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GOP presses Kavanaugh vote with accuser’s testimony in doubt

Senator John Cornyn (R), pictured with (L-R) Senator Roy Blunt, Senator John Thune and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, said the Judiciary Committee can’t investigate Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation without her testimony. | Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

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Republicans painted Christine Blasey Ford’s request to have the FBI examine the allegations as a delay tactic.

Republican senators are giving Christine Blasey Ford a stark choice as they prepare to weigh her sexual assault allegation against Brett Kavanaugh: Talk to us on Monday, or risk losing your chance to do so before we vote.

In the wake of a Tuesday night letter from Ford’s lawyers that sought an FBI inquiry before the California-based professor would testify in public about her high-school-era assault allegation against the Supreme Court nominee, Republicans indicated little interest in any such investigation — which some of them openly dismissed as a delaying tactic.

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“Requiring an FBI investigation of a 36 year old allegation (without specific references to time or location) before Professor Ford will appear before the Judiciary Committee is not about finding the truth, but delaying the process till after the midterm elections,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a senior Judiciary Committee member, said in a statement.

Although the FBI conducted a days-long inquiry of Anita Hill’s 1991 sexual harassment allegations against now-Justice Clarence Thomas, a precedent that Ford’s lawyers referred to in their letter, the FBI has said this week that it acted in accordance with existing guidelines by adding Ford’s allegation to Kavanaugh’s background file without further action.

Republicans on the Judiciary Committee, who had announced a Monday public hearing before Ford agreed to appear in that setting, reiterated that her appearance is necessary in order for the committee to fully examine her claim that Kavanaugh tried to force himself on her when he was 17 and she was 15. The GOP has offered that Ford can speak in private, but indicated that they plan to press ahead with President Donald Trump’s high court pick even if she doesn’t ultimately participate.

“The Judiciary Committee is attempting to investigate Dr. Ford’s allegation but can’t without her testimony,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) tweeted. “We can do that in any setting she is most comfortable with.”

Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley’s (R-Iowa) office did not return a request for comment on whether Monday’s planned hearing would go forward with Kavanaugh alone, or whether it could also include a vote on the nomination should Ford’s camp not engage. One key Republican who had urged for a delay in order to hear out Ford’s side of the story, Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, said Tuesday night that senators should proceed to a vote if she cannot participate on Monday.

Trump himself told reporters on Wednesday that he hopes Ford decides to speak in public, even as he defended Kavanaugh’s “unblemished record” and dismissed the prospect of any further FBI investigation.

Chuck Grassley

“I really would want to see what she has to say,” Trump said, according to the White House pool report.

“If she shows up and makes a credible showing, that’ll be very interesting, and we’ll have to make a decision, but … very hard for me to imagine anything happened,” he said.

Republicans have indicated that they may decide to question Ford and her lawyers over any contacts with Democrats if the hearing slated for Monday ever occurs. Another Judiciary member, Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), underscored the continuing uncertainty.

“I don’t have enough information to make that decision” as to whether Monday should be the only opportunity for Ford to speak, Kennedy told CNN, adding that “I think there is a reasonable possibility she’ll change her mind” about appearing.

“We’re scheduled to meet at 10 o’clock” on Monday, Kennedy said. “I have marked that on my calendar from 10 o’clock to 5:00 P.M. And I’ll stay as late as everybody wants to.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer urged Republicans to reconsider their resistance to an FBI examination of the allegation. “Senate Republicans and the White House should drop their inexplicable opposition to an FBI investigation, allow all the facts to come out, and then proceed with a fair process in the Senate,” the New York Democrat said in a Tuesday night statement.

In a 51-49 Senate, Kavanaugh has yet to lock in the 50 votes needed in order to win confirmation. Two opponents among the few remaining undecided Republicans would defeat his nomination, and the two most closely watched moderate GOP swing votes — Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — have not weighed in publicly since the letter from Ford’s lawyers.

Rebecca Morin contributed to this story.

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