Top Senate Democrats criticized as unacceptable Republicans’ plan to hold a public hearing in which only Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and the woman who accuses him of sexual assault will be called as witnesses.
'Compare that to the 22 witnesses at the 1991 Anita Hill hearing and it’s impossible to take this process seriously,' top Judiciary Committee Democrat Dianne Feinstein said in a statement Tuesday. She was referring to the confirmation hearing where Justice Clarence Thomas was accused of sexually harassing Hill when he was her supervisor at a federal agency.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley scheduled the hearing for Sept. 24 to hear California college professor Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation that Kavanaugh assaulted her at a party 36 years ago. Kavanaugh has strongly denied the claim and plans to testify.
“What about other witnesses like Kavanaugh’s friend Mark Judge,' who Ford said was in the room during the alleged attack, Feinstein said. 'What about individuals who were previously told about this incident? What about experts who can speak to the effects of this kind of trauma on a victim?'
She accused Republicans of trying to 'rush this nomination' and not fully vet Kavanaugh, a federal appeals court judge.
Grassley said Tuesday that Ford has yet to tell the panel whether she’ll appear. The chairman told radio host Hugh Hewitt on Tuesday that there would be only two witnesses, Kavanaugh and Ford, and that the hearing would be televised. No decision has been made about who would speak first, Grassley said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters later Monday that Ford was welcome to testify either in public or in private.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and other Democrats have called for the FBI to reopen its background check of Kavanaugh to examine Ford’s allegation and interview any possible witnesses. The White House hasn’t asked the FBI for an investigation, a step that is required for the bureau to take further action, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Democrats particularly want to hear from Judge, who was a classmate of Kavanaugh’s.
“He is identified specifically as an eyewitness” and he 'should testify,' said second-ranking Senate Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois.
Grassley told Hewitt that Republican staff held a phone call with Kavanaugh on Monday to discuss the allegations. Democrats were invited to participate but did not, he said.
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell praised Grassley’s handling of the new inquiry into a matter that entered into a confirmation process that many thought was in its closing days.
“I have full confidence in Chairman Grassley to lead the committee through the sensitive and highly irregular situation in which the Democrats’ tactics have left all of us,” he said.
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