Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee are considering having their aides question Christine Blasey Ford should she testify about her sexual assault accusations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
There’s a reason for this unusual move: Every Republican senator on the committee is male, and aggressive questioning of Blasey could backfire for them. If they use their aides, they would be able to rely on female staffers. (The Democratic side is more diverse, with women and people of color on the committee.)
Three Democratic sources familiar with the committee’s planning told HuffPost that this proposal was under consideration, although so far it’s not clear whether Blasey and Kavanaugh will testify. The office of Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the chairman of the judiciary panel, did not return a request for comment.
“We’ve discussed various options, including hiring outside lawyers and supplementing that with senators asking questions,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a member of the committee. “So, any senator who wants to ask questions remains free to do so. But I don’t want want to get in front of the chairman.”
Another option under consideration is allowing Blasey’s attorney to question Kavanaugh and Kavanaugh’s attorney to question Blasey, an idea that Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said she would support. Collins is not on the judiciary committee.
Republicans are no doubt eager to avoid some of the mistakes of 1991, when law professor Anita Hill testified about her sexual harassment allegations against Clarence Thomas, who was eventually confirmed to the Supreme Court anyway.
Hill, a black woman, had to testify in front of a Senate Judiciary Committee that was composed entirely of white men. The optics were not lost on anyone, and in the 1992 elections, women across the country were inspired to run to change the representation in Congress.
Republicans have agreed to hear testimony from Blasey on Monday, but they’re resisting calls from Democrats to bring in additional witnesses.
One person Democrats want to call is Mark Judge, the classmate who allegedly joined Kavanaugh in locking Blasey in a room at a party when they were all in high school. Blasey claims that Kavanaugh pinned her down and tried to remove her clothes, holding his hand over her mouth so that she wouldn’t scream. She was able to get away.
Judge has said he does not remember the incident she describes, but his reliability as a character witness is not strong, since he has written extensively about the hard partying he did growing up. And on Tuesday afternoon, Judge said he did not want to testify.
Grassley said that Blasey has not yet agreed to attend on Monday, and her lawyer didn’t return a request for comment from HuffPost.
Democrats also want more time to consider Kavanaugh’s nomination in light of the new allegations, which just came out last week. They say that hearing from only Blasey and Kavanaugh and then quickly voting on his nomination would undermine the serious nature of the allegations.
Igor Bobic contributed reporting.