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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3:14 p.m. ET, September 18, 2018

Trump says he feels terribly for Kavanaugh and his family

President Trump defended his Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, saying he feels "terribly" for the judge and his family in the wake of sexual assault allegations against him.

"I feel so badly for him that he is going through this to be honest with you. I feel so badly for him. This is not a man that deserves this," Trump said at a news conference Tuesday. "Honestly I feel terribly for him, for his wife who is an incredible lovely woman. And for his beautiful young daughters. I feel terribly for them." 

He mentioned Kavanaugh's accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, once — but not by name. He also did not express any sympathy for her.

"Hopefully the woman will come forward, state her case," Trump said.


2:41 p.m. ET, September 18, 2018

How GOP senators are responding to the uncertainty of Monday's hearing

From CNN’s Manu Raju, Sunlen Serfaty, Ted Barret and Elizabeth Landers

Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins have called the possibility that Ford will not testify "puzzling" and "interesting."
Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins have called the possibility that Ford will not testify "puzzling" and "interesting."

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley said Professor Christine Blasey Ford has not yet agreed to appear at Monday’s hearing with Brett Kavanaugh — and she has not responded to requests to do so.

It's now not clear if the hearing, organized after Ford accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault, will actually happen, according to some Hill sources.

Sen. Orrin Hatch told reporters that lawmakers were meeting to figure out next steps — including if the hearing would proceed without Ford.

Here's what other GOP senators are saying about the uncertainty:

  • Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, called Ford's silence "pretty telling," but added they hope she does testify. "She hasn't responded to the committee’s normal processes, and we don't know if she's coming or not but this is her chance. This is her one chance," Cornyn said.
  • Sen. Susan Collins called the uncertainty of Ford's appearance "very puzzling." She said: "I’ve said from the beginning that these are very serious allegations and she deserves to be heard. She is now being given an opportunity to come before the Senate Judiciary Committee to answer questions and I really hope that she doesn’t pass up that opportunity.”
  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski said Ford "put herself out there" when she came forward and released her name. "If she is not going to be part of the hearing, I think that that would be a very interesting and unfortunate turn of events," she said.
2:26 p.m. ET, September 18, 2018

GOP senators say they may give Ford the option to testify in private

From CNN's Manu Raju

Emerging from a meeting in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office, Sens. Jeff Flake and Lindsey Graham both signaled that the GOP still — at the moment — plans to hold the hearing Monday.

Republicans are pushing for professor Christine Blasey Ford to come, and they are offering her an option to testify in a public or private session, they said.

Sen. John Cornyn also said Ford has the option of a closed or an open session:

Flake, who threatened to vote against Kavanaugh over the allegations, raised concerns about Ford's unwillingness to testify — a sign that if she opts not to testify it could be enough to swing key GOP votes in the "yes" column. 

Asked if they would delay the hearing, Graham said this: 

"No. ... She's got a chance to come — we run the committee, not her lawyer, not the Democrats. .. they've had this accusation since the end of July. They've done nothing with it until a week ago. We're going to give her a chance to have her say because everyone should. .. We're going to hear this out and we're going to vote."

1:14 p.m. ET, September 18, 2018

Trump says FBI shouldn't investigate Kavanaugh sexual assault allegation

From CNN's Jeremy Diamond

President Donald Trump said Tuesday he does not believe the FBI should delve any further into the decades-old sexual assault allegation leveled against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, claiming the FBI does not want to be involved.

“I don’t think the FBI really should be involved because they don’t want to be involved,” Trump said, though he then held open the possibility of the FBI involving itself in the matter. “This is not really their thing.”

President Donald Trump’s comments came as Senate Democrats ramped up calls for the White House to direct the FBI to reopen Kavanaugh’s background investigation before any hearings on the allegation of sexual assault leveled against Kavanaugh over the weekend can proceed. The Senate Judiciary Committee has invited both Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, his accuser, to testify before the committee on Monday.

Trump said Kavanaugh “is anxious” to testify and cast doubt on Ford’s willingness to testify.

“Judge Kavanaugh is anxious to do this. I don’t know about the other party. But judge kavangh is anxious to do it,” Trump said. “We want everybody to be able to speak up and to speak out.”

The President also once again lamented Sen. Diane Feinstein, the top Democrat on the judiciary committee, over her handling of the allegation against Kavanaugh, which she only disclosed last week despite first getting word of the allegation in July.

Ford did not tie her name to the allegation until this past weekend after previously disclosing the allegation anonymously to Democratic lawmakers.

Watch more:

12:36 p.m. ET, September 18, 2018

A top Republican was just asked about Anita Hill. He said he's looking forward, not backward.

From CNN's Ted Barrett 

CNN caught up with Sen. Chuck Grassley outside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office.

