CNN: Ford refuses to testify until after an FBI investigation of alleged assault

So much for the showdown — and in a just world, for an eleventh-hour attempt to torpedo a respected jurist with a vague and unsubstantiated allegation from almost four decades ago. Just a day after Christine Blasey Ford’s attorney declared that her client was willing to testify about her alleged sexual assault by Brett Kavanaugh, Ford refused until the FBI conducts an investigation of the incident. CNN got an exclusive look at the letter to Senate Judiciary Committee chair Chuck Grassley, who had been trying for contact Ford’s legal team since the previous day’s declarations from Debra Katz:

The woman accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault says the FBI should investigate the incident before senators hold a hearing on the allegations.

In a letter addressed to Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa, and obtained by CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360,” Christine Blasey Ford’s attorneys argue that “a full investigation by law enforcement officials will ensure that the crucial facts and witnesses in this matter are assessed in a non-partisan manner, and that the Committee is fully informed before conducting any hearing or making any decisions.”

Debra Katz was the attorney representing Ford in media appearances Monday morning, declaring that Ford would testify and catalyzing demand for a fresh Judiciary Committee hearing. Another Ford attorney, Lisa Banks, accused Grassley of being unfair for setting a hearing and expecting her testimony:

“She will talk with the committee,” Banks said. “She is not prepared to talk with them at a hearing on Monday. This just came out 48 hours ago.”

“Asking her to come forward in four or five days and sit before the Judiciary Committee on national TV is not a fair process. If they care about doing the right thing here and treating this seriously as they have said, then they will do the right thing and they will properly investigate this, and she will work with them in that investigation and also to share her story with the committee,” Banks said Tuesday night.

If the timing’s the issue, then why was Katz promoting her willingness to testify 36 hours earlier on multiple broadcast-network shows? Why would Ford be unprepared to testify, as Lindsey Graham noted yesterday, if her attorneys arranged a polygraph examination for her a month ago? The letter also notes that Ford passed along the allegation anonymously to inform the committee of Kavanaugh’s character, but no one could possibly have thought that such an explosive allegation would matter unless it was made public, with Kavanaugh given a chance to respond to the charge.

Ford’s legal team is engaging in bad-faith posturing on those points, but they added a shabby accusation against Grassley as well. The letter accused Grassley of planning to seat Ford “at the same table” as Kavanaugh, but Grassley responded yesterday by saying that no one had planned the two to appear together. They would have appeared at “the same table,” but at two different times. Grassley also took aim at the goalpost-shifting tactics of Ford’s legal team and refused to reschedule the hearing:

“Immediately after learning of Dr. Ford’s identity from news reports Sunday, committee staff started working to gather facts related to her claims. We’ve offered Dr. Ford the opportunity to share her story with the committee, as her attorney said yesterday she was willing to do. We offered her a public or a private hearing as well as staff-led interviews, whichever makes her most comfortable. The invitation for Monday still stands.”

The demand for an FBI investigation prior to Ford’s testimony sets up an unfulfillable condition that guarantees Ford will not testify. The FBI doesn’t have any basis for an investigation of an alleged sexual assault from 36 years ago on private property. Ford can’t name the place or the date of the assault, which makes it impossible even for local law enforcement to investigate. On top of that, the statute of limitations on any potential charges ran out decades ago, especially since Kavanaugh would have been a minor at that time. Furthermore, as the Department of Justice has already made clear, the FBI’s jurisdiction only extends to potential federal crimes, not local crimes such as sexual assaults in private residences.

Senate Democrats such as Dianne Feinstein have insisted that the FBI should investigate as they did with Anita Hill’s allegations of sexual harassment by Clarence Thomas. Ford’s letter references that argument indirectly in the phrase, emphasis mine, “As the Judiciary Committee has recognized and done before, an FBI investigation of the incident should be the first step in addressing her allegations.” This is a much different situation than the Hill-Thomas allegation on a number of levels, but one is especially germane. Hill accused Thomas of harassment at their place of work, in federal government offices — the Department of Education and the EEOC. That gave the FBI enough jurisdiction to interview Hill and conduct a brief investigation, one that ultimately went nowhere over a he-said-she-said impasse. There is no such entrée on jurisdiction for the FBI in this case, and any attorney who ever studied jurisdiction in law school would know the difference.

In other words, this is just a stall tactic, and a brazen one at that. Lindsey Graham blasted Ford and her legal team for setting up an impossible condition, and called on Grassley to bring the circus to a close:

Frankly, without Ford’s testimony, there’s no point at all in holding the hearing on Monday. Stick with the original schedule and call the vote tomorrow, as originally scheduled.

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David Strom 4:31 PM on November 25, 2022