So far, the Senate Judiciary Committee still has a Monday hearing on its schedule, but that seems likely to change by mid-morning tomorrow. In his new letter to Christine Blasey Ford’s attorneys, Judiciary chair Chuck Grassley set a Friday deadline for them to accept the invitation to appear at the hearing. Grassley reminds Lisa Banks and Debra Katz of their repeated public assertions that Ford “wants to tell her story,” but the forum for doing so is with the committee:
It is not the FBI’s role to investigate a matter such as this. Before nominating an individual to a judicial or executive office, the White House directs the FBI to conduct a background investigation. The FBI compiles information about a prospective nominee and sends it to the White House. The White House then provides FBI background investigation files to the Senate as a courtesy to help us determine whether to confirm a nominee. The FBI does not make a credibility assessment of any information it receives with respect to a nominee. Nor is it tasked with investigating a matter simply because the Committee deems it important. The Constitution assigns the Senate, and only the Senate, with the task of advising the President on his nominee and consenting to the nomination if the circumstances merit. We have no power to commandeer an Executive Branch agency into conducting our due diligence. The job of assessing and investigating a nominee’s qualifications in order to decide whether to consent to the nomination is ours, and ours alone.
I have reopened the hearing because I believe that anyone who comes forward with allegations of sexual assault has a right to be heard, and because it is the Committee’s responsibility to fully evaluate the fitness of a nominee to the Supreme Court. I therefore want to give Dr. Ford an opportunity to tell her story to the Senate and, if she chooses, to the American people. I also want to give Judge Kavanaugh an opportunity to respond to the allegations. By hearing out both Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh, the Committee will endeavor to discover the truth of the matter, and will be better able to make an informed judgment about Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination.
You have stated repeatedly that Dr. Ford wants to tell her story. I sincerely hope that Dr. Ford will accept my invitation to do so, either privately or publicly, on Monday. In the meantime, my staff would still welcome the opportunity to speak with Dr. Ford at a time and place convenient to her. And I remind you that, consistent with Committee rules, Dr. Ford’s prepared testimony and biography are due to the Committee by 10:00 a.m. on Friday, September 21, if she intends to testify on Monday.
As John noted yesterday, Ford’s attorneys are claiming that the committee hasn’t given them enough time to prepare to tell the story. Grassley has already responded by noting that Ford has retained counsel for well over a month and has been prepared enough to have had her lawyers arrange a polygraph in early August. Furthermore, it wouldn’t be the first meeting she’s taken with a member of Congress on this allegation, as the Washington Post reported last night:
Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.), whom Ford first contacted with her allegation, detailed to The Post her interactions with Ford, a constituent in her Bay Area district. The two women met for roughly 90 minutes on July 20.
That took place two months ago to the day. A private meeting is different than a public hearing, to be sure, but Grassley has offered a closed session as an option or even a staff interview in California as options for testimony. If she could meet with Eshoo two months ago without benefit of counsel, Ford certainly is capable of handling herself now if she wants to tell her story, as Katz repeatedly claimed earlier in the week when Democrats demanded the hearing that Grassley later scheduled.
Enough is enough, says one Senate candidate in a neck-and-neck race. The Judiciary Committee should hear from Ford, but if she won’t show, they should move to the confirmation vote … says Tennessee Democrat Phil Bredesen:
“She has put herself out there,” Bredesen said of Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of assaulting her while they were both in high school. “If she decided at this point to not do something, I guess the committee has to go ahead and say, ‘Well, we were willing to listen, but if she’s not willing to talk, we need to go forward.’”
The Senate race in Tennessee, a reliably Republican state, is among the most competitive in the nation. Bredesen, the state’s former governor, is running as a centrist against Republican U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn and keeping a distance from national Democrats.
No kidding. Bredesen tries to have it both ways by calling Ford’s story “very credible,” even though she has no date or place of the attack and the other people named have all denied it ever happened. Just telling the story “would impact my thinking” on Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote, Bredesen says, but he’d want the opportunity to question Ford before deciding just how credible the story actually is. However, Bredesen’s not calling for an FBI investigation either, and is at least tacitly endorsing Grassley’s move.
So does Ford snub Grassley? Probably not, which is why none of the messaging from her attorneys has contained an explicit and comprehensive rejection. If the deadline passes tomorrow without a positive assent, however, Grassley will almost certainly cancel the hearing and go to a vote later in the week. There is zero chance that he’d call Kavanaugh to appear without Ford’s testimony, no matter how much Kavanaugh might want a public platform for his denials after the public beating he’s taken over the past week. There’s no upside to it, which Grassley and the other Republicans on the panel surely realize. At this point, though, the best Kavanaugh can hope to get in a final vote is likely the bare 51 needed for confirmation.
Update: On the other hand, maybe Bredesen’s giving some other red-state Democrats cover to vote for Kavanaugh — if Ford doesn’t show:
Bredesen's decision to break with DC Democrats shows that this situation has the potential to blow up in the Democrats' face in the next 6 weeks. Democrats are misjudging how much this mess could hurt them politically. https://t.co/2SkdidBZLg
— Matthew Salzwedel (@mrsalzwedel) September 20, 2018
Maybe, although it’s not going to dent Democratic turnout. The danger lies in whether this last-minute attack angers until-now-complacent Trump voters into turning out in droves. Democrats might want to expedite the vote if Ford doesn’t show up.