Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) warned an alleged sexual assault victim Monday may have had her allegations against a U.S. Supreme Court nominee leaked.
U.S. Circuit Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh was hit with the sexual assault allegations only days before a crucial vote to advance his nomination to the highest court.
Senate Democratic leaders received a letter from the alleged victim — which was leaked without a name last week. Christine Blasey Ford then revealed herself to be the woman on Sunday.
“It’s deeply disturbing that the existence of these allegations was leaked in a way that seemed to preclude Dr. Ford’s confidentiality,” Grassley said in a statement.
“Dr. Ford’s attorney could have approached my office, while keeping her client confidential and anonymous, so that these allegations could be thoroughly investigated. Nevertheless, we are working diligently to get to the bottom of these claims.”
Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and some others received the letter detailing the allegations earlier in the summer.
Kavanaugh was a high school student at Georgetown Preparatory School when the alleged incident occurred. The letter reportedly described how he was drunk and held her down at a party in Maryland.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on whether to advance his nomination to a full floor vote Thursday. Ford’s allegations all unfolded in the week leading up to that critical vote. The committee had already held a four-day confirmation hearing.
Grassley has also raised other concerns about how the scandal was revealed.
“Anyone who comes forward as Dr. Ford has deserves to be heard, so I will continue working on a way to hear her out in an appropriate, precedented and respectful manner,” Grassley said. “I asked Sen. Feinstein’s office yesterday to join me in scheduling these follow-ups. Thus far, they have refused. But as a necessary step in evaluating these claims, I’ll continue working to set them up.”
Grassley added that the standard procedure for updating the background of any nominee during the confirmation process is to conduct separate follow-up calls with relevant parties.
He reiterated comments from earlier when expressing his concern over the timing of the information.
“Unfortunately, committee Republicans have only known this person’s identity from news reports for less than 24 hours and known about her allegations for less than a week,” Grassley said. “Sen. Feinstein, on the other hand, has had this information for many weeks and deprived her colleagues of the information necessary to do our jobs. The minority withheld even the anonymous allegations for six weeks, only to later decide that they were serious enough to investigate on the eve of the committee vote, after the vetting process had been completed.”
Senate Democrats have called for the confirmation process to be delayed ever since Kavanaugh was first nominated on July 9. They could potentially gain a better chance of stopping him if they’re able to delay a final vote until after the midterm elections. The sexual assault allegations are the latest in a series of reasons the process should be halted, they say, such as past delays, unfulfilled records requests and legal issues related to President Donald Trump.
“It has always been Mrs. Ford’s decision whether to come forward publicly,” Feinstein said in a statement Sunday. “For any woman, sharing an experience involving sexual assault — particularly when it involves a politically connected man with influence, authority and power — is extraordinarily difficult.”
Kavanaugh was quick to deny the allegations when they first started coming to light last week.
He was defended in a letter written by dozens of women who were in high school at the same time he was. But the allegations have caused some favorable potential voters to rethink their stance — such as Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.).