Kavanaugh accuser wants FBI investigation before she will testify, lawyer says

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A woman who has accused President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, of sexual assault decades ago wants her allegations to be investigated by the FBI before she appears at a U.S. Senate hearing, her lawyers said on Tuesday.

The development further roiled a confirmation process that once seemed smooth for Kavanaugh, whose confirmation to the lifetime post could consolidate the conservative grip on the top U.S. court.

Christine Blasey Ford, a university professor in California, has accused Kavanaugh of attacking her and trying to remove her clothing while he was drunk at a suburban Maryland party in 1982 when they were both high school students, allegations Kavanaugh has called "completely false."

The Senate Judiciary Committee, which is overseeing the nomination, had called a hearing for Monday to examine the matter, and the White House had said Kavanaugh was ready to testify.

In a letter to the committee's chairman, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, Ford's attorneys said an FBI investigation needed to come first.

"A full investigation by law enforcement officials will ensure that the crucial facts and witnesses in this matter are assessed in a non-partisan manner, and that the committee is fully informed before conducting any hearing or making any decisions," the lawyers wrote. A copy of the letter was posted on the committee's website. (https://bit.ly/2OAJWD0)

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Brett Kavanaugh through the years
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Brett Kavanaugh through the years
WASHINGTON DC -- NOVEMBER 13: Brett Kavanaugh, aide to Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr, during a meeting in the Office of the Solicitor General on November 13, 1996 in Washington DC. (Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images)
US Judge Brett Kavanaugh looks on as the US President announces him as his nominee to the Supreme Court in the East Room of the White House on July 9, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US Judge Brett Kavanaugh (L) shakes hands with US President Donald Trump after being nominated to the Supreme Court in the East Room of the White House on July 9, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President George W. Bush (R) listens to U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Judge Brett Kavanaugh speak, [moments after being sworn-in at a Rose Garden ceremony at the White House], in Washington June 1, 2006.
U.S. President Donald Trump introduces his Supreme Court nominee judge Brett Kavanaugh in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., July 9, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
UNITED STATES - JUNE 01: Brett Kavanaugh speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House on June 1, 2006 in Washington, D.C., after being sworn in to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals. (Photo by Dennis Brack/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump (R) announces US Judge Brett Kavanaugh (C) as his nominee to the Supreme Court in the East Room of the White House on July 9, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President George W. Bush (L) watches as Brett Kavanaugh (2nd L) is sworn in as a judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia by Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy (R) in a Rose Garden ceremony at the White House in Washington June 1, 2006. Kavanaugh's wife, Ashley, holds the bible. REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES)
WASHINGTON - MAY 22: District of Columbia Circut Court of Appeals nominee Brett Kavanaugh attends a news conference with Senate GOP leadership in the Capitol May 22, 2006 in Washington, DC. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) said that Kavanaugh deserves a straight up-or-down vote in the Senate. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh smiles next to U.S. President Donald Trump in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., July 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
WASHINGTON - MAY 22: District of Columbia Circut Court of Appeals nominee Brett Kavanaugh (L) and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) hold a news conference in the Capitol May 22, 2006 in Washington, DC. Frist said that Kavanaugh deserves a straight up-or-down vote in the Senate. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh smiles next to U.S. President Donald Trump in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., July 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
WASHINGTON - MAY 22: (L-R) U.S. Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-KY), District of Columbia Circut Court of Appeals nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) hold a news conference in the Capitol May 22, 2006 in Washington, DC. Frist said that Kavanaugh deserves a straight up-or-down vote in the Senate. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - MAY 22: (L-R) U.S. Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-KY), District of Columbia Circut Court of Appeals nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) hold a news conference in the Capitol May 22, 2006 in Washington, DC. Frist said that Kavanaugh deserves a straight up-or-down vote in the Senate. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MAY 09: Brett Kavanaugh testifies at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on his nomination to be U. S. Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit. (Photo By Chris Maddaloni/Roll Call/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MAY 09: Brett M. Kavanaugh, who last appeared before the committee in late April 2004, is sworn in to testify during a second Senate Judiciary confirmation hearing. At right are former bosses Judge Walter K. Stapleton, of the United States Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit in Wilmington, Del., and Judge Alex Kozinski, of the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in Pasadena, Calif., who introduced Kavanaugh to the committee. Kavanaugh, President Bush's staff secretary, is the president's nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., held the second hearing because Committee Democrats wanted to ask Kavanaugh, formerly an associate White House counsel, more questions about his involvement in the administration's legal policies, particularly on the National Security Agency terrorist surveillance program and the treatment of detainees held by the U.S. military. (Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON DC -- NOVEMBER 19: Brett Kavanaugh, associate counsel in the Office of Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr, sits behind Starr during his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee regarding the possible impeachment of President Bill Clinton on November 19, 1998 in Washington DC. (Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON DC -- NOVEMBER 13: Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr, center, talks with Deputy Independent Counsel John Bates, left, and aide Brett Kavanaugh, right, and another colleague in the Office of the Solicitor General during the Whitewater Investigation on November 13, 1996 in Washington DC. (Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images)
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, his wife Ashley Estes Kavanaugh (off frame) and their two daughters stand by US President Donald Trump after he announced his nomination in the East Room of the White House on July 9, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh (R) speaks after US President Donald Trump announced his nomination in the East Room of the White House on July 9, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, his wife Ashley Estes Kavanaugh and their two daughters stand by US President Donald Trump after he announced his nomination in the East Room of the White House on July 9, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
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A spokesman for the panel did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Democrats, already fiercely opposed to the nominee, have also been seeking an FBI investigation, a request that Republicans have rebuffed. Trump and other Republicans said they did not think the FBI needed to be involved.

