Accuser of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh to testify on Thursday

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – California professor Christine Blasey Ford has agreed to testify before a Senate panel on Thursday morning about her sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, her lawyers said on Sunday. FILE PHOTO: U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh listens during his U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 4, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File PhotoThe agreement capped a week of dramatic developments that cast into turmoil U.S. Senate confirmation of President Donald Trump’s conservative nominee, once considered a safe bet. U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley had set several deadlines since Friday for Ford to decide whether and how she will testify before the panel. Ford said Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a high school party 36 years ago, pinning her down and trying to take off her clothes, when she was 15 and he was 17. Kavanaugh, a federal appeals court judge, has denied the allegations and said he would be willing to testify. The lawyers said they made “important progress” in a Sunday morning call with Judiciary Committee staff members and agreed to the hearing even though the committee refused to subpoena Mark Judge, who Ford said witnessed the attack, as well as others she said were present. “Despite actual threats to her safety and her life, Dr. Ford believes it is important for senators to hear directly from her about the sexual assault committed against her,” said the statement from attorneys Debra Katz, Lisa Banks and Michael Bromwich. “She has agreed to move forward with a hearing even though the Committee has refused to subpoena Mark Judge,” it said. “They have also refused to invite other witnesses who are essential for a fair hearing that arrives at the truth about the sexual assault.” The hearing was set for 10 a.m. on Thursday, the lawyers said. There are unresolved procedural and logistical issues, they said, including whether the committee’s Republican senators, who are all male, or staff attorneys would question her. They said “various senators have been dismissive of her account and should have to shoulder their responsibility to ask her questions.” Republicans will be forced to walk a careful line in questioning Ford’s account without alienating female voters before the November congressional elections. Trump and his fellow Republicans initially took pains to be careful in their treatment of Kavanaugh’s accuser, a psychology professor who had kept the experience a secret for decades. The gloves came off later in the week after Trump cast doubt on her account in a Twitter post and Republican senators began expressing impatience with the conditions her lawyers sought before she testified in public. “Chairman Grassley has bent over backwards to make this happen,” Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the committee Republicans, said on “Fox News Sunday.” “The offer is Thursday at 10 o’clock. She made 10 conditions to her lawyer, we accepted six. We’re not going to turn over to the other side how many witnesses to call.” He said the witnesses would be limited to Ford and Kavanaugh. Besides Kavanaugh, three people identified as having been at the 1982 party have told the committee they have no recollection of being there, including Judge, according to media reports. “All four of these individuals have provided statements to the Senate Judiciary Committee denying any knowledge of the incident or even having attended such a party,” White House spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement late on Saturday. Ford, who asked that the FBI investigate the allegations, said there was alcohol at the party and that Kavanaugh and Judge were very drunk at the time. Judge has written about his experiences as a teenage alcoholic. A Democratic senator on the Judiciary Committee, Mazie Hirono, said she wanted to hear from Kavanaugh about the drinking and partying environment in high school. She said Ford has nothing to gain by coming forward. “I believe her,” Hirono told CNN’s “State of the Union” program. “There’s credibility to her story.” Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Additional reporitng by Yasmeen Abutaleb and Steve Holland; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Meredith MazzilliOur Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Source: Reuters

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