- Republicans plan to move forward with a hearing for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and professor Christine Blasey Ford, who accused him of sexual assault when they were both teenagers. Kavanaugh denies the allegation.
- Ford has declined to testify until after the allegation is investigated by the FBI, echoing Senate Democrats.
- President Donald Trump has so far stayed on message after many Republican aides feared he would go after Ford in the same ways he has other women who have accused him of sexual misconduct.
WASHINGTON, DC – A chaotic several days on Capitol Hill had Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to serve on the Supreme Court hanging by a thread as lawmakers began pushing for delaying votes and several Republican expressed doubt about whether he was going to be confirmed.
But after GOP leaders announced an additional hearing for Kavanaugh and professor Christine Blasey Ford, the woman accusing him of sexually assaulting her when the two both teenagers, Republicans now appear to have turned the corner and become more optimistic about his chances of confirmation.
While Kavanaugh has vowed to testify in the hearing set for Monday, Ford has demurred the invitation until after an FBI investigation is completed, echoing Senate Democrats’ position. But the FBI is not planning to launch a probe of the allegations from the early 1980s.
President Donald Trump said on Wednesday before boarding Air Force One that the Senate Judiciary Committee is going to “take their course” in probing the allegations, not the FBI.
Ford’s refusal to testify under oath, which Republicans have made clear can be done either in a public or private setting, does not bode well for Democrats looking to court the GOP senators on the fence about Kavanaugh’s nomination.
Sens. Bob Corker and Jeff Flake, who had initially called for delaying the procedural vote to advance Kavanaugh, said the committee should continue going about its business in moving the nomination forward if Ford does not testify.
“I would hope that if someone is given the opportunity to voice a concern that they have that they would do so,” Corker told reporters on Tuesday. “So that would be quite something if she decided she did not want to testify and I would assume the committee would then move on as they should.”
In addition, Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, who were delicately considering Kavanaugh over ideological reasons, took similar positions to Flake and Corker.
“I think the allegation has been made by Dr. Ford, I think her story deserves to be heard, and the committee process has been made available to her,” Murkowski told CNN.
Trump has been on message during the scandal
Another factor in Kavanaugh’s nomination not falling apart is how out of character Trump has been throughout the past week. So far, Trump has deferred all process to the Senate, while playing up his opinion that Kavanaugh is a decent family man.
“He has an unblemished record,” Trump said Wednesday. “This is a very tough thing for him and his family.”
Trump’s restrained approach has shocked Republican aides, who were worried he would go after Ford in ways he has against other women who have accused him and members of his administration of sexual misconduct.
Because filling Supreme Court vacancies has been one of Trump’s biggest issues for the past several years and something he frequently boasts about on the campaign trail, Kavanaugh’s confirmation is something he desperately needs, a GOP aide told Business Insider. For others, Trump’s quietness on the subject has been an absolute gift, but fears he might fly off the handle still remain.
In the past, Trump has gone after his nearly two-dozen accusers in a number of ways, even calling them too unattractive for him to be interested in or suggesting they were lying to gain fame.
Kavanaugh is not in the clear yet, though. He still has to face another marathon grilling from lawmakers, and the whip count of senators backing his confirmation remains a toss-up.
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