Kavanaugh accuser commits to hearing
Attorneys for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, and the Senate Judiciary Committee have reached agreement for a public hearing on Thursday as talks continued on Sunday to resolve potentially make-or-break details.
Ford committed to an "open" hearing after negotiators convened a call on Sunday, her attorneys said in a statement. A spokesman for the committee's chairman, Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, confirmed that the hearing would take place at 10 a.m. on Thursday.
"We've made important progress," said Ford's attorneys Debra S. Katz, Lisa J. Banks, and Michael R. Bromwich. "Dr. Ford believes it is important for senators to hear directly from her about the sexual assault committed against her. She has agreed to move forward."
Tensions have been running on overdrive since Ford, now a 51-year-old California college professor, went public last week with her allegation that Kavanaugh assaulted her at a party when they were in high school. Kavanaugh, 53, an appellate court judge, denied the allegation and said that he wanted to testify as soon as possible to clear his name.
A final accord could bring to a close days of brinkmanship that have roiled Washington ahead of midterm elections and threatened to jeopardise Kavanaugh's confirmation to the court, even as some Republicans say that the additional hearings may do little to change their support for him.
Some terms of Ford's and Kavanaugh's appearances are still being negotiated, but several details have been resolved.
Ford agreed that she would testify ahead of Kavanaugh, rather than her preference to appear after him, according to a source familiar with the talks who spoke on condition of anonymity, lacking authorisation to discuss the talks publicly.
But who will be asking the questions remains unresolved, the lawyers said.
Republicans were trying to hire an outside female counsel who could take over the questioning. The 11 senators on the GOP side of the dais are all men, which could send an unwanted message on live television against the backdrop of the #MeToo era. They could also use Republican staff attorneys on the committee.
"We were told no decision has been made on this important issue, even though various senators have been dismissive of her account and should have to shoulder their responsibility to ask her questions," the attorneys for Ford said.
Ford's attorneys said they did not know when they would have answers to the unresolved issues.
Earlier on Sunday, Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that lawyers for Ford are contesting two GOP conditions that Ford and Kavanaugh will be the only witnesses and that an independent counsel will ask the questions.
"If they continue to contest those two things, there won't be a hearing," Graham said. "We're not going to let her determine how many people we call" and on outside counsel. "I hope she comes."
Graham, speaking on Fox News Sunday, promised a fair hearing in which both Ford and Kavanaugh "will be challenged" but said that "unless there's something more" to back up her accusation, then he was "not going to ruin Judge Kavanaugh's life over this".
"I want to listen to her, but I'm being honest with you and everybody else. ...
What am I supposed to do?" Graham asked, explaining his dilemma over an allegation of a 1980s incident that is past the statute of limitations for criminal charges. "But she should come forward. She should have her say."