriate to refute this false allegation, from 36 years ago, and defend my integrity," Kavanaugh said.

Debra S. Katz, the attorney for the accuser, said Ford was willing to tell her story publicly to the Judiciary panel but no lawmakers had yet contacted her. Katz denied that Ford, a Democrat, was politically motivated.

"She believes that if it were not for the severe intoxication of Brett Kavanaugh, she would have been raped," Katz told NBC's Today. Explaining Ford's initial reluctance to come forward, Katz said, "No one in their right mind, regardless of their motives, would want to inject themselves into this process and face the kind of violation that she will be subjected to by those who want this nominee to go through."

The Judiciary Democrats, in their letter to Chairman Grassley, said serious questions have been raised about Kavanaugh's "record, truthfulness and character".

Currently a judge on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, widely viewed as the nation's second most powerful court, Kavanaugh seemed to be on a smooth confirmation track until the new allegation emerged.

Kavanaugh, 53, "categorically and unequivocally" denied the allegation when it came out anonymously last week.

"This has not changed," said White House spokesman Kerri Kupec on Monday. "Judge Kavanaugh and the White House both stand by that statement."

Still, White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway said of Ford: "She should not be insulted. She should not be ignored. She should testify under oath, and she should do it on Capitol Hill."

Conway, who said she had discussed the situation with Trump, said both Ford and Kavanaugh should testify, but made clear it was up to the Judiciary Committee. She said Sen Lindsey Graham had told her it could happen as soon as Tuesday and the White House will "respect the process".