Judiciary Committee Republicans have maintained open line of communication with Ford lawyers
Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Emails between Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley’s staff and the legal team of Brett Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford, obtained by ABC News, show that Republican staffers reached out the day after Ford’s identity was made public and offered to have her testify later that same week or the following Monday at an upcoming hearing on the Supreme Court nominee.
On Thursday afternoon, Ford’s lawyers told the committee in an email that she would be open to testifying next week as long as terms are met that are “fair and ensure her safety.”
That email was the latest in a four-day-long chain of correspondence between her legal team and Republican committee staff, according to documents obtained by ABC News.
The emails do not indicate any responses from Ford’s legal team prior to Tuesday evening. It was not immediately clear whether there was additional correspondence beyond the emails ABC obtained, and Ford’s lawyers did not respond to request for comment about the email outreach.
The professional tone of the correspondence is markedly different from the heated rhetoric being employed by members of both parties on the Judiciary Committee, who have accused one another of mishandling Ford’s allegations.
The names in the emails have been redacted to protect privacy.
Committee Republicans first reached out to her legal team Monday afternoon after a Washington Post article naming Ford as the woman accusing Kavanaugh of sexual assault was published the day before.
“The Chairman’s staff would like to schedule a phone call tomorrow at a time convenient for you and your client. The standard practice of the Committee is to follow-up on any allegations with a phone call to relevant parties. The call will allow our staff to obtain additional information regarding the events described in Professor Ford’s letter to the Ranking Member and the September 16, 2018, Washington Post article,” a GOP committee staffer wrote.
The staffer also said committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein’s staff would be invited to participate in the call. The staffer provided an email and direct phone line at which they could be reached.
After receiving an out-of-office message from Katz, the staffers then forwarded the message to the firm’s office manager minutes later, at 3:53 p.m., to ensure it was received.
Republican staff on the committee also interviewed Kavanaugh over the phone Monday, and “made contact” with other alleged witnesses including Mark Judge, who Ford said was in the room during the alleged assault. Judge responded through his lawyer, saying he had “no memory” of the alleged incident. Judge is the author of the book “Wasted: Tales of a Gen X Drunk,” a memoir which details incidents of heavy drinking as a teen and young adult.
In the emails to Ford’s legal team, the majority staff said they invited Democrats to participate in all phone interviews but that Democrats declined, citing the need for the FBI to first conduct its investigation.
In response to a request for comment, a Democratic aide rejected the notion that the Republican emails to Ford’s lawyers were adequate.
“Republicans announced the hearing and then sent an email to Dr. Ford’s lawyers inviting her to testify—that’s not consultation or working in good faith,” the aide said in an emailed statement.
Since Ford’s name became public, Democrats and Republicans on and off the Judiciary Committee have traded barbs. On Wednesday, Sen. Mazie Hirono, a Hawaii Democrat, said Grassley’s assertions that committee Republicans had done everything to contact Ford’s legal team was “bull—-.”
The rhetoric has been equally heated on the Republican side. On Tuesday, Sen. Lindsey Graham said the Democrats’ handling of the Ford accusations has been “a drive-by shooting when it comes to Kavanaugh.”
As the shots were fired in public, committee staff and Ford’s lawyers privately continued their relatively mundane correspondence, lamenting the occasional missed missive. Some of their dialogue did play out almost simultaneously in public, however, via media disclosures.
Grassley’s staff emailed Katz about 6 p.m. Monday that Grassley intended to re-open the confirmation hearing and invite both her and Kavanaugh to testify, about the same time the committee made that announcement publicly.
The following day, after the Judiciary staffer had not heard back from Ford lawyer, Debra Katz, they emailed again, noting that they had also tried to call her twice. They reiterated their invitation for her to testify on Monday, and that “we can have this session open or closed to the public depending on what Dr. Ford prefers.”
Several hours later, Judiciary wrote again to Katz, attaching a formal letter from Grassley inviting Ford to testify.
Then, at 7:57 p.m., Katz’s colleague Lisa Banks responded with a letter saying that “an FBI investigation of the incident should be the first step in addressing [Ford’s] allegations.”
About 8 p.m., the letter was obtained by and reported on by multiple news outlets, including ABC News.
That letter prompted Grassley to respond with a request to hear from Ford by 10 a.m. Friday.
Grassley staffers first sent a formal request on Wednesday morning and resent it that afternoon, correcting a typo. Banks responded soon after, noting that it was Yom Kippur and that the legal team would likely not respond again until the following day.
When Banks had not heard back for several hours, she had her assistant resend the email because “our outgoing emails were not working today.”
“Completely understand,” the Judiciary staffer responded. “Thanks for following up.”
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