WASHINGTON–The woman who has accused President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her decades ago hasn’t yet confirmed her appearance to testify at a Senate committee hearing set for Sept. 24, raising questions about whether the high-stakes public showdown will take place.
Christine Ford, a university professor in California, hasn’t responded to attempts by the Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee to contact her about appearing at the hearing, Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said on Sept. 18.
Trump stepped up his defense of Kavanaugh and expressed sympathy toward his nominee, who met with officials at the White House for a second straight day, although not with the president.
“I feel so badly for him that he’s going through this, to be honest with you,” Trump told a news conference. “This is not a man that deserves this.”
“Hopefully, the woman will come forward, state her case. He will state his case before representatives of the United States Senate. And then they will vote. They will look at his career. They will look at what she has to say, from 36 years ago, and we will see what happens.”
Grassley, whose committee oversees the confirmation process, initially said the planned hearing would be public but other Republicans indicated it could be held privately if Ford requests that.
Kavanaugh has called Ford’s allegation “completely false.” His friend Mark Judge, who Ford claims was present during the alleged assault, also denied the claim.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a member of the Senate Republican leadership, appeared to cast doubt on Ford’s allegations.
“We just don’t know what happened 36 years ago and there are gaps in her memory. She doesn’t know how she got there, when it was, and so that would logically be something where she would get questions,” Cornyn told reporters.
His fellow Republicans have generally avoided criticizing Ford, instead casting blame on Democrats for not revealing her allegations earlier.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) received a letter from Ford in July, but didn’t reveal it until after the confirmation hearings had concluded and days before the Judiciary panel was set to vote on whether to recommend Kavanaugh for a full Senate vote.
“We have reached out to her in the last 36 hours, three or four times by email, and we’ve not heard from them. So it kind of raises the question … do they want to come to (the) public hearing or not?” Grassley said in an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.
Deserves to Be Heard
“I want to hear from Dr. Ford,” Grassley said. “And she deserves to be heard because these are serious accusations. And I would surely hope she’d come Monday.”
The contents of Ford’s letter were leaked last week, and Ford identified herself in an interview published on Sept. 16.
The committee announced on Sept. 17 it would postpone its vote planned for Sept. 20, and scheduled the hearing for the nominee and his accuser to testify.
Debra Katz, a lawyer representing Ford, said in television interviews on Sept. 17 that the professor would be willing to testify. Kavanaugh, via a statement from the White House, also said he is willing to testify.
Republican staffers quizzed Kavanaugh about the allegations during a Sept. 17 call, while Democrats refused to take part. Committee spokesman Taylor Foy said that other witnesses would be questioned ahead of the hearing.
The confirmation fight comes just weeks before Nov. 6 congressional elections, with Republicans looking to hold on to majorities in both chambers.
Grassley offered his assurance that Ford would be treated respectfully and not badgered during the hearing.
Trump picked Kavanaugh in July to replace retired conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy.
By Lawrence Hurley and Richard Cowan. Epoch Times staff writer Ivan Pentchoukov contributed to this report.