WASHINGTON – Christine Blasey Ford, the woman accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct, has accepted the Senate Judiciary Committee's request to tell her story before the panel, with both sides agreeing to a Thursday hearing.
After negotiators convened a call on Sunday, Ford’s attorneys said their client had committed to an “open” hearing.
“We’ve made important progress,” said Ford’s attorneys, Debra S. Katz, Lisa J. Banks, and Michael R. Bromwich. "We committed to moving forward with an open hearing on Thursday Sept 27 at 10:00 am."
Ford accuses Judge Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when he was 17 years old, saying he groped her and tried to tear off her clothes before he was stopped.
“Dr. Ford believes it is important for senators to hear directly from her about the sexual assault committed against her. She has agreed to move forward,” her lawyers said.
The terms of her appearance are still being ironed out; however, parties have reached agreement on some details.
"Despite actual threats to her safety and her life, Dr. Ford believes it is important for senators to hear directly from her about the sexual assault committed against her," Ford's attorneys said. "She has agreed to move forward with a hearing even though the Committee has refused to subpoena Mark Judge. They have also refused to invite other witnesses who are essential for a fair hearing that arrives at the truth about the sexual assault.
"A number of important procedural and logistical issues remain unresolved, although they will not impede the hearing taking place," they added. "Among those issues is who on the Majority side will be asking the questions, whether senators or staff attorneys."
"We were told no decision has been made on this important issue, even though various senators have been dismissive of her account and should have to shoulder their responsibility to ask her questions. Nor were we told when we would have that answer or answers to the other unresolved issues. We look forward to hearing back from the Majority staff as soon as possible on these important matters," the attorneys concluded.
In a note sent to all parties Sunday finalizing the agreement to testify, the Senate Judiciary Committee's staff assured Ford's attorneys that her safety was of utmost importance. Still, they were adamant that the Senate panel would have the final say on the witness roster.
"The chairman asked me to relay again that he will do everything in his power to provide a safe, comfortable, and dignified forum for Dr. Ford to testify," the note read. "I have noted the issues that you raised on the call. But again, as with any witness who comes before the Senate, the Senate Judiciary Committee cannot hand over its constitutional duties to attorneys for outside witnesses. The Committee determines which witnesses to call, how many witnesses to call, in what order to call them, and who will question them. These are non-negotiable."
Kavanaugh, for his part, made it clear he wants a hearing as soon as possible to clear his name. "Since the moment I first heard this allegation," he wrote in a recent letter to the committee. "I have categorically and unequivocally denied it. I remain committed to defending my integrity."
Meanwhile, the Trump administration is standing by the 53-year-old nominee.
Speaking before the Values Voters Summit in Washington Saturday, Vice President Mike Pence said Kavanaugh has “impeccable credentials and a proven judicial philosophy,” adding that he has established a “strong record of support for limited government, religious liberty and our Second Amendment.”
“He is a conservative who will interpret the Constitution as written," he continued. "And his record and a career deserves the respect of every member of the United States Senate. But honestly, the way some Democrats have conducted themselves during this process is a disgrace and a disservice to the Senate and the American people.”
While President Trump also defended the judge, he has been careful not to criticize Ford.
"Brett Kavanaugh is one of the finest human beings you will ever have the privilege of knowing or meeting," Trump said during a campaign rally in Nevada this week.
The president has expressed sympathy for what Kavanaugh is going through, but he also maintains Ford should be heard. "So we'll let it play out, and I think everything is going to be just fine," he said.
Since Ford's allegations surfaced, both she and Kavanaugh have received threats. And behind the scenes, both Republicans and Democrats are calculating how this is all playing politically with just about six weeks to go until the midterm elections.
Meanwhile, Democrats say if Kavanaugh is confirmed and they win control of Congress in the upcoming elections, they plan to launch investigations to possibly impeach Kavanaugh.
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, said on Fox News, "If the Republicans rush through a nominee where you have unanswered sexual assault allegations, I can promise you that Democratic senators will be interested in going and looking at those allegations, and if Judge Kavanaugh lied under oath, you could see a judicial impeachment."
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) made a similar statement about plans to investigate Kavanaugh if Democrats win control of the Senate.
Meanwhile, Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) said this week that it's time for American men to "just shut up."
"I just want to say to the men in this country: Just shut up and step up. Do the right thing for a change," she said.
During Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing, Hirono had asked if he "made unwanted requests for sexual favors" or committed sexual harassment since he became a legal adult. That was before any public accusations had been made against Kavanaugh, and before Senate Democrats revealed they had received anonymous accusations against him.