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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12:45 p.m. ET, September 20, 2018

Republicans reject Ford's request for outside witnesses

From CNN Manu Raju

Senate Republicans are rejecting Christine Blasey Ford's request to have outside witnesses testify at Monday's hearing.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn told CNN this when asked why there would be no outside witnesses:

"We already had a hearing. That's what I call hijacking the regular committee process to accommodate political interests. What we are interested in knowing for her is whether she had credible testimony that this event occurred as she said it did. If she doesn't show up, we don't have that information and we have to proceed without it."

A spokesman for the Senate Judiciary Committee, George Hartmann, confirmed that the plan is to only allow two witnesses testify — Kavanaugh and Ford, if she agrees.

Ford's attorneys and Democrats have called for outside witnesses, as was the case in the Anita Hill hearings.

Cornyn also made clear that the GOP will move forward with a vote if she doesn't appear Monday.

"If she doesn't want to participate and tell her story, there's no reason for us to delay. I think it all depends on what she decides to do. We've all made clear this is her chance," he said. "But if she doesn't want to do that, then we're going to have a markup."

12:39 p.m. ET, September 20, 2018

Mitch McConnell seems confident Kavanaugh will be confirmed

From CNN's Manu Raju

CNN just asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell if he had confidence that Brett Kavanaugh would be confirmed.

"Oh yeah," he said. 
11:21 a.m. ET, September 20, 2018

Protesters are chanting outside of GOP senators' offices

From CNN's Ted Barrett 

Protesters and police in the Dirksen Senate Office Building
Protesters and police in the Dirksen Senate Office Building

A group of protestors yelling that they “believe women" are outside of Sen. Bob Corker's office in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill.

The comments are an reference to Christine Blasey Ford's allegation that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her.

Corker has called on the Senate to move forward with a vote on Kavanaugh if Ford does not testify on Monday. (She has requested the FBI investigate the allegation before she speaks publicly.)

Protesters also gathered in Sen. Susan Collin's office. The Maine senator has said "it's not fair" to Kavanaugh if Ford does not testify.

11:07 a.m. ET, September 20, 2018

Ford hasn't closed the door on testifying — but she hasn't communicated with Grassley, sources say

From CNN's Sunlen Serfaty

One congressional source with knowledge of the hearing negotiations says that they don’t believe Ford has closed the door entirely on testifying. 

This source says they have interpreted all the back and forth over the last 48 hours as evidence that Dr. Ford simply hasn’t decided or has shown signs of cold feet — but hasn’t closed the door entirely.

They believe that her legal team is just trying to buy her time as she grapples with the decision whether she wants to testify or not. 

Per a committee source, there has been no new communication between Chairman Chuck Grassley and Ford’s team as of late last night.

The only contact they received from Dr. Ford’s attorney’s Wednesday was an email confirming receipt of Grassley’s letter to them.

9:04 a.m. ET, September 20, 2018

Ford has until 10 a.m. tomorrow to respond to the Senate. What happens after that?

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley has set a 10 a.m. Friday 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.

Ford has asked that the FBI investigate before she publicly testifies.

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.

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."

Meanwhile, some Republicans are urging Ford to speak on Monday. 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."
8:16 a.m. ET, September 20, 2018

What Democrats from red states are saying about Kavanaugh's nomination

From CNN's Daniella Diaz and Elizabeth Landers

Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida
Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Brett Kavanaugh is facing the confirmation of a lifetime.

Whether Kavanaugh is successfully confirmed has become a question of Senate math. Republicans hold a slim 51-49 majority in the chamber.

And ahead of the midterms, all eyes are on the 10 Democrats running for re-election in states Trump carried in 2016. 

Here's a look at what undecided Democratic senators from red states are saying:

  • Bill Nelson of Florida on July 9 — "I look forward to meeting with the President's nominee in the coming weeks to discuss his views on several important issues such as protecting women's rights, guaranteeing access to health care for those with pre-existing conditions and protecting the right to vote, just to name a few. I will make my decision after that."
  • Joe Donnelly of Indiana on September 12 — "I'm still reviewing everything at this point."
  • Jon Tester of Montana on September 12 — "We're going to be reviewing the transcript of the judiciary hearing pretty hard over the next couple of days to see how he answered the questions, if he answered the questions. And then also I want to add the in-person meeting. I'm going to be visiting with him about issues on security and campaign finance and choice and other things."
  • Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota on September 12 — "I'm still reviewing the record."
7:54 a.m. ET, September 20, 2018

Senate Judiciary schedules a hearing for nominations

From CNN's Ted Barrett 

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley sets a mark-up for “nominations” Wednesday. 

What this means: This would be used for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh if they are ready to vote on him. 

Here's the notice:

5:17 p.m. ET, September 19, 2018

Grassley rejects Democratic calls to delay Monday's hearing

From CNN's Manu Raju and Ariane De Vogue

In a new letter, Sen. Chuck Grassley rejected Democratic calls to delay Monday's hearing so an FBI probe to take place first. He said he is offering Ford "many options" to testify, either in public or in private, in California, or "anywhere else."

He said a private session 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.

Grassley accuses Senate Democrats of misconstruing how an FBI background check works. He said the FBI does the background check before a nomination is made, and the White House provides that information to the Senate as a matter of courtesy. "The FBI does not make a credibility assessment of any information it receives with respect to a nominee."

Grassley also disputed any comparison to the FBI investigation into the Anita Hill allegations against Clarence Thomas. He said in that case, Hill's allegations were still not public, and the FBI conducted a confidential investigation. In this case, the information is public, "there is no longer a need for a confidential FBI investigation." He also said then-Chairman Joe Biden "expeditiously" notified the White House at the time of the Hill allegations, unlike Dianne Feinstein who held onto the allegations since July 30.

Grassley says that Kavanaugh sat for a "transcribed interview" on Monday as part of the committee's background investigation and "understood he was under penalty of felony if he was not truthful." He added: "We have no reason to doubt the truthfulness of Judge Kavanaugh's testimony."

"I am following the same timeline Chairman Biden did after Professor Hill's allegations were made public," Grassley wrote. "It would be a disservice to Dr. Ford, Judge Kavanaugh, this Committee, and the American people to delay this hearing any further."

4:28 p.m. ET, September 19, 2018

How the Senate Judiciary Committee that heard Anita Hill's testimony compares to today's

Christine Blasey Ford's sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh have drawn parallels to Anita Hill's sexual harassment allegations against Justice Clarence Thomas.

The Senate Judiciary committee was responsible for Thomas' hearings in 1991 — and it's responsible for Kavanaugh's now.

So how does the makeup compare between 1991 and now?

  • In 1991, there were no women on the committee. Now there are four.
  • Democrats held a 8-6 majority in 1991. Today, there are 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats.
  • Three senators who are currently on the committee — Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch and Patrick Leahy — were also on it in 1991

Watch more: