Looks like the Kavanaugh/Ford battle at the Senate Judiciary Committee is on, but not before its chair makes clear what the obstacles have been. This afternoon, Chuck Grassley issued a statement promising that Christine Blasey Ford would be offered an “appropriate, precedented, and respectful” process with the committee to discuss her allegations against Brett Kavanaugh. But he also reminded everyone that she could have had that weeks ago if Senate Democrats hadn’t sat on it and “deprived her colleagues of the information necessary to do their jobs”:
NEW: Senate Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley: "Anyone who comes forward as Dr. Ford has deserves to be heard, so I will continue working on a way to hear her out in an appropriate, precedented and respectful manner." https://t.co/AW3NyOq4aD pic.twitter.com/bqqulQTivL
— ABC News (@ABC) September 17, 2018
Grassley levels a specific charge of obstruction — two of them, actually, if you count the history of Democrats holding onto Ford’s claim until after the hearings. Grassley claims that he’s attempted to work with Dianne Feinstein to schedule follow-up calls with Kavanaugh and Ford, but that her office has “thus far … refused” to cooperate. That’s a swipe at Judiciary Democrats calling for a postponement of the vote until the committee addresses the allegations, with Grassley claiming that they’ve been obstructing his attempts to resolve the situation through “precedented” means.
Grassley also takes a swipe at Ford herself, albeit indirectly. “Dr. Ford’s attorney could have approached my office,” his statement concludes, “while keeping her client confidential and anonymous, so that these allegations could be thoroughly investigated.” A number of people have pointed out the fact that Ford went to Democrats on Capitol Hill (and the Washington Post) as an indicator of potential political malice. Maaaaayyyybeeeeee, but Ford first went to her Congresswoman, Rep. Anita Eshoo, which isn’t an uncommon thing for constituents to do. Eshoo forwarded it to Feinstein, who sits on the committee, perhaps thinking Feinstein would confer with Grassley. Eshoo should have shared it with both, though, and Feinstein should definitely have shared it with Grassley long before the hearings. Even if that doesn’t prove political malice on Ford’s part, the whole sequence of events from Senate Democrats certainly demonstrates that as a motive.
At any rate, the stage is set for the most dramatic recap of a Senate confirmation hearing since Clarence Thomas accused Democrats of conducting a “high-tech lynching.” That means both Republican and Democratic members of the committee have to prepare themselves for a high-stakes version of cross-examination of the principals in this scenario — Ford, Kavanaugh, and maybe Mark Judge too, which could require a subpoena depending on how angry he is over this unsubstantiated accusation going public. If they conduct themselves in the same manner as the earlier hearing, it’s going to devolve into an even worse debacle than it already is.
Ronald Klain has the right idea:
Here's some advice, based on the Thomas-Hill experience:
Both Dems and GOP should want professional, outside counsel to question Kavanaugh and Ford at a public hearing — not Senators. Make this a search for the truth, not a political platform for Senators of EITHER party.
— Ronald Klain (@RonaldKlain) September 17, 2018
A search for the truth is almost certainly still going to result in a stalemate. Republicans especially would be wise to delegate the potential for uncomfortable sound bites to a well-respected attorney; Hugh Hewitt suggested former Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a great choice if she’s interested. It seems doubtful that Democrats such as Cory Booker and Kamala Harris would trade away their ability for more grandstanding, though, even if they wind up falling on their faces as they did in the earlier hearings.