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Kavanaugh accuser accepts Senate Judiciary Committee’s request to testify

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley and attorneys for Christine Blasey Ford are still wrangling over critical details. | Andrew Harnik/AP Photo

Christine Blasey Ford has accepted the Senate Judiciary Committee’s request to testify next week on Ford’s allegation that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school, Ford’s attorneys told Senate Republicans on Saturday afternoon in an email obtained by POLITICO.

Ford’s lawyers indicated they have yet to reach an agreement with the committee on the specifics and asked to continue negotiations about the details of her appearance on Saturday afternoon. Senate Republicans have offered a public or private hearing on Wednesday, while Ford has pushed for Thursday.

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“Dr. Ford accepts the Committee’s request to provide her first-hand knowledge of Brett Kavanaugh’s sexual misconduct next week,” wrote Debra Katz and Lisa Banks, Ford’s attorneys. “We are hopeful that we can reach agreement on details.”

Ford’s legal team also now includes Michael Bromwich, according to a spokeswoman for his firm, The Bromwich Group. He is a former federal prosecutor, inspector general for the Department of Justice and is also working on the legal team for Andrew McCabe, a former deputy director of the FBI who has feuded with President Donald Trump. Bromwich resigned from his law firm, which is separate from the Bromwich Group, in order to represent Ford in private practice.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley

Ford’s agreement to appear before the committee marks the most significant outcome of the high-stakes negotiations between the panel’s Republicans and Ford’s lawyers. But the two parties are still far apart on what day the hearing will take place and other details, and Republicans questioned whether Ford and her attorneys were merely orchestrating further hindrances to Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

“Our view of this latest response from Ford through her attorney is still ambiguous. She says she’s willing to testify but she says she still wants negotiations,” a senior White House official said. “Until there’s actually an agreement, there isn’t. It could be a another delay tactic.”

Democrats praised Ford’s acceptance as a huge step toward telling her story publicly. They decried “bullying” tactics used by Grassley on Friday, when he said his committee would vote on Monday if it hadn’t heard back from Ford’s attorneys. Grassley later extended the deadline for Ford’s response to Saturday afternoon.

“Courageously, Dr. Ford will tell her story in the face of an impossible choice and vile bullying by Republican leadership. I will support her steadfast bravery against the arbitrary, unfair, irrational constraints set by Chairman Grassley,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a member of the Judiciary Committee. “I remain deeply disturbed by the conduct of my colleagues over the last week.”

Kavanaugh is willing to testify any day of the week and is not advocating for certain conditions, a Republican senator said. But Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ford’s attorneys are still wrangling over critical details.

On Friday, the two parties agreed to limit the number of cameras in the hearing room, ensure Ford and Kavanaugh are not in the same room together, offer Ford breaks in her testimony and security from the U.S. Capitol Police. Ford has faced death threats since coming forward and accusing Kavanaugh publicly of groping and forcing himself on her more than 30 years ago.

But they are far apart on a number of critical areas: Republicans want Kavanaugh to testify after Ford, the GOP wants to retain the option of using female lawyers to ask questions and have dismissed Ford’s calls to subpoena Mark Judge, who Ford has said was in the room at the time of the alleged assault. Ford’s attorneys have asked for Kavanaugh to testify first and do not want Ford to be questioned by anyone other than senators.

Kavanaugh currently lacks the 50 votes to be confirmed, with a handful of the Senate’s 51 Republicans holding out and no Democratic support. Despite Kavanaugh’s confirmation prospects, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) confidently predicted on Friday that Kavanaugh will soon be a Supreme Court justice.

But as Ford’s potential testimony draws near, her legal team is growing in size and stature. Bromwich’s resignation from Robbins Russell, the law firm where he worked separately from his eponymous firm, came after “objections” to his decision to represent Ford, he said in his departure note.

“My role will likely require me to appear publicly on Dr. Ford’s behalf, and the Senate is being advised of my involvement this afternoon. Because objections have been raised within the partnership to my doing so while employed by the firm, I am resigning from the firm, effective immediately,” Bromwich wrote in his departure note from Robbins Russell, a copy of which was obtained by POLITICO.

Republicans defending Kavanaugh have experienced a brutal 48 hours: Prominent conservative legal activist Ed Whelan posted an alternate theory of Ford’s account that blew up in his face, the GOP cringed on Friday as Trump attacked Ford’s credibility and on Saturday an aide on the Senate Judiciary Committee resigned over questions of his own conduct in the past.

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