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GOP divided on how to handle Kavanaugh accusations

Sen. Susan Collins, a key Republican, said Monday that both Judge Brett Kavanaugh and the woman who has accused him of an attempted sexual assault when they were in high school three decades ago should both testify to the Senate.

But the chief Republican shepherding Judge Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination said he thinks follow-up phone calls with him and his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, are the right way to go.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said he was disappointed in Democrats’ handling of the allegations, raising them at the last minute and using them to attempt to derail the nomination process.

The differing approaches to Ms. Ford’s allegations signal the level of turmoil within the GOP, which is trying to figure out how to handle the political grenade that’s exploded amid what had already been a rocky push toward confirmation.

Ms. Collins, a critical voice as one of the key swing votes in the confirmation battle, said on Twitter that the Senate needs to hear from both people involved.

“Professor Ford and Judge Kavanaugh should both testify under oath before the Judiciary Committee,” the Maine Republican said.

She didn’t give any timeline.

But Mr. Grassley, who had already scheduled a committee vote for Thursday ahead of floor action next week, said the committee has already heard from Judge Kavanaugh and the usual course of action at this point would be follow-up calls from the committee to both him and his accuser.

He said the top Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, has refused.

“Unfortunately, committee Republicans have only known this person’s identity from news reports for less than 24 hours and known about her allegations for less than a week. Senator Feinstein, on the other hand, has had this information for many weeks and deprived her colleagues of the information necessary to do our jobs,” he said.

He said she knew about the allegations six weeks ago, and didn’t act on them until just before the committee vote.

Mr. Grassley said that has allowed the situation to spiral out of hand, putting Ms. Ford in the public spotlight as well as shot-circuiting Judge Kavanaugh’s opportunities to defend himself.

Another key Republican, Sen. John Cornyn, said Mr. Grassley’s plan to conduct follow-up calls is the right way to proceed.

“If Democrats reject the committee handling this swiftly and in a bipartisan way through regular order, then it’s clear that their only intention is to smear Judge Kavanaugh and derail his nomination,” said Mr. Cornyn, the second-ranking Republican in the chamber.

Judge Kavanaugh said Monday morning he would be willing to “talk” to senators, and has flatly denied all the allegations made by Ms. Ford, a California professor who has now come forward with a startling tale from the 1980s.

She says she was at a party with Judge Kavanaugh, who was then a 17-year-old student, when he climbed on her and tried to forcefully undress her. She told The Washington Post she escaped his grasp and then didn’t mention the incident again until 2012.

She sent a letter earlier this summer with her accusation just after Judge Kavanaugh was nominated to the Supreme Court.

Her lawyer said Monday that she would be willing to testify.

The judge has vehemently denied the allegations, calling them “completely false.”

“I have never done anything like what the accuser describes — to her or to anyone,” he said in a statement issued by the White House. “Because this never happened, I had no idea who was making this accusation until she identified herself yesterday.”

Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, one of the handful of red-state Democrats under pressure to cross party lines and vote to confirm the Supreme Court nominee, called for both to testify “as quickly as possible.”

“Professor Christine Blasey Ford deserves to be heard and Judge Kavanaugh deserves a chance to clear his name,” Mr. Manchin tweeted. “Both have said they are willing to testify before the SenateJudiciary Committee and I hope they will be given the opportunity to do that as quickly as possible.”

All 10 Democrats on the Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Mr. Grassley on Monday to formally request Judge Kavanaugh’s hearing be delayed.

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