Supreme Court nominee faces sexual assault allegation

By Brian Ries, Meg Wagner, Sophie Tatum, and Jessie Yeung, CNN

Updated 7:39 p.m. ET, September 21, 2018
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12:39 p.m. ET, September 21, 2018

Committee will likely propose Wednesday for hearing with Ford

From CNN's Dana Bash and Phil Mattingly

Two sources say the Senate Judiciary Committee will likely send a proposal to Christine Blasey Ford’s lawyer proposing a Wednesday hearing, with Ford testifying first and Brett Kavanaugh second.

The proposal would have outside counsel asks the questions.

Ford had asked that Kavanaugh testify first, but congressional aides, said that is a non-starter. It’s not how the committee works, they said, and given Kavanaugh would need to respond to Ford’s testimony, it will not occur. 

Watch more:

12:17 p.m. ET, September 21, 2018

Yale Law professors tell Senate non-partisan investigation required to maintain trust in Supreme Court

From CNN's Lauren Fox

A group of faculty members from Yale Law School — which Brett Kavanaugh graduated from — are urging the US Senate to "conduct a fair and deliberate confirmation process" amid allegations that the judge sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford.

"Where, as here, a sexual assault has been alleged against an individual nominated for a lifetime appointment in a position of public trust, a partisan hearing alone cannot be the forum to determine the truth of the matter," the group wrote in an open letter.

The letter continued: "Allegations of sexual assault require a neutral factfinder and an investigation that can ascertain facts fairly."

Here's the full letter:

As the Senate Judiciary Committee debates Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination, we write as faculty members of Yale Law School, from which Judge Kavanaugh graduated, to urge that the Senate conduct a fair and deliberate confirmation process. With so much at stake for the Supreme Court and the nation, we are concerned about a rush to judgment that threatens both the integrity of the process and the public’s confidence in the Court.
Where, as here, a sexual assault has been alleged against an individual nominated for a lifetime appointment in a position of public trust, a partisan hearing alone cannot be the forum to determine the truth of the matter. Allegations of sexual assault require a neutral factfinder and an investigation that can ascertain facts fairly. Those at the FBI or others tasked with such an investigation must have adequate time to investigate facts. Fair process requires evidence from all parties with direct knowledge and consultation of experts when evaluating such evidence. In subsequent hearings, all of those who testify, and particularly women testifying about sexual assault, must be treated with respect.
The confirmation process must always be conducted, and appointments made, in a manner that gives Americans reason to trust the Supreme Court. Some questions are so fundamental to judicial integrity that the Senate cannot rush past them without undermining the public’s confidence in the Court. This is particularly so for an appointment that will yield a deciding vote on women’s rights and myriad other questions of immense consequence in American lives.

 

11:56 a.m. ET, September 21, 2018

Why some people hesitate to report sexual assault and misconduct

From CNN's Emanuella Grinberg

President Trump tweeted this morning that Christine Blasey Ford — who has accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault when they were both in high school — would have reported the alleged attack at the time if it was "as bad as she says."

But it's not unusual for victims to wait to come forward.

Here are some reasons why some people hesitate to report sexual assault and misconduct:

  • They lose their privacy. Ford tried to keep her allegations against Kavanaugh confidential, fearing that publicly accusing him "would upend her life," according to the Washington Post.
  • They think no one will believe them. One of Ford's lawyers advised her to take a polygraph test, suspecting that people would call Ford a liar if she came forward.
  • Their names will be dragged through the mud. Anita Hill endured vicious character attacks during and after she testified in Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas' nomination hearings. She accused him of sexually harassing her as her supervisor at Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
  • Their motives are questioned. When the Washington Post published accounts from four women who said Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore pursued them as teenagers, Moore's supporters said they found the timing "suspect." The Senate race was just weeks away, leading many, including Moore's wife, to accuse the women of conspiring with the "liberal press" to get "involved" with the race.
  • They fear professional consequences. Former CBS executive Les Moonves denies allegations that he abused his position of influence to coerce female actresses and producers into unwanted sexual activity.
  • They blame themselves. American gymnast Simone Biles has described the guilt victims carry around after being violated. The Olympic champion said she was sexually abused by doctor Larry Nassar, but before speaking up, Biles said she grappled with whether she could have done something to prevent what happened, even though she did nothing to cause it.
11:39 a.m. ET, September 21, 2018

Trump tweets: TAKE THE VOTE!

President Trump is criticizing Democrats for holding onto a letter from Christine Blasey Ford detailing sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, saying the party released it now to "Obstruct & Resist & Delay."

He demanded the Senate vote on Kavanaugh's nomination even if Ford doesn't testify next week.

Here is the President's latest tweet:

What he's talking about: The letter detailing the allegations against Kavanaugh was hand-delivered to Sen. Dianne Feinstein's office on July 30. But the California Democrat didn't release it right away.

Feinstein said she privately held on to the letter because the accuser had asked her to keep them confidential. She waited until late last week to provide the letter to the FBI — only after a news report surfaced detailing the existence of the letter.

