Will she or won’t she? In negotiations that dragged out all week and into the weekend, lawyers for Christine Blasey Ford insisted on setting the terms for the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing created specifically to hear her testimony. Only after chair Chuck Grassley finally enforced a deadline did Ford’s attorneys agree to terms with Grassley — sort of — and commit to having Ford appear on Thursday.
Or did they? Despite Grassley insisting in their quasi-agreement this weekend that the committee retained the option of employing outside counsel for questioning, Ford’s attorneys have launched another objection, NBC’s Frank Thorp reported last night. Oh, and they want Mitch McConnell to shut up, too:
In new letter from Dr Ford’s Attorney to the Judiciary Committee, they again object to having outside counsel ask the questions for republicans at Thursday’s hearing, and ask for the name and resume of who that person will be.
This does not appear to be a done deal. pic.twitter.com/MwggIeBGbs
— Frank Thorp V (@frankthorp) September 25, 2018
The complaint about McConnell comes first, prompted by the angry speech by the majority leader from the Senate floor. McConnell called the wave of new allegations a “smear campaign” that had “a complete lack of evidence.” Ford attorney Michael Bromwich objects to that and claims it contradicts Grassley’s pledge to provide Ford with “fair and respectful treatment.” First, McConnell’s ire was raised by the allegations that arose yesterday. Even beyond that, it’s tough for Ford’s attorneys to object to an objection over “a complete lack of evidence,” because that fairly assesses her allegation, too. Ford hasn’t provided any evidence, and hasn’t even provided basic details such as the place and date of the alleged assault — in fact, even the year is apparently still in question. The four people she named as present and/or participants say it never happened; one, a “lifelong” friend of Ford’s, says she’s never been in Brett Kavanaugh’s presence.
However, most of Bromwich’s complaint has to do with the use of outside counsel. He’s demanding the resumé of the counsel and a meeting on Wednesday with her, apparently before proceeding to the hearing. Bromwich further argues that the move breaks Senate precedent, despite Michael Davis’ explanation that committees in both the Watergate and Iran-Contra affairs brought in outside counsel to handle questioning. “There is no precedent,” Bromwich argues, “for this Committee to bring in outside counsel for the sole purpose of shielding the members of the Committee from performing their responsibility to question witnesses.”
This raises the same demand that Ford’s attorneys supposedly conceded in the agreement this weekend, after Grassley expressly insisted on the committee’s prerogatives to make that decision for themselves. Besides, what difference would that make to Ford, whose attorneys demanded that she be given a hearing to tell her side of the story? If that’s what Ford wants, then it matters little who handles the questioning during the hearing, or for that matter whatever Mitch McConnell says on the floor this week. Either way it will be on the record and under penalty of perjury, the same conditions under which the other four people named in Ford’s story to the Washington Post have already provided their testimony.
“This is not a done deal,” Thorp noted last night. It appears to be another last-minute maneuver by Ford’s attorneys to either dictate terms or to find a way out of appearing in front of a congressional committee at all. Perhaps Ford will still show up on Thursday, but for someone whose lawyers demanded the committee’s time, Ford and her legal team seem very motivated to throw up as many objections and roadblocks as possible.