Supreme Court nominee faces sexual assault allegation

By Brian Ries, Meg Wagner, Sophie Tatum, and Jessie Yeung, CNN
7:39 p.m. ET, September 21, 2018
4:19 p.m. ET, September 18, 2018

The Kavanaugh vote has officially been canceled

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley has officially canceled a committee vote on Brett Kavaunagh's Supreme Court nomination. The vote was scheduled for Thursday.

Here's the notice on the committee's website:

3:42 p.m. ET, September 18, 2018

George W. Bush stands by Kavanaugh amid sexual assault allegation

Former President George W. Bush told Politico he is standing by his previous comments praising Judge Brett Kavanaugh as his nomination to the Supreme Court was suddenly thrust into question over the weekend.

"Laura and I have known and respected Brett Kavanaugh for decades, and we stand by our comments the night Judge Kavanaugh was nominated," Bush said.

In the former comments, Bush called Kavanaugh "a fine husband, father, and friend – and a man of the highest integrity" who "will make a superb Justice."

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

GOP senator says if Ford doesn't show, he supports vote on Kavanaugh

From CNN's Jim Acosta

GOP Sen. Jeff Flake said if Brett Kavanaugh's accuser Christine Blasey Ford fails to appear at the hearing scheduled for Monday, he would support his party's push to move forward on a vote on Kavanaugh's nomination. 

"I think we'll have to move to the markup," he tells CNN.

Flake said he's hopeful Ford will accept the committee's invitation and speak at the hearing.  

"I hope she does. I think she needs to be heard," Flake said.
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.

Watch:

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."

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.”