11:16 a.m. ET, September 21, 2018

GOP senators are about to have a phone call. It could dictate the next steps.

From CNN's Phil Mattingly

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley will hold a call with the 10 other Republican members of the committee in the next half hour, per a source with direct knowledge.

Why this matters: This is a key discussion that will dictate how Grassley officially responds to the requests and conditions made by Christine Blasey Ford’s lawyer.

And for context, it was the committee member meeting on Monday that led to the decision to schedule a hearing in the first place. Sen. Jeff Flake, in that closed door meeting, made clear he would oppose Kavanaugh if Ford was not given an opportunity to testify publicly. That led GOP leaders to shift course and schedule the hearing, so this phone call — and how senators like Flake feel about the path forward — will go a long way in dictating the next steps. 

We're not sure how long this could take. There’s no scheduled stop time for the call — it will continue as long as senators want to discuss, and eventually coalesce around, a path forward.

 

 

10:51 a.m. ET, September 21, 2018

The Senate will likely respond to Ford's team later today

From CNN's Manu Raju

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A Hill source says the Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley and Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell have discussed the hearing proposals from Christine Blasey Ford's legal team.

Member-level discussions will continue today before they respond to her — which will likely respond later today.

10:53 a.m. ET, September 21, 2018

Mitch McConnell tells supporters to keep the faith: Kavanaugh will be on the Supreme Court

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is confident that President Trump's Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh will eventually be confirmed.

Speaking at the 2018 Values Voters Summit this morning, McConnell said...

"President Trump has nominated a stunningly successful individual. You’ve watched the fight; you've watched the tactics, but here's what I want to tell you, in the very near future Judge Kavanaugh will be on the United States Supreme Court."

Watch the moment:

10:22 a.m. ET, September 21, 2018

Which of Ford's hearing requests are red lines (and which are non-starters)

From CNN's Manu Raju and Phil Mattingly

Last night on a call with Senate aides, Christine Blasey Ford’s attorney, Debra Katz, laid out key conditions for a possible hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee, multiple sources with direct knowledge of the call said.

Those sources said they didn’t view all the requests as red lines — just a few. That is why most believe they are on the road to the hearing. 

Here are the conditions — and where they stand now:

  • The hearing cannot be on Monday. This one is not negotiable and is a red line. Katz proposed Thursday, which is possible, but not by any means set at this point. 
  • Ford will not be in the same room as Kavanaugh. This one also isn't negotiable, but it’s also not a huge ask. Witnesses can be separated and enter and leave at different times. It’s not an extraordinary request. 
  • Ford's safety is key. This is the final non-negotiable ask. Ford must be made to feel safe, which, given the threats that Katz laid out that have been directed toward Ford since this was all made public, is understood by all parties. 
  • No outside counsel is to ask questions. Republicans on the committee agreed to hire outside counsel — a woman with experience on these issues — to ask the bulk of the questions at the hearing. This is for both optics (all 11 GOP members are men) and order (there are concern that the hearing would be deemed a political circus.) But Katz said this would make the hearing appear too much like a trial. This wasn’t viewed as a red-line by Republicans, according to the sources, and wasn’t agreed to. It will be discussed among committee members and staff. 
  • The committee will subpoena Kavanaugh's friend Mark Judge. Ford has alleged that Judge was also in the room at the time of the alleged assault. This is a non-starter for Republicans, who are firmly against allowing anyone outside the committee dictate who or what to subpoena. 
  • Kavanaugh must testify first, before Ford. This, according to congressional aides, is a non-starter. It’s not how the committee works, and given Kavanaugh would need to respond to Ford’s testimony, will not occur. 

10:11 a.m. ET, September 21, 2018

Kavanaugh's prep school wrote a letter to parents

The president of Georgetown Prep — the school Brett Kavanaugh attended at the time of the alleged sexual assault — has sent a letter to parents, students and alumni. CNN has obtained a copy of it.

The letter does not mention Kavanaugh by name but talks about the “challenging time for Prep.” 

President James R. Van Dyke writes...

It’s also been tough to see the caricature that we have been painted with by some: that we are somehow elitist, privileged, uncaring. That we are elite, we cannot deny; every student who comes here is chosen for his personal potential regardless of financial need, and every member of the faculty and staff is chosen precisely because we think they will help to build a good and responsible and caring community for our students. There is no one here by default. That we are privileged, we also cannot deny; generations of visionary Prep alumni and friends have helped to build excellent facilities for classes and for athletics and have underwritten our retreat and service and arts programs; our students have families who love and care about them and want the best for them; our faculty and staff are educated far above the norm, many with multiple graduate degrees, and are allowed to work with students beyond a rigid curriculum that constrains many institutions. But we are not entitled, and one of the most important lessons we strive to live and to teach our students is an ethic of service and compassion and solidarity with those in need. The challenge of these days does not mitigate the need for those qualities; in fact, it asks us to renew our commitment to them, both for ourselves and for our students and their families.

He also wrote that it is time to talk with Prep students “bluntly about what respect for others, especially respect for women and other marginalized people means in very practical terms — in actions and in words.”