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Christine Ford 'will testify next week' against Brett Kavanaugh if senators provide 'fair terms and ensure her safety

The California-based academic has been given just hours to decide whether to appear

Andrew Buncombe
Washington DC
Thursday 20 September 2018 19:26 BST
Legal expert, Jeff Toobin; 'If she does not appear, Kavanaugh is getting confirmed'

The woman who has accused Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee of sexually assaulting her will testify next week, if senators provide “fair terms” and ensure her safety, her lawyers have said.

In a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee, lawyers for Christine Blasey Ford said, in what appeared an effort to reopen negotiations, the 51-year-old was prepared to cooperate and testify as early as next week. They said this was conditional upon senators offering “terms that are fair and which ensure her safety”.

The letter, first obtained by the New York Times, said the committee’s deadline of Monday was not possible and the senators’ “insistence that it occur then is arbitrary in any event”. The letter said it was Ms Ford’s “strong preference a full investigation” occur before her testimony. The letter did not refer to an FBI investigation of the allegations.

“As you are aware, she has been receiving death threats, which have been reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and she and her family have been forced out of their home,” the email said. “She wishes to testify, provided that we can agree on terms that are fair and which ensure her safety.”

The committee was to have on Thursday decided whether to pass the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, a DC appeals judge, to the full senate for a confirmation vote. The process was postponed after Ms Ford, accused Mr Kavanaugh of forcibly trying to take off her clothes at a high school party more than 30 years ago. Mr Kavanaugh has repeatedly denied the accusation.

With both the White House and Republicans keen to ensure Mr Kavanaugh’s confirmation, while not wanting to be seen to ignore Ms Ford accusations, the pair were both invited to appear before the committee and testify on Monday. Ms Ford’s lawyers have indicated she thinks the FBI should carry out an investigation before she testifies.

Jeffrey Toobin, a leading legal analyst and author, has said he believes if Ms Ford does not appear next week, Mr Kavanaugh’s confirmation will almost certainly go ahead.

“If she maintains that this investigation a sham and I’m not taking part, he is getting confirmed,” Mr Toobin said. “If she does testify, I think all the cards are thrown up in the air…But everybody should be clear about the stakes of her decision to come forward or not before the committee.”

Speaking on CNN, he added: “I don’t know what the strategy is. I do know that there won’t be an FBI investigation This is a take it or leave it offer to Ms Ford. That’s just what it is. She has to decide whether she wants to testify or not…Everybody should be clear about what the stakes are. If she does not testify, he is getting confirmed.”

Hollywood supporters of Ms ford produce video, saying: 'We believe you'

While being careful not to disparage Ms Ford, Mr Trump has repeatedly voiced his support for his 53-year-old nominee. “I can only say this: he is such an outstanding man. Very hard for me to imagine that anything happened,” he said on Wednesday.

As to Ms Ford and her allegations, he said: “I’d really want to see her. I really would want to see what she has to say If she shows up that would be wonderful. If she doesn’t show up that would be unfortunate.”

The chairman of the senate committee, Republican Chuck Grassley, has written to Ms Ford, giving her a deadline of until 10am on Friday morning to decide if she will appear. A lawyer for Ms Ford, Lisa Banks, had earlier said Monday was too soon.

In a statement, she wrote that Ms Ford wanted “a full non-partisan investigation” and said she willing to cooperate. She added: “The rush to a hearing is unnecessary, and contrary to the committee discovering the truth.”

On Thursday, a group of about 40 protesters, most of them women, clogged the lobby of Mr Grassley’s senate office. Many wore buttons with the words “I believe Dr Christine Blasey Ford”, the Associated Press reported.

Ms Ford has also received the support of several celebrities who released a video announcing their support for her. The video, produced by the progressive group MoveOn, features “women from all walks of life”, including actresses America Ferrera, Julianne Moore and Gabrielle Union.

The confirmation fight has unfolded just weeks before the midterm elections of November 6, where Democrats are seeking to take control of Congress from the Republicans. Mr Kavanaugh’s confirmation would solidify conservative control of the Supreme Court and further Mr Trump's goal of moving the high court and the broader federal judiciary to the right.

Mr Trump’s fellow Republicans appear to be counting on her failure to quickly agree to testify on Monday as a boost for Mr Kavanaugh’s confirmation chances. The senate is narrowly controlled by Republicans, who have embraced the idea of a quick vote on Mr Kavanaugh’s nomination Ms if Ford does not to testify. Mitch McConnell, the Republican senate leader has said he was confident the nominee would be confirmed.

Another Republican, Dean Heller, told the AP: “We got a little hiccup here with the Kavanaugh nomination, we’ll get through this and we’ll get off to the races.”

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