Christine Blasey Ford Wants F.B.I. to Investigate Kavanaugh Before She Testifies

Her position puts the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing scheduled for Monday in doubt.

© Erin Schaff for The New York Times Senator Charles E. Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Judge Kavanaugh’s accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, had failed so far to respond to his requests to testify in front of the panel.


The woman who has accused President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee of sexual assault all but ruled out appearing at an extraordinary Senate hearing scheduled for next week to hear her allegations, insisting on Tuesday that the F.B.I. investigate first.

Speaking through lawyers, Christine Blasey Ford said she would cooperate with the Senate Judiciary Committee and left open the possibility of testifying later about her allegations against Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh. But echoing Senate Democrats, she said an investigation should be “the first step” before she is put “on national television to relive this traumatic and harrowing incident.”

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Republicans signaled Tuesday night that they would not negotiate an alternative date and would go ahead with the hearing without her or declare it unnecessary if she refuses to appear, then possibly move to a vote. They have repeatedly stressed that Monday would be Dr. Blasey’s opportunity to testify, either privately or publicly, and that they planned to move forward with the confirmation process afterward.

The apparent standoff was yet another turn in a high-stakes drama over the president’s second Supreme Court nominee that began Thursday, when the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee revealed that she had referred the sexual assault allegations to federal investigators. Dr. Blasey, a research psychologist in Northern California, has accused Judge Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her more than 30 years ago when they were teenagers at a boozy high school party, a charge that he has categorically denied.

In a letter sent to the committee on Tuesday evening, Dr. Blasey’s lawyers charged that some senators have already “made up their minds,” but she did not explicitly reject appearing before them. In an appearance on CNN, however, one of the lawyers, Lisa J. Banks, seemed to suggest that Dr. Blasey would not show up on Monday.

“She’s not prepared to talk with them at a hearing on Monday,” Ms. Banks said. Even if Republicans agreed to an F.B.I. investigation, it would take time to complete, she added. “No legitimate investigation is going to happen between now and Monday.”

Democratic leaders quickly endorsed Dr. Blasey’s position, but her resistance to coming to the committee on Monday seemed to harden the resolve of Republicans who said they gave her a chance to make her case.

“Republicans extended a hand in good faith,” said Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, one of the Republicans who insisted on postponing a vote until she could be heard. “If we don’t hear from both sides on Monday, let’s vote.”

Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa and the Judiciary Committee chairman, said he would welcome Dr. Blasey for a staff-led interview or a private hearing, if she preferred, but made clear he was sticking with the schedule for Monday.

“Dr. Ford’s testimony would reflect her personal knowledge and memory of events,” he said in a statement. “Nothing the F.B.I. or any other investigator does would have any bearing on what Dr. Ford tells the committee, so there is no reason for any further delay.”

Mr. Trump joined other Republicans in rejecting an F.B.I. investigation of the long-ago episode even before Dr. Blasey’s letter was sent on Tuesday evening. The bureau “said that they really don’t do that, that’s not what they do,” Mr. Trump said during a news conference. “And now they have done supposedly six background checks over the years as Judge Kavanaugh has gone beautifully up the ladder.”

In the letter to the Judiciary Committee, Dr. Blasey’s lawyers said that she has been the target of “vicious harassment and even death threats” since her name was made public on Sunday in an interview published in The Washington Post. Her email has been hacked, she has been impersonated online and she and her family have been forced to relocate out of their home, according to the lawyers, Ms. Banks and her partner, Debra S. Katz.

“While Dr. Ford’s life was being turned upside down, you and your staff scheduled a public 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 lawyers wrote to Mr. Grassley. The hearing “would include interrogation by senators who appear to have made up their minds that she is ‘mistaken’ and ‘mixed up.’”

Dr. Blasey, who is sometimes referred to by her married name, Ford, “wants to cooperate with the committee and with law enforcement officials” but believes that a “full investigation” by the F.B.I. would be necessary to form a nonpartisan assessment before any hearing, the lawyers wrote.

Both Dr. Blasey, 51, and Judge Kavanaugh, 53, had said on Monday morning that they were willing to come before the committee. In response, Mr. Grassley postponed a vote on the judge’s confirmation and scheduled the hearing for next week. An aide to Mr. Grassley said that the committee never intended to seat the two witnesses together at one table or even on one panel.

Democrats and Republicans spent much of Tuesday arguing over the scope and shape of what such a hearing would entail. Mr. Grassley told the radio host Hugh Hewitt that Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Blasey would be the only witnesses, prompting pushback from top Democrats.

Another potential witness, Mark Judge, a friend of Judge Kavanaugh’s who Dr. Blasey said was in the room when the assault occurred, told the Judiciary Committee he does not remember it. “I never saw Brett act in the manner Dr. Ford describes,” he said in a statement sent by his lawyers, adding that “I do not wish to speak publicly” about the matter.

As senators in both parties grappled with how to move forward, Mr. 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.

