Politics

Judiciary Panel Sets Kavanaugh Hearing for Next Week

America will hear from the Supreme Court nominee — and his accuser now — in a high-stakes showdown

Image Credit: Win McNamee / Getty Images

The Senate Judiciary Committee late Monday afternoon set a hearing for early next week — guaranteeing a high-stakes showdown between the nominee and a woman who accuses him of sexually assaulting her.

Senate Republicans had planned to push the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh forward in the Judiciary Committee on Thursday. Instead, the committee will hear from both Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford on September 24.

The hearing will give Ford a chance to say before TV cameras what she told The Washington Post on Sunday — that a drunken, teenage Kavanaugh pushed her onto a bed at a Maryland house party in the 1980s, when they both were in high school.

Ford, a clinic psychology professor at Palo Alto University in California, told the paper that Kavanaugh tried to rip off her clothes and put his hand over her mouth to prevent her from screaming.

For his part, Kavanaugh (pictured above) has issued multiple statements denying the allegation.

What’s more, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) told reporters that the nominee told him that he was not even at a party like the one described by Ford.

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Kavanaugh’s supporters welcomed the hearing.

“It will be good to have the opportunity for her to tell her story, and I think Judge Kavanaugh is happy to have the opportunity to refute the allegations,” said Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director at the Judicial Crisis Network.

The Judicial Crisis Network, which already has spent millions of dollars supporting Kavanaugh, announced Monday that it will launch another $1.5 million national cable and digital campaign.

The ad features Louisa Garry, who has known Kavanaugh for 35 years.

“It is a national ad,” Severino told LifeZette. “We think that these allegations deserve to be refuted fully.”

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Judiciary Committee, told CNN he wants an FBI investigation and other witnesses.

He specifically mentioned Mark Judge, a high school friend of Kavanaugh’s, who Ford said was in the room during the incident.

In Ford’s account, she was able to escape when Judge jumped on top of the two of them and all three fell to the ground.

Judge has denied Ford’s account, calling it “nutty.”

Coons said he wants to hear from Judge under oath.

“If all that happens is we have these two witnesses in front of us, with no more evidence, no one else questioned … then I don’t think we’ve had a full opportunity to have this investigated,” he said.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who is perhaps the most important senator right now when it comes to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, declined on Monday to rush to judgment on allegations of sexual assault.

Mobbed by journalists outside her Senate office on Capitol Hill, Collins said she needed more information about allegations that he has categorically denied.

“That’s why it’s important that there be a very thorough interview and that we see both individuals respond to the allegations,” she said.

She added, “There are an awful lot of questions, inconsistencies, gaps and that’s why to be fair to both. We need to know what happened.”

Collins said she could not say whether she believes Ford, a clinical psychology professor at Palo Alto University in California.

“I don’t know enough about Dr. Ford and her allegations yet to reach that kind of judgment,” she said. “That’s why having the opportunity to observe her being questioned, read a transcript and a deposition and make that kind of assessment is so important.”

Collins added, “Obviously, if Judge Kavanaugh has lied about what happened, that would be disqualifying.”

Collins is key to Kavanaugh’s path to the Supreme Court for a number of reasons. She is one of a tiny number of Republican senators who had not publicly declared how they would vote.

Partisans on both sides of the debate have scrutinized Collins and fellow abortion rights supporter Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) for any sign they might buck President Donald Trump’s nominee.

Related: Monica Lewinsky Just Weighed In on Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Accuser

Kavanaugh’s supporters have tried to pressure a handful of red state Democratic senators to vote for Kavanaugh. Particularly with the new allegations, however, it is difficult to envision any Senate Democrat rescuing the nomination if Collins and Murkowski were to abandon Kavanaugh.

Ford and Kavanaugh both have indicated that they are willing to answer questions about the alleged incident under oath. Collins said she asked Kavanaugh about the allegation during a phone call on Friday.

“He emphatically denied that the allegations were true,” she said. “He said that he never had acted that way, not only with this unnamed accuser but with any woman. He was absolutely emphatic about that.”

Kavanaugh, who has served on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia since 2003, had appeared to be headed for a close but successful confirmation vote in a nearly evenly divided Senate. But then Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) threw a monkey wrench into the process last week by announcing that she had referred an anonymous letter describing a possible crime to the FBI.

If confirmed, Kavanaugh would replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, who stepped down this summer.

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