Senate committee agrees to give Kavanaugh accuser more time

The high-stakes brinkmanship over whether Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser would testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee has come to a momentary standstill as chairman Chuck Grassley gave Christine Blasey Ford more time to decide on the terms of her appearance.

The Republican-led committee insisted that if Ms Ford missed a Friday night deadline to respond to the panel’s latest offer it would hold a vote on Monday on recommending Mr Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination for the full Senate to consider.

Nearly two hours after the deadline set by Mr Grassley expired on Friday night, the Iowa Republican tweeted that he had “just granted another extension” for Christine Blasey Ford to agree to terms for telling his panel about her allegation.

He provided no details of the extension, and participants from both sides did not immediately return messages requesting clarification.

“She shld decide so we can move on I want to hear her. I hope u understand,” he wrote just before midnight in a comment directed at Mr Kavanaugh.

Earlier, Mr Grassley had rejected proposals by Ms Ford’s lawyers that only senators interrogate Ms Ford and that she appear after Mr Kavanaugh should she appear.

Ms Ford’s lawyer Debra Katz requested another day to decide and said Mr Grassley’s deadline’s “sole purpose is to bully Dr Ford and deprive her of the ability to make a considered decision that has life-altering implications for her and her family”.

In backing away from his deadline, Mr Grassley underscored the sensitivity with which Senate Republicans have tried handling Ms Ford.

The late-night brinkmanship between Mr Grassley and Ms Ford left in question whether she would appear before the Republican-run committee and describe her allegation to millions of voters.

Now a 51-year-old California psychology professor, Ms Ford says an inebriated Mr Kavanaugh pinned her on a bed, muffled her cries and tried removing her clothes when both were teenagers in the 1980s.

Mr Kavanaugh, a District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals judge, has repeatedly denied the accusation.

Mr Grassley’s move capped a tumultuous day President Donald Trump began with an incendiary tweet of his own, stating that if the long-ago incident was “as bad as she says,” she or “her loving parents” surely would have reported it to law enforcement.

Republican Senator Susan Collins, who has not declared support for Mr Kavanaugh, called the remark “appalling”.

The Judiciary committee’s 11 Republicans — all men — have been seeking an outside female lawyer to interrogate Ms Ford.

Mr Grassley also rejected her proposal that she testify after Mr Kavanaugh.

“We are unwilling to accommodate your unreasonable demands,” Mr Grassley said in a written statement.

Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Senator Chuck Grassle (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)">
Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Senator Chuck Grassle (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

Mr Grassley’s stance underscored a desire by Mr Trump and Republican leaders to usher Mr Kavanaugh, 51, on to the high court by the October 1 start of its new session and before the November elections.

At a campaign rally in Missouri later on Friday, Mr Trump did not mention Ms Ford but said Mr Kavanaugh was born to be on the Supreme Court and “it’s going to happen”.

The Judiciary panel’s top Democrat expressed fury at Mr Grassley’s negotiating position with Ms Ford and maintained Democrats’ effort to build the battle into a larger election-year question about the treatment of women.

Mr Grassley said he would schedule a hearing for Wednesday, not Thursday, as Ms Ford prefers.

He also rebuffed other requests, including calling additional witnesses.

Mr Grassley consented to other demands, including that Ms Ford be provided security and that Mr Kavanaugh not be in the hearing room when she testifies.

Ms Ford’s request for security comes after her lawyers said she has relocated her family due to death threats. She planned to meet with FBI agents in the San Francisco area to discuss those threats, said a person close to her.

The letter to Ms Ford’s lawyers said Mr Kavanaugh and his family have received death threats too, “And they’re getting worse each day.”

- Press Association

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