When asked about the possibility of adding more witnesses to the hearing, he said: “We’ve had two people that want to tell their story and that’s what we’re going to do -- is do what we planned.”

When Anita Hill's 1991 hearing was brought up, here's how Grassley responded:

CNN: During Anita Hill, there were multiple witnesses not just the two central characters?

Grassley: "You were talking about history. We are not looking back. We are looking forward.”

CNN: How do you get passed, he said, she said?

Grassley did not respond.

11:55 a.m. ET, September 18, 2018

It's not clear if the Monday hearing will happen, GOP sources say

From CNN's Manu Raju, Phil Mattingly, Sunlen Serfaty and Ariane de Vogue

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley said today that California professor Christine Blasey Ford has not agreed yet to appear at Monday’s hearing — and she has not responded to requests to do so.

"Our staff reached out to Dr. Ford’s lawyer with multiple emails yesterday to schedule a similar call and inform her of the upcoming hearing, where she will have the opportunity to share her story with the Committee. Her lawyer has not yet responded," Grassley’s spokesperson said.

Democrats want to reopen the FBI background check before having a hearing. At this moment, GOP Hill sources say it is uncertain if the hearing will happen.

But key Republican Sen. Susan Collins said it would be puzzling if Ford did not testify on Monday.

“That’s very puzzling to me,” she said about the uncertainty of her appearance. “I’ve said from the beginning that these are very serious allegations and she deserves to be heard. She is now being given an opportunity to come before the Senate Judiciary Committee to answer questions and I really hope that she doesn’t pass up that opportunity.”

12:16 p.m. ET, September 18, 2018

Top Democrat wants outside witnesses to testify, too

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, is calling for outside witnesses to testify at Monday's hearing.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, the committee's chair, said today that only Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault, have been invited to testify.

Here's Feinstein's full statement:

Chairman Grassley today said there would be only two witnesses invited to testify at the Kavanaugh hearing next week on sexual assault allegations. Compare that to the 22 witnesses at the 1991 Anita Hill hearing and it’s impossible to take this process seriously. 
What about other witnesses like Kavanaugh’s friend Mark Judge? What about individuals who were previously told about this incident? What about experts who can speak to the effects of this kind of trauma on a victim? This is another attempt by Republicans to rush this nomination and not fully vet Judge Kavanaugh.

11:38 a.m. ET, September 18, 2018

Kavanaugh wanted to push for immediate hearings, source says

From CNN's Ariane de Vogue

After Christine Blasey Ford came forward, Brett Kavanaugh wanted to push for hearings immediately, according to a source familiar with Kavanaugh's prep sessions.

He wanted to be able to express his point of view and adamantly deny it ever happened. 

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and others cautioned that there was a procedure at the Senate — for staff to reach out to Kavanaugh and Ford for interviews — and that it should be followed, says the source. However, after meeting with the caucus, it was clear that some members wanted the hearings so the decision was made to push forward. 

While no one relishes the idea of more hearings they are not afraid, according to the source. 

The source says Kavanaugh spoke yesterday for an hour with Republican Hill staffers. The source says Kavanaugh was described to him as “resolute and clear” in the session.   

Two sources say that as of last night, however, the committee has yet to hear from Ford or Ford’s lawyer as of last night. 

11:20 a.m. ET, September 18, 2018

Key GOP senator says she has no idea what to expect Monday

Sen. Lisa Murkowski — a Republican from Alaska who is considered one of the key senators that could make or break Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation — said she is not sure what to expect during Monday's hearing, where Kavanaugh and the woman who accused him of sexual assault are expected to testify.

Here's how part of her exchange with CNN went:

Q: Will this hearing be determinative of your vote?

Murkowski: I can’t say that because I have no idea what to, really what to expect. Next week, my hope is that it will be conducted with a level of respect and integrity for the process and for the people.

Q: Do you believe the allegations are credible?

Murkowski: I think that is exactly why we have this process before the committee to determine that. All I have is what you have, which is the letter that we have, a woman who has come forward. She deserves to be heard, it’s important that her voice and her story is shared, and determinations will be made at that point.

Q: If you think they are credible is there any way you could vote for Kavanaugh?

Murkowski: If…?

Q: If you think her allegations are credible, is there any you could see yourself voting for Kavanaugh?

Murkowski: I think what we need to do, what we all need to do is to not speculate on how she will perform, whether she will credible, whether he will be credible in his response, I think we should allow for the, the committee to assemble, for the individuals to be heard, and then in fairness we should make our determination. Not only based on that particular moment in time, that hearing, but all that we have already heard, some thirty hours testimony in other areas. So this is yet a continuation of a process. Some had hoped it would have been a process that was wrapped up by now, it’s not. Monday will tell us a lot more, and I think that that’s an important part of this nomination process as we look to, to the attributes of this individual.