Supreme Court nominee faces sexual assault allegation

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3:54 p.m. ET, September 17, 2018

McConnell accuses Democrats of waiting until 11th hour to release Kavanaugh allegation

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is speaking form the Senate floor. He said the Democrats sat on the sexual assault allegation against Brett Kavanaugh and accused them of waiting until the "11th hour" before Kavanaugh's confirmation vote to bring it up.

"It is an accusation which the ranking member of the committee of jurisdiction has known about for at least six weeks. Known about for six weeks. Yet chose to keep secret until the 11th hour," he said.

McConnell did not answer questions as he left the Senate floor, including:

  • “Are you confident you can salvage this nomination at this point?”
  • “Should she come testify before the committee?”
  • “Do you believe her charges? Do you believe they are credible?”

3:26 p.m. ET, September 17, 2018

President Trump defends Kavanaugh, but says he's open to a delay

President Trump, speaking at a workforce event, took questions about his Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, who has been accused of sexual assault.

Trump defended Kavanaugh as "one of the finest people I have ever known."

"Never had even a little blemish," Trump said. "He is somebody very special."

The President suggested that a delay in the vote to confirm Kavanaugh might be OK.

"If it takes a little delay, it will take a little delay," Trump said. "It shouldn't, certainly, be very much."

2:41 p.m. ET, September 17, 2018

GOP senator calls for public hearing

Sen. Orrin Hatch told CNN that he spoke with Brett Kavanaugh for about 10 minutes.

The Republican senator said Kavanaugh told him that his accuser may be mistaking him for someone else. The Supreme Court nominee also told Hatch that he wasn’t even at the party in question.

Hatch said there should be a public hearing, which he thinks could happen Thursday on the same day as the committee vote.

He said he does not want Kavanaugh to withdraw.

2:21 p.m. ET, September 17, 2018

Christine Blasey Ford's neighbor: I'm proud of her

From CNN's MJ Lee and Dan Simon

Christine Blasey Ford's neighbor said she's "really proud" of her neighbor for "standing up and telling her truth.”

Catherine Ferandin's parents have lived in the house across from the Fords for 55 years. Since Ferandin grew up in the house, she has known the Fords as neighbors for years.

She said she hasn’t spoken to Blasey Ford in a few months, but did see her briefly a few days ago and only said hello.

“Women have to stand up and say their truth," she said. "I’m really proud of Christine."

Ferandin said she was surprised by the news, only because "you never expect it to be somebody in your world."

“I was really surprised because you never expect it to be somebody in your world. But at the same time I’m really proud of Christine as a woman standing up and telling her truth.”

Watch more:

2:06 p.m. ET, September 17, 2018

More than 200 alumnae from Christine Blasey Ford's school sign letter of support

From CNN's Lauren Fox and Ellie Kaufman

More than 200 alumnae from the Maryland school Christine Blasey Ford attended at the time she alleges she was assaulted by By Brett Kavanaugh have signed a letter supporting her.

The alumnae from Holton-Arms School in Bethesda span from 1967 to 2018.

Sarah Burgess, a 2005 alumna, drafted the letter and circulated it via alumni networks, she said. She told CNN that she was inspired to write the letter after reading about Blasey Ford’s experience.

"It reminded me of stories I had heard from friends in middle and high school. I believe her completely," she said.

Burgess said the letter has already received several hundred signatures. Burgess said she believes the signatures are accurate because they have asked signers to share their class year and school email when signing the petition, shared through a google document form.

She said they plan to release the letter publicly “as soon as we can.”

1:39 p.m. ET, September 17, 2018

Senate Republicans trying to set up calls with Kavanaugh and Ford

From CNN's Ariane de Vogue and Manu Raju

Senate Republicans will move ahead in trying to schedule staff calls with Judge Brett Kavanaugh, his accuser Christine Blasely Ford and Mark Judge, who Ford claims was in the room at the time of the alleged assault

Republicans hope to have the calls either today or tomorrow. But Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, said her staff will not participate.

Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley's spokesman Taylor Foy said Grassley — who is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee — will make a decision on next steps and whether to have a hearing after that phone call.

The phone call could happen as early as today.

Senate Republicans maintain that it is not up to the FBI to handle this, the supplemental background check has been closed.

Congressional sources "hope" that they can still have a committee vote on Thursday, but recognize that might slip.

12:40 p.m. ET, September 17, 2018

Senate judiciary chair: I'm working to hear Kavanaugh's accuser out

From CNN's Ariane de Vogue and Manu Raju

Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman for the Senate Judiciary Committee, released a statement Monday where he pointed to the standard procedure for updating nominee's background checks.

"The standard procedure for updates to any nominee’s background investigation file is to conduct separate follow-up calls with relevant parties. In this case, that would entail phone calls with at least Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford. Consistent with that practice, I asked Senator Feinstein’s office yesterday to join me in scheduling these follow-ups. Thus far, they have refused. But as a necessary step in evaluating these claims, I’ll continue working to set them up."

Grassley goes on to say they are "working diligently to get to the bottom of these claims," but does not make any indication about the possibility of delaying the vote.

12:31 p.m. ET, September 17, 2018

2 Democrats call for Kavanaugh, his accuser to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee

Two red-state Democrats — both up for re-election — have called on the Senate Judiciary Committee to give Judge Brett Kavanaugh and his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, the chance to testify.

Sen. Joe Manchin, from West Virginia, tweeted: "Professor Christine Blasey Ford deserves to be heard and Judge Kavanaugh deserves a chance to clear his name."

Similarly, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, from North Dakota, issued a statement saying the allegation "should be thoroughly investigated."

Both Kavanaugh and Ford have indicated willingness to testify before the committee.

12:10 p.m. ET, September 17, 2018

Susan Collins: Kavanaugh and his accuser should testify under oath

Republican Sen. Susan Collins, a key voice and vote on Judge Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination, just tweeted that the judge and his accuser, Professor Christine Blasey Ford, "should both testify under oath before the Judiciary Committee."

The demand sets up a potentially explosive hearing that could derail, or at least delay, Kavanaugh's suddenly tenuous confirmation to the Supreme Court.

See the tweet: