And a pony and a car, or at least it might as well be. Debra Katz, the same attorney who started off the week demanding a hearing so that Christine Blasey Ford could tell her story, now says her client can’t come any time earlier than next Thursday. And she can’t testify unless she can upend hundreds of years of legal precedent by forcing the accused to testify before an accusation is even formally leveled:
Lawyers for the woman accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh spoke with attorneys for the Senate Judiciary Committee and laid out conditions for her appearance before the panel, including not being in the hearing room with him and assurances that she will be safe.
In nearly an hour-long telephone call in which the Judiciary Committee staff did most of the listening, Debra Katz, an attorney for Christine Blasey Ford, went through a series of concerns and preferences should she agree to appear before the committee next week.
It’s the first time Republicans on the committee have spoken directly with Ford’s attorneys since she went public with the allegation against Kavanaugh on Sunday and the discussion seems to have thawed a stand-off between the two parties as to whether she would testify.
That in itself is notable. The day after Katz’ national-TV tour demanding that the committee postpone its vote (originally set for yesterday) and schedule a new hearing, chair Chuck Grassley tried reaching out to Katz and Lisa Banks by phone and e-mail. They didn’t respond for two full days; only after media outlets and a few Democrats started to suggest that the Senate move on without Ford’s testimony did they make this last-minute bid.
However, the demand list seems designed to derail the whole hearing anyway:
Here are the other items Ford requested:
- Wants to testify second and Kavanaugh to appear first;
- Doesn’t want Kavanaugh in the room at the same time with her;
- Prefers not to be questioned by outside counsel, but rather by the senators on the committee;
- Would like the committee to subpoena Mark Judge, the other student Ford alleges to be in the room at the time of the assault, to testify;
- Says each senator should have equal time questioning (already committee practice);
- No time limit on her opening statement; and
- Will appear at a public hearing but she would like to limit the number of cameras to pool coverage.
I wonder what media outlets will have to say about the last item, but it’s the first two which should be deal-breakers. They want Kavanaugh to testify first to defend himself from allegations that haven’t been specified first. Kavanaugh won’t even know what the accused is going to say before having to address the committee. It’s the kind of process one would expect to see in the finest Stalinesque show trials. Furthermore, anyone accused has the right to confront their accuser in any process by which the government proposes to judge it, whether in court or congressional committee. Those are both issues fundamental to American values of justice.
Most of the rest are objectionable to varying degrees, mainly to the committee’s own prerogatives, except the unlimited opening statement request and the equal-time demand (which is already the rule, as NBC notes). It’s up to the committee to decide whether to hire outside counsel, and given what happened in the first hearing, it’s looking like a better idea all the time. Why would Katz and Banks find that objectionable anyway? They seem more interested in playing political games with Republican members, perhaps hoping that the all-male panel on that side of the committee will be afraid to ask tough questions. Subpoenaing Judge is another game-playing move; Judge has already submitted testimony under penalty of perjury (unlike Ford), and he’s also not a person of interest in a confirmation hearing.
This doesn’t look like a good-faith series of requests. It looks like a series of impossible demands that Grassley will have to refuse, letting Ford, Banks, and Katz off the hook for not showing up to the hearing they demanded. It’s very telling that this list didn’t emerge until the chatter started turning yesterday into put-up-or-shut-up sentiments from people like Cokie Roberts, Mika Brzezinski, and Phil Bredesen. Grassley should renew his offer to send staffers out to interview Ford in time for Monday’s hearing, but that should be the only concession. If she’s not willing to do that or to show on Monday, it’s time to move on.