The line of defense seemed to be previewed on Monday when Judge Kavanaugh called Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah and a member of the Judiciary Committee, to discuss the allegations. Mr. Hatch told reporters afterward that he believed Judge Kavanaugh. “I think she’s mistaken something” or is “mixed up,” he said.

Two people familiar with the call, who did not want to be identified discussing it, said the judge insisted to Mr. Hatch that he did not do what he was accused of and then, in response to a question, agreed it was possible Dr. Blasey was thinking of somebody else.

Dr. Blasey has been uncertain about some details of the episode, including when it happened and whose house they were at. But this strategy carries its own risks. The letter from Dr. Blasey’s lawyers strongly suggested that it would be offensive to assert that she would not remember who pinned her down to a bed, groped her, tried to take her clothing off and covered her mouth to keep her from screaming at that party in the 1980s.

Judge Kavanaugh has told associates that he did not know who his accuser was until she identified herself in The Post and that once he saw her name he vaguely recalled her being part of the social circle associated with his all-boys high school in suburban Maryland at the time.

A person close to Dr. Blasey, who asked not to be identified to discuss her situation in detail, said she knew the future Judge Kavanaugh in passing before the gathering where she says the attack took place, which could make it harder for his defenders to make a case that she had confused him for someone else.

The conflicting stories generated political fireworks in Washington on Tuesday. Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, posted on Twitter a video clip of Judge Kavanaugh speaking at his alma mater, Georgetown Preparatory School, in 2015. “What happens at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown Prep,” he said to laughter. “That’s been a good thing for all of us, I think.”

Ms. Warren added: “I can’t imagine any parent accepting this view. Is this really what America wants in its next Supreme Court Justice?”

For their part, the White House and other Republicans seized on comments Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, made to Fox News. “I can’t say everything’s truthful,” she said of Dr. Blasey’s account. “I don’t know.”

The White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders cited that and added, “Now clear why top Democrat on Senate Judiciary Committee did nothing with allegation for months or even ask Judge Kavanaugh about it.”

Ms. Feinstein later clarified on Twitter: “During every step of this process, I’ve found every single piece of information from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford eminently credible, sincere and believable.”

Dr. Blasey’s allegations are inevitably evoking comparisons to 1991 confirmation hearings of Justice Clarence Thomas, who was accused of sexual harassment by the law professor Anita F. Hill. The sight of Professor Hill being grilled on national television by an all-white, all-male Judiciary Committee enraged women, contributing to the so-called Year of the Woman in 1992 when scores of women ran for public office.

Republicans, clearly hoping to avoid a repeat of the Hill-Thomas scenario, were considering employing a special counsel or staff member to question Dr. Blasey and Judge Kavanaugh. Democrats accused Republicans of trying to rush through a hearing without a proper investigation of serious charges.

“She is under no obligation to participate in the Republican efforts to sweep the whole thing under the rug, to continue this nomination on a fast track,” said Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, who won her Senate seat in 1992. “It’s basically a railroad job. This is what they did to Anita Hill.”

But while Republicans hoped to avoid appearing to aggressively attack Dr. Blasey’s credibility, they made clear on Tuesday that they will vigorously defend Judge Kavanaugh, who until last week seemed on a glide path to confirmation. Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican, called Dr. Blasey’s accusations “a drive-by attack on the character of this judge,” and referred to them as “false allegations,” in remarks on the Senate floor.

Uncharacteristically, the combative Mr. Trump on Tuesday stuck to the strategy of not attacking the accuser directly as well, instead expressing sympathy and faith in Judge Kavanaugh while assailing Democrats for trying to torpedo his nominee.

“I feel so badly for him that he’s going through this, to be honest with you,” Mr. Trump said of the judge. “I feel so badly for him. This is not a man that deserves this.”

He repeated the attack on Ms. Feinstein for not raising the issue earlier in the confirmation process given that Dr. Blasey first contacted her in July. “Why didn’t the Democrats bring it up then?” he said. “Because they obstruct and because they resist. That’s the name of their campaign against me.”

Ms. Feinstein has said she respected Dr. Blasey’s request for confidentiality. Only after word of the accusations leaked out last week did Dr. Blasey shift gears and agree to be named publicly.

Professor Hill, in an opinion article published Tuesday in The New York Times, warned senators against repeating her experience in 1991.

“That the Senate Judiciary Committee still lacks a protocol for vetting sexual harassment and assault claims that surface during a confirmation hearing suggests that the committee has learned little from the Thomas hearing, much less the more recent #MeToo movement,” she wrote, adding that the committee should “serve as fact-finders” not “destroy the lives of witnesses who are called to testify.”

Correction: September 18, 2018

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: An earlier version of this article misstated what Mark Judge told the Senate Judiciary Committee. He said that he does not remember the episode, not that he does.


Note: If you think this story need more information or correction, feel free to comment below your opinion and reaction.

Politics News: Christine Blasey Ford Wants F.B.I. to Investigate Kavanaugh Before She Testifies
Christine Blasey Ford Wants F.B.I. to Investigate Kavanaugh Before She Testifies
Her position puts the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing scheduled for Monday in doubt.
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