Jeff Flake: Christine Blasey Ford has 'the option of a closed session'

As Ed noted earlier today, Christine Blasey Ford hasn’t yet agreed to participate in a hearing scheduled for Monday to hear her testimony about an alleged sexual assault by Brett Kavanaugh. Sen. Grassley, appearing on the Hugh Hewitt show emphasized a “public hearing” for the purpose of giving the allegation a public airing and proper consideration. However, perhaps because of Ford’s apparent reluctance to commit, Sen. Jeff Flake has suggested an alternative. He told the Hill a closed session with or without cameras was also a possibility:

Senate Republicans say they are willing to allow Christine Blasey Ford, the woman accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of a decades-old sexual assault charge, to testify in a closed session without the presence of television cameras if that makes her more comfortable appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday.

Ford has yet to confirm her presence at a Monday hearing that could be pivotal to Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

“She has the option of a closed session, with cameras or without. We want her to appear,” said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a member of the Judiciary panel. “We want her to appear and she has said before we made the decision that she wanted to appear.”

A closed session would not be broadcast on television, perhaps lessening the desire by Senators, especially those running for president, to grandstand. We’ve probably all had enough of Cory Booker’s ‘I am Spartacus’ act.

But if cameras are still allowed in the room, even if they aren’t transmitting images to live TV, the incentive will still be there. It’s not hard to imagine Sen. Kamala Harris wanting to take credit for attacking Kavanaugh over this allegation in the hopes that it will eventually make a winning TV ad for her 2020 campaign. So that leaves a closed session with no cameras at all as the only option that seems likely to really lower the temperature in the room.

Earlier today, Sen. Susan Collins suggested attorneys for Ford and Kavanaugh be allowed to ask questions of the opposite party. Ed considered that a terrible idea and I can see his point. But I think a closed session is probably going too far in the other direction. It might be less of a circus but it would also provide less insight into the central question at hand.

We’ve all heard the accusations Ford is making at this point. What I think the public wants now is to hear her tell the story in her own words so they can decide if she seems credible and if her story stands up to scrutiny. Similarly, people want to see how Kavanaugh responds to questions about this. Is there any hesitation in his denial or is he rock solid that nothing like this ever happened? Ultimately, it’s the Senators who get to vote on the nominee but the people should have the right to see this for themselves, even if it is a spectacle.

Besides, a closed hearing just means a steady stream of leaks from the Democrats and the GOP, each advancing a separate narrative and then fighting in the press over who is telling the truth. That puts too much power in the hands of the media for my taste. Turn on the cameras. Let the people see and hear this for themselves. That’s the best way to go, even if we do have to put up with a bit more grandstanding.

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