Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley has set 10 a.m. Friday as the deadline for Christine Blasey Ford’s legal team to respond to his request for her to speak to the committee regarding her sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
In a letter to the committee’s ranking Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, Grassley also asked for an unredacted version of the original letter Ford sent to Feinstein about the alleged incident. Ford’s private letter to Feinstein alleged that, at a party during their high school years, Kavanaugh pushed her into a bedroom, tried to remove her clothes and put his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream.
An attorney for Ford said in a statement to CNN on Wednesday that Grassley’s “rush to a hearing is unnecessary, and contrary to the Committee discovering the truth.”
“(Ford) continues to believe that a full non-partisan investigation of this matter is needed and she is willing to cooperate with the Committee,” said Lisa Banks, Ford’s attorney. “However, the Committee’s stated plan to move forward with a hearing that has only two witnesses is not a fair or good faith investigation; there are multiple witnesses whose names have appeared publicly and should be included in any proceeding.”
If Ford chooses not to speak to the committee, the hearing Grassley had scheduled for Monday would likely be canceled and the panel could move to vote by midweek, sources say.
Sources cautioned that planning of the hearing is still fluid and could change given how tumultuous the confirmation process has been.
Grassley continued Wednesday to resist calls by Democrats and Ford for an FBI investigation into the claims against Kavanaugh.
“We are doing everything that we can to make Dr. Ford comfortable to coming before the committee in an open session or a closed session, or a public or a private interview,” the Iowa Republican told reporters on Capitol Hill Wednesday. “That’s four different ways she can choose to come. So, I’m not worried about anything other than just focusing for the next few days on encouraging her to come.”
Ford has asked for the FBI to investigate the allegations she’s made before she testifies for the committee. Grassley sent a follow-up letter to Ford later Wednesday outlining why the Senate and not the FBI should investigate her claims.
“The FBI does not make a credibility assessment of any information it receives with respect to a nominee,” Grassley wrote. “Nor is it tasked with investigating a matter simply because the Committee deems it important. The Constitution assigns the Senate, and only the Senate, with the task of advising the President on his nominee and consenting to the nomination if the circumstances merit. We have no power to commandeer an Executive Branch agency into conducting our due diligence. The job of assessing and investigating a nominee’s qualifications in order to decide whether to consent to the nomination is ours, and ours alone.”
Separately Grassley released Wednesday a letter he sent to Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee in which he made the case that a private session with Ford would mean the matter would be kept confidential, though he sharply criticized Democrats for releasing other confidential Kavanaugh documents, suggesting that may be way she’s “distrustful” of a closed-door interview.
“It would be a disservice to Dr. Ford, Judge Kavanaugh, this Committee, and the American people to delay this hearing any further,” Grassley wrote.
On Wednesday, Republican senators appeared to be lining up behind Grassley’s request. Susan Collins, a GOP senator from Maine who does not sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee but is among the key Republicans who could decide final passage on Kavanaugh’s nomination, urged Ford to testify in whatever format she felt was most appropriate.
“I hope that Dr. Ford will reconsider and testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday,” Collins tweeted. “It is my understanding that the Committee has offered to hold either a public or a private session, whichever would make her more comfortable.”
Collins also told local radio station WVOM that she thinks”it’s not fair for Judge Kavanaugh for her not to come forward and testify.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who is a Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said asking for an FBI investigation is trying to delay the process of confirming Kavanaugh.
“Requiring an FBI investigation of a 36-year-old allegation (without specific references to time or location) before Professor Ford will appear before the Judiciary Committee is not about finding the truth, but delaying the process until after the midterm elections,” he said in a statement. “It is imperative the Judiciary committee move forward on the Kavanaugh nomination and a committee vote be taken as soon as possible.”
Kavanaugh has said in a statement that he “unequivocally” denies the accusation.
Grassley told reporters that Wednesday he’s working on planning this hearing the rest of the week.
“I’m going to concentrate in the next three days, today, Thursday and Friday, as long as I can,” he said. “We’ve got to have time to plan for a hearing and it’s going to come off – there’s a certain time we have to notify people that there is going to be a hearing.”
When asked if he would go ahead with this hearing without Ford, Grassley responded: “We don’t have any problem with Kavanaugh coming … but we want to make sure it is a fruitful hearing for both sides.”
Republican Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana, who also sits on the committee, told CNN earlier Wednesday he would like to hear from Ford.
“I think there is a reasonable possibility that she will appear on Monday, and I hope she does. If she does appear, I will get together with my colleagues,” he said in an interview Wednesday. “I don’t know a single senator, by the way, or a single reporter who has talked to Dr. Ford. I would like to talk to her. I have talked to Judge Brett Kavanaugh yesterday. But I don’t have enough information to say we ought to go forward.”
CNN’s Eli Watkins, MJ Lee, Phil Mattingly, Kaitlan Coll