Grassley says he’s working to ensure Kavanaugh accuser will talk to committee
WASHINGTON — Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said Wednesday that he’s working to ensure that Christine Blasey Ford shares her story directly with the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Ford has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her at a party when they were both teenagers more than three decades ago.
Democrats have rallied around her request for an FBI investigation ahead of appearing before the committee, while Republicans have resisted that approach.
Grassley, the committee chairman, alluded to suggestions that Ford might feel threatened.
“We’re trying to reach out to her lawyer to see if I can talk to her and tell her about my reputation for running a respectful and thorough hearing so she can be protected,” Grassley said Wednesday during his weekly conference call with reporters.
Kavanaugh has denied Ford’s allegations, and President Donald Trump is sticking by his nominee to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, who retired over the summer.
“I would say this: I think he’s an extraordinary man,” Trump told reporters Wednesday about Kavanaugh. “I think he’s a man of great intellect, as I’ve been telling you. And he has an unblemished record. This is a very tough thing for him and his family. And we want to get it over with. At the same time, we want to give tremendous amounts of time. If she shows up, that would be wonderful. If she doesn’t show up, that would be unfortunate.”
Trump said the FBI has already investigated Kavanaugh.
“Look, if she shows up and makes a credible showing, that will be very interesting and we’ll have to make a decision,” Trump said. “But I can only say this: He is such an outstanding man. Very hard for me to imagine that anything happened.”
Grassley said they have offered Ford a series of options for sharing her story, including testifying in open or closed session before the committee. She also has the option of answering questions by phone with a private or public transcription, he said.
“We do all this because we want Dr. Ford to feel comfortable,” he said. “And we also do this because these charges of sexual harassment are very important, that they be looked into.”
Democrats have suggested that Monday is too soon for the hearing, that Republicans are trying to rush the process.
Asked what he will do if Ford doesn’t appear at Monday’s hearing, Grassley said he couldn’t predict that ahead of time and reiterated his hope that she will talk to the committee.
“We’re taking this step by step,” Grassley said.
Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska is a member of the committee who has praised Kavanaugh and his nomination.
In response to a World-Herald request for comment on Wednesday, Sasse spokesman James Wegmann provided a written statement:
“Senator Sasse firmly believes that Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh deserve to be heard and that the Senate’s obligation to steward public trust means Senators should deliberate thoughtfully and carefully,” Wegmann said.
His home-state colleague Sen. Deb Fischer, also a Republican, was asked about the situation and told The World-Herald:
“It sounds like Senator Grassley and the committee are looking into it and that’s appropriate.”
Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said in a written statement:
“I believe that Dr. Ford has a right to be heard, and I have confidence in Senator Grassley’s work to properly investigate and take the appropriate next steps to ensure the process remains fair and all parties are heard.”