Collins: Hey, how about we have Kavanaugh and Ford's attorneys interrogate them on national television?

There’s circus, and then there’s insanity. Susan Collins’ suggestion for the perhaps-upcoming showdown between Brett Kavanaugh and his accuser Christine Blasey Ford might come pretty close to flat-out lunacy, and not just in a procedural sense:

Er, no, it wouldn’t, for the same reason that police don’t allow accusers to interrogate suspects and vice versa, or their attorneys to do so. Both parties have so much emotional investment in their claims and counterclaims that it would make the previous Judiciary Committee hearing look like a sober and reflective perusal of Kavanaugh’s record. At best, all it would produce is just a more dramatic he-said-she-said. At worst, the two attorneys would shred the principals on as personal a level as possible, with the committee members acting as twin Greek choruses behind them.

Here’s what it would end up looking like, more or less:

FORD ATTORNEY: On a date and time she can’t recall, you assaulted my clent in a residence she can’t specify, didn’t you?

KAVANAUGH: No, I didn’t. Why is she lying about me?

FORD ATTORNEY: You’re the liar.

KAVANAUGH: No, she’s the liar.

[lather, rinse, repeat for four hours]

Here’s a question for Collins about her trial model: what would the rules of testimony and evidence be? If the Judiciary Committee adopts federal rules for litigation, the little Ford has in corroboration might end up excluded under hearsay rules (although that might be arguable), for instance. Without being able to specify the date and location of the alleged attack, Kavanaugh’s attorney might object to Ford’s entire testimony for lack of foundation. Do attorneys get to lead witnesses? Can witnesses answer at length regardless of the form of question? There might be a lot more argument than testimony, and a bunch of 11-10 votes from the bench to settle those objections, too.

Even beyond the procedural issues this would raise in a Senate hearing process, the optics of it would look horrible. Let’s assume that Ford is the victim of some kind of assault, whether or not it involved Kavanaugh. Does Collins really propose to have an accused sexual assaulter’s attorney grill a victim on national television? Good Lord, Democrats would eat lunch on that for years. Besides, there is no way Kavanaugh would agree to this, let alone Ford. He’s aiming for the Supreme Court, not Attorney General, so he has no upside to becoming a prosecutor by proxy in this or any other instance. And note that Collins wants to leave room for committee members to ask questions too, which means this doesn’t even solve the grandstanding issue.

The solution here, though, is to find outside counsel for both the majority and minority caucuses of the committee, independent of the two parties to the allegation, to handle questioning of Kavanaugh and Ford with agreed-upon time and topic limits. That should limit the potential for out-of-control grandstanding, while allowing for reasonable direct testimony and cross-examination for a situation that’s really unresolvable in the end. After that, let the committee debate amongst themselves and then take the vote to close this circus out once and for all.

Collins did wonder why Ford hasn’t responded to Chuck Grassley’s invitation, regardless of the form:

Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins said she finds it odd that Christine Blasey Ford, the woman accusing Judge Brett Kavanaugh of high school-era sexual assault, will not respond to inquiries from the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“That’s very puzzling to me. I have said from the beginning that these are very serious allegations and she deserves to be heard. She’s now being given an opportunity to come before the Senate Judiciary Committee and to answer questions and I really hope that she doesn’t pass up that opportunity,” Collins said to a group of reporters in the Dirksen Senate Office Building Tuesday morning.

Perhaps this is getting a little more adversarial than Ford figured.

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