Christine Blasey Ford Agrees to Testify as Frustrated Republicans Ask ‘When?’

Attorneys for the woman who has accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault said she would testify this week before the Senate Judiciary Committee without specifying a date or final terms.  

Senators Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Dianne Feinstein of California (Joshua Roberts / Reuters)

Attorneys representing Christine Blasey Ford, the 51-year-old research psychologist who has accused the Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers, said on Saturday afternoon that she would testify this coming week before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“Dr. Ford accepts the committee’s request to provide her first-hand knowledge of Brett Kavanaugh’s sexual misconduct next week,” they said in a statement issued at a 2:30 p.m. deadline that had been set late Friday night by the committee’s chairman, Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa.

But the statement appeared to settle nothing beyond the need for more negotiations, and the Republicans, who remain determined to confirm Kavanaugh as quickly as possible, were none too happy about it.

Senator John Cornyn of Texas retweeted a news story about the update and added one word: “When?” The staff Twitter account for Orrin Hatch said that “this is exactly where we were on Monday morning—without agreeing to a date, time, and terms we are no closer to hearing from Dr Ford.” The only positive GOP note came from Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, a Donald Trump critic who is not running for reelection: “Progress on a Judiciary Committee hearing is being made. This is good.”

A senior White House official seemed to capture the Republican frustration as Ford’s attorneys finessed Grassley’s deadline and sent the ball back into the GOP’s court without a clear end to the negotiation in sight. “This is an ask to continue ‘negotiations’ without committing to anything,” the official told The Washington Post.

In contrast, Judiciary Committee Democrats criticized the GOP’s treatment of Ford. “Why the rush? Why the bullying?” Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the committee’s ranking Democrat, asked Friday night, adding that “the dismissive treatment of Dr. Ford is insulting to all sexual-assault survivors.” Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut praised Ford’s “steadfast bravery against the arbitrary, unfair, irrational constraints set by Chairman Grassley.” Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island argued that the hearing would be a “kangaroo court” without any outside evidence allowed.

Kristine Lucius, a former Democratic staffer now at a civil-rights organization, argued on MSNBC that GOP “bullying and intimidation tactics” were designed to silence Ford. Lucius argued that Ford was being treated with even less respect than Anita Hill in 1991, since then FBI investigators got involved and senators heard from additional witnesses.

As the delay grows longer, Republicans are more likely to portray this as a political stalling tactic. On Fox News, the conservative National Review columnist John Fund brought up what may become a regular talking point in painting Ford’s allegations as a partisan attack: Her legal team added Michael Bromwich, a former Department of Justice inspector general who also represents fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.

This all comes as the Supreme Court calendar looms, with its opening conference scheduled for Monday—the same day as the latest postponed Judiciary Committee hearing on Kavanaugh’s confirmation—and its first arguments set for October 1. Republicans want their guy on the Supreme Court before then, and certainly before the November 6 midterm elections.