WASHINGTON ― Senate Republicans agreed this week to hear from a woman who alleges that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were both teens, but they’re resisting calls from Democrats to bring in additional witnesses.
Testimony from just Kavanaugh and his accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, won’t be enough, Democrats said Tuesday.
“That’s simply inadequate, unfair, wrong, and a desire not to get at the whole truth and nothing but the truth,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on the Senate floor.
Even the plan to hear from just Kavanaugh and Ford seems to be in flux. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said Tuesday that Ford hasn’t confirmed she would attend the Monday hearing. Ford’s attorney’s office did not respond to a request for comment. Ford’s attorney has previously said her client would testify.
Democrats said people should cut Ford some slack on her response time, noting that she came forward on Sunday and that Grassley quickly scheduled a hearing without consulting her.
“To be treated fairly, she should have at least been asked if she was available that day,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said.
Schumer said the FBI, which conducts background checks of judicial nominees, should investigate Ford’s claim that Kavanaugh attempted to sexually assault her when they were both high school students in the early 1980s. He said the committee should also hear from Mark Judge, a Kavanaugh classmate Ford said was in the room during the alleged incident.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee and one of the lawmakers whom Ford first notified of the allegations, similarly condemned the lack of witnesses.
“What about other witnesses like Kavanaugh’s friend Mark Judge? What about individuals who were previously told about this incident? What about experts who can speak to the effects of this kind of trauma on a victim?” she said in a statement. “This is another attempt by Republicans to rush this nomination and not fully vet Judge Kavanaugh.”
Republicans have been largely supportive of having only two witnesses: Ford and Kavanaugh. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.) said the public has “heard from” Judge already in his statement denying the allegations.
“I just don’t think we need to draw it out,” she told reporters.
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said, “Hearing from the accuser and the accused is the appropriate way to do it.”
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a key undecided senator on Kavanaugh’s nomination, on Tuesday called on the Senate Judiciary Committee to allow outside counsel to question both witnesses.
President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he wanted to hear from both sides but also “get this done as quickly as possible.”
But Democrats seemed to have coalesced around the message that more time will likely be necessary. Schumer said having only two witnesses, and then quickly holding a committee vote on the nominee, would repeat the mistake the Judiciary Committee made when it declined to hear testimony from additional witnesses who could corroborate Anita Hill’s accusations of sexual harassment by then-nominee Clarence Thomas, who now serves in the Supreme Court.
“We must not repeat the mistake of the Anita Hill hearings,” he said on the Senate floor. “They were rushed and were a debacle.”
Hill urged the Senate not to “rush these hearings” in an op-ed published Tuesday by The New York Times.
“Doing so would not only signal that sexual assault accusations are not important — hastily appraising this situation would very likely lead to facts being overlooked that are necessary for the Senate and the public to evaluate,” she wrote. “That the committee plans to hold a hearing this coming Monday is discouraging. Simply put, a week’s preparation is not enough time for meaningful inquiry into very serious charges.”
Amanda Terkel contributed reporting.
This was a developing story and has been updated throughout.