Lawyer for Kavanaugh accuser rejects ‘arbitrary’ Friday deadline, granted extra day
iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The lawyer for Christine Blasey Ford asked for an extra day to work out the conditions for her to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding her allegation of sexual assault by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Attorney Debra S. Katz sent a letter accusing Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, of arbitrarily imposing a 10 p.m. Friday deadline for Ford to agree to testify in the midst of ongoing discussions — and then scheduling a vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation before the deadline.
“The imposition of aggressive and artificial deadlines regarding the date and conditions of any hearing has created tremendous and unwarranted anxiety and stress on Dr. Ford,” Katz wrote. “Your cavalier treatment of a sexual assault survivor who has been doing her best to cooperate with the committee is completely inappropriate.”
Grassley tweeted late Friday that he was granting the extension, though not without reminding he’d granted Ford “five extensions” and apologizing to Kavanaugh, saying he’s not normally so indecisive.
Katz wrote that she notified Grassley at 4:01 p.m. Friday that her team would need an additional day to confer with Ford and provide a “well-considered” response because Ford had met with the FBI for several hours about death threats she had received.
She said the sole purpose of the 10 p.m. deadline is to bully Ford and “deprive her of the ability to make a considered decision that has life-altering implications for her and her family.”
Katz has said Ford is willing to testify before lawmakers as early as next week so long as certain terms are met that are “fair and ensure her safety.”
Grassley said “extensive efforts” had been made to accommodate Ford’s testimony, before he extended an earlier 5 p.m. deadline by five hours.
“I’m extending the deadline for response yet again to 10 o’clock this evening. I’m providing a notice of a vote to occur Monday in the event that Dr. Ford’s attorneys don’t respond or Dr. Ford decides not to testify, Grassley said. “In the event that we can come to a reasonable resolution as I’ve been seeking all week, then I will postpone the committee vote to accommodate her testimony. We cannot continue to delay.”
The top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, shot back.
“Bullying a survivor of attempted rape in order to confirm a nominee — particularly at a time when she’s receiving death threats — is an extreme abuse of power,” Feinstein said in a statement. “I’m shocked and appalled by the Republicans’ refusal to wait 24 hours for a hearing and instead rush forward with a vote on Monday. From the outset, Republicans have tried to push through this nomination at all costs.”
In a letter to Ford’s lawyer’s released late Friday, GOP staff outlined what it said was the committee efforts to address her concerns.
“Consistent with our sincere desire to hear Dr. Ford’s testimony in her preferred setting—while, at the same time, respecting fundamental notions of due process and Committee practice—we are willing to meet you halfway,” the proposal from the committee staff said.
“This committee has been extremely accommodating to your client. We want to hear Dr. Ford’s testimony and are prepared to accommodate many of your demands, including further delaying a hearing that is currently scheduled for Monday. We are unwilling to accommodate your unreasonable demands. Outside counsel may not dictate the terms under which committee business will be conducted,” the letter said.
The Republicans rejected Ford’s request that only senators be permitted to ask questions, and they say they “reserve the right to have female staff attorneys” ask questions. They rejected her request to issue subpoenas for Mark Judge, the other teenager she says was in the room and witnessed the assault and will not call additional witnesses that Ford wants.
“It is not fair to [Judge Kavanaugh] or to his family to allow this situation to continue without a resolution and without an opportunity for him to clear his name. Holding the hearing on Wednesday honors your request for a later hearing date while recognizing that Judge Kavanaugh is entitled to due process. It is the fairest option for both parties,” the letter said.
“You demanded that Judge Kavanaugh be the first person to testify. Accommodating this demand would be an affront to fundamental notions of due process,” the letter continued. “In the United States, an individual accused of a crime is entitled to a presumption of innocence. And, further, the accused has the right to respond to allegations that are made about him.”
“You have indicated that Dr. Ford has allegations that she would like to make in public and under oath. She will have the opportunity to do so before we give Judge Kavanaugh the opportunity to respond,” the letter said.
In a call between Ford’s attorneys and the Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley’s staff Thursday night to discuss terms for a potential hearing, a source familiar with the conversations told ABC News Ford’s attorney requested that Ford be allowed to testify first and that Kavanaugh not be present in the room at the time.
The White House was expected to object to the idea that Kavanaugh testifying first, with a senior administration official saying Kavanaugh should go second to ensure he’s in a position to respond to Ford’s accusation.
Another unresolved issue in the negotiations, the GOP source said Friday, is the level of press coverage inside the hearing room during Ford’s testimony. Ford’s team has requested that the hearing be “open but with limited press,” the source said. Republican sources familiar with the talks could not elaborate on what that means to Ford.
Ford has alleged that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her decades ago when they were high school students in suburban Maryland. Kavanaugh has denied the claim.
Ford’s legal team also asked that there be no time limit on Ford’s opening statement and raised the prospect of a subpoena for Mark Judge, who Ford claims witnessed the assault, and other potential witnesses.
An administration official, responding to that suggestion, prompted demands that others testify as well, including her therapist and the notes her therapist took.
Another possible point of contention is whether outside expert attorneys will be allowed to conduct the questioning of Ford during the hearing. That’s an idea of which the White House is supportive; but Ford’s attorneys have expressed opposition to the idea of anyone other than lawmakers questioning their client, raising concern that the testimony could take on too much of a trial-like atmosphere, according to the source.
The all-male, Republican members of the committee, concerned about “poor optics”, have proposed having a female outside counsel question Ford.
Emails obtained by ABC News between Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley’s staff and Ford’s legal team 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.
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 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.
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.
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