During an interview with Hugh Hewitt on Tuesday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley lamented that Christine Blasey Ford had yet to respond to his invitation to testify at a public hearing on Monday about her claim that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh attempted to rape her when they were teenagers.
“Do they want to have the hearing or not? We’re delaying the vote strictly to get all the facts out on the table,” Grassley said. “What would be the purpose of the hearing if Dr. Ford doesn’t want to respond?”
Ford responded on Tuesday evening via a letter from her attorney, saying that she became the target of “vicious harassment and even death threats” following her decision to go public on Sunday, forcing her to move out of her home. Meanwhile, Grassley’s office set up a hearing “for her to testify at the same table as Judge Kavanaugh in front of two dozen U.S. senators on national television to relive this traumatic and harrowing incident.”
“The hearing was scheduled for six short days from today and would include interrogation by senators who appear to have made up their minds that she is ‘mistaken’ and ‘mixed up,’” the letter continued. “While no sexual assault survivor should be subjected to such an ordeal, Dr. Ford wants to cooperate with the Committee and with law enforcement officials.”
Ford’s attorney said an FBI investigation should be the “first step” in addressing her claims. “A full investigation by law enforcement officials will ensure that the crucial facts and witnesses in this matter are assessed in a non-partisan matter, and that the Committee is fully informed before conducting any hearing or making any decision.”
Within hours, Grassley released a statement saying there would be no FBI investigation. “Immediately after learning of Dr. Ford’s identity from news reports Sunday, committee staff started working to gather facts related to her claims,” Grassley said. A paragraph later, the senator said the only additional information the committee is interested in gathering is Ford’s testimony.
“Dr. Ford’s testimony would reflect her personal knowledge and memory of events. Nothing the FBI or any other investigator does would have any bearing on what Dr. Ford tells the committee, so there is no reason for further delay.
Grassley’s statement also denied that there were plans to have Ford and Kavanaugh sit on a panel together, and claimed that she was offered “multiple dates as well as a choice of providing information in a public or private setting.” As several journalists noted on Twitter, it’s unclear how the conditions were set for the hearing if Grassley was still waiting to hear back from Ford.
“The FBI has indicated to the committee and in public statements that it considers the matter closed,” Grassley added.
The FBI declined to comment on Ford’s letter. Earlier on Tuesday, President Trump told reporters, “I don’t think the FBI really should be involved because they don’t want to be involved,” in investigating the allegations. The Justice Department previously said that the FBI had updated Kavanaugh’s background-check file to include the allegation, but suggested that the bureau did not plan to take further action. However, two sources told Bloomberg that the FBI isn’t acting because the White House hasn’t requested an investigation, not because, as Trump suggested, they simply don’t want to.
… FBI background investigations are conducted under specific procedures and through requests from government agencies — which in Kavanaugh’s case would come from the White House, said the two people who asked not to be identified discussing the sensitive matter.
As Politico notes, the FBI did conduct an FBI investigation prior to Anita Hill’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee about her allegations of sexual harassment against now–Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
Nevertheless, Senator Orrin Hatch — who said he thinks Ford is “mistaken,” and even if she isn’t, that Kavanaugh is a “good man” who should be judged for who he is today — tweeted on Sunday night it’s up to the Judiciary Committee alone to investigate Ford’s allegation.
The Judiciary Committee does not appear interested in hearing from anyone aside from Ford and Kavanaugh. Mark Judge, who was allegedly in the room egging his friend on during the assault, said Tuesday that he “never saw” Kavanaugh behave in the way Ford described and would prefer not to testify. “I have no more information to offer the committee and I do not wish to speak publicly regarding the incidents,” he said in a letter to the Judiciary Committee.
Even before Judge issued his statement, Senator Lindsey Graham said he doesn’t need to be called as a witness. “No reason to,” Graham said. “He’s already said what he’s going to say. I want to hear from her, if she wants to speak, and I want to hear from him,” meaning Kavanaugh.
But as the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake notes, testimony under oath is much different than a denial in a letter to senators:
Judge can deny Ford’s allegations all day long publicly and never be held legally accountable for his words. The only setting in which his denials must be accurate, at risk of jail time, is if he’s testifying — in a courtroom or to Congress. Getting him on the record and under oath would seem to be good as a matter of course and when it comes to bolstering Kavanaugh’s defense.
A second potential witness followed Judge’s lead. In a letter to the Judiciary Committee, Patrick J. Smyth claimed he had been “identified by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford as the person she remembers as ‘PJ’ who supposedly was present at the party she described in her statements to the Washington Post.” (Smith had actually yet to be publicly identified. The Post report only says, “Ford named two other teenagers who she said were at the party. Those individuals did not respond to messages on Sunday morning.”)
Smyth asked the committee to accept his letter in lieu of testimony. “I am issuing this statement today to make it clear to all involved that I have no knowledge of the party in question; nor do I have any knowledge of the allegations of improper conduct she has leveled against Brett Kavanaugh,” he said.
The New York Times reported that even without hearing testimony from Ford, Senate Republicans are ready to stick with Hatch’s strategy, suggesting they believe Ford was assaulted, but she’s wrong about Kavanaugh being the perpetrator:
Trump’s advisers and Judge Kavanaugh’s allies appeared to be settling on a strategy of defending him by suggesting that this must be a case of mistaken identity. Under the emerging strategy, Judge Kavanaugh’s defenders would accept that Dr. Blasey was in fact assaulted but would insist that it must have been by someone other than Judge Kavanaugh because he denied it.
The approach reflects the shifting reality of the #MeToo movement when it has become politically perilous to directly attack the credibility of women who come forward to tell their stories. By suggesting that perhaps there was confusion after more than 30 years, White House allies said that they could offer wavering Republicans whose votes are critical for his confirmation another explanation for the he-said-she-said conflict without tearing down Dr. Blasey.
A person close to Ford told the Times that she knew Kavanaugh in passing before the party, which makes it harder to believe that she simply misremembered the identity of the man who attempted to rape her.
While holding a full investigation, or at least calling other witnesses before the Senate, could shed light on Ford’s allegation, Republicans are digging in. Senator Bob Corker, who initially bucked his party to say the committee should hear from Ford before voting to advance his nomination, tweeted on Tuesday night that if she doesn’t take up the Republicans’ gracious offer of a rushed he-said-she-said hearing, they’ll just move on.