What happens when you set up a “dramatic showdown,” and one of the two parties refuses to RSVP? Chuck Grassley agreed yesterday to postpone a Senate Judiciary Committee vote on Brett Kavanaugh scheduled for Thursday in order to hold a hearing into an allegation of sexual assault from 35 years ago. That’s scheduled for Monday, pitting Christine Blasey Ford against the Supreme Court nominee.
Republicans on Monday abruptly called Brett Kavanaugh and the woman accusing him of sexual assault decades ago to testify publicly next week, grudgingly setting up a dramatic showdown they hoped would prevent the allegation from sinking his nomination to the Supreme Court .
Senate leaders announced the move under pressure from fellow Republicans who wanted a fuller, open examination of the allegations from Christine Blasey Ford , a college professor in California. After initially suggesting a private conference call on the matter would suffice, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley , R-Iowa, said his panel would hold a hearing next Monday “to provide ample transparency.”
The move forced Republicans to put off a planned committee vote for Thursday on Kavanaugh’s nomination. The delay makes it increasingly difficult for Kavanaugh to win approval by Oct. 1, when the new session of the Supreme Court begins.
Kavanaugh has already declared his willingness to testify publicly to refute the allegation. Ford’s attorney similarly pledged yesterday morning that her client was willing to do the same. However, she’s been tough to find, Grassley told Hugh Hewitt this morning:
Grassley says they've reached out to Christine Blasey Ford "three or four times" via email about the hearing and haven't heard back yet.
"We still haven't heard from Dr. Ford."
— Phil Mattingly (@Phil_Mattingly) September 18, 2018
Immediately, people wondered: How can you schedule a hearing without first contacting the main witness? The answer is that congressional committees set their own schedules and then tell witnesses when to appear. If Grassley’s accurate in this statement, it would seem that he did try to connect with Ford to make arrangements for this event, but to no avail. As hard as it may be to believe, the Judiciary Committee does have other business to do … or not do, as the members see fit. Grassley’s one-week notice for an issue this momentous does not seem unreasonable, especially given that Ford has gone public herself with these claims (after first being outed by Senate Democrats).
It’s a bit odd, too, that Ford or her attorney Debra Katz hasn’t been in touch with Grassley even before this point. Katz went on the morning talk shows yesterday to promote her client’s story and claim she’s ready to testify. The only way that happens is to arrange it with the committee chair, Chuck Grassley, not Norah O’Donnell and Savannah Guthrie. It’s even odder that neither of them would respond to attempts to connect for that purpose after Katz’ publicity storm to push the idea. Perhaps the decision to hold a public hearing took them aback; it certainly seemed to surprise Senate Democrats like Kamala Harris, who demand instead that the FBI insert itself into a situation far outside its jurisdiction for an incident 35 years ago that may not have taken place at all, or much differently than portrayed.
The Wall Street Journal warns Kavanaugh and Senate Republicans about their decision to hold the hearing at all. It’s a lose-lose, or maybe even worse:
This is simply too distant and uncorroborated a story to warrant a new hearing or to delay a vote. We’ve heard from all three principals, and there are no other witnesses to call. Democrats will use Monday’s hearing as a political spectacle to coax Mr. Kavanaugh into looking defensive or angry, and to portray Republicans as anti-women. Odds are it will be a circus. …
GOP Senators should understand that the political cost of defeating Mr. Kavanaugh will likely include the loss of the Senate. Democrats are already motivated to vote against Donald Trump, and if Republicans panic now their own voters will rightly be furious. They would be letting Democrats get away with the same dirty trick they tried and failed to pull off against Clarence Thomas.
It would also be a serious injustice to a man who has by all accounts other than Ms. Ford’s led a life of respect for women and the law. Every #MeToo miscreant is a repeat offender. The accusation against Mr. Kavanaugh is behavior manifested nowhere else in his life. …
Letting an accusation that is this old, this unsubstantiated and this procedurally irregular defeat Mr. Kavanaugh would also mean weaponizing every sexual assault allegation no matter the evidence. It will tarnish the #MeToo cause with the smear of partisanship, and it will unleash even greater polarizing furies.
That may be true if Ford shows up. If she doesn’t, this might be a big anticlimax, save the obligatory appearance of Spartacus.
Update: Hugh has the transcript up now, and Grassley was considerably more biting than the first reports credited:
HH: Has Dr. Ford accepted, and she’s agreed to come?
CG: No. We have reached out to her in the last 36 hours three of four times by email, and we’ve not heard from them, so it kind of raises the question do they want to, do they want to come to the public hearing or not? And the reason we’re having the public hearing is obviously, well, number one is accusations like this deserve consideration and looking into, and that’s what the purpose of the hearing is. And we wouldn’t be having this hearing if it wasn’t for the fact that Dr. Ford told the Washington Post and other people publicly that she wanted to testify. And we also have Judge Kavanaugh. Even before we requested him to testify, he said he was willing to testify. As of Sunday night, I had that message. So we still haven’t heard from Dr. Ford. So do they want to have the hearing or not? We’re delaying the vote, strictly, to get all the facts out on the table.