A hearing would represent a potential make-or-break moment for the conservative federal appeals court judge's confirmation chances, as Trump pursues his goal of moving the federal judiciary to the right.

Republicans control the Senate by only a narrow margin, meaning any defections within the party could sink the nomination and deal a major setback to Trump.

Earlier on Tuesday, Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the committee's Republicans, said the panel would vote on the nomination next week whether or not Ford testified. A vote in committee would be a precursor to action in the full Senate.

"If she does not want to come Monday, publicly or privately, we're going to move on and vote Wednesday," he told Fox News Channel.

 

TRUMP STANDS BY NOMINEE

In a statement on Monday, a representative for the Justice Department said the FBI had followed protocol forwarding information about the allegation to the White House.

"The FBI's role in such matters is to provide information for the use of the decision makers," the statement said.

Trump earlier on Tuesday stepped up his defense of Kavanaugh and expressed sympathy toward his nominee, who met with officials at the White House for a second straight day, although not with the president.

"I feel so badly for him that he's going through this, to be honest with you," Trump told a news conference. "This is not a man that deserves this."

"Hopefully the woman will come forward, state her case. He will state his case before representatives of the United States Senate. And then they will vote," Trump added.

Senator John Cornyn, a member of the Senate Republican leadership, appeared to cast doubt on Ford's allegations.

"We just don't know what happened 36 years ago and there are gaps in her memory. She doesn't know how she got there, when it was, and so that would logically be something where she would get questions," Cornyn told reporters.

Cornyn's fellow Republicans have generally avoided criticizing Ford, instead castigating Democrats for not revealing her allegations earlier.

The confirmation fight comes just weeks before the Nov. 6 congressional elections in which Democrats are seeking to take control of Congress from Trump's fellow Republicans, which would be a major blow to the president's agenda.

 

'HATE MAIL, HARASSMENT, DEATH THREATS'

Ford detailed her allegation in a letter sent in July to Senator Dianne Feinstein, the committee's top Democrat. The letter's contents leaked last week and Ford identified herself in an interview with the Washington Post published on Sunday that included details about the alleged assault.

In a statement, Feinstein, said the committee should accede to Ford's wishes and postpone Monday's hearing.

"A proper investigation must be completed, witnesses interviewed, evidence reviewed and all sides spoken to. Only then should the chairman set a hearing date," she said in a statement.

Lisa Banks, an attorney for Ford, told CNN her client was dealing with "hate mail, harassment, death threats" and that her immediate focus was protecting herself and her family.

Democrats have objected to the proposed hearing format, with Feinstein arguing there should be more than just two witnesses, possibly to include people in whom Ford previously confided. The committee's Democrats said witnesses should include Kavanaugh's friend Mark Judge, who Ford has said witnessed the alleged incident.

A lawyer representing Judge sent a letter to Grassley saying Judge did not want to speak publicly about the matter.

"In fact, I have no memory of this alleged incident. Brett Kavanaugh and I were friends in high school but I do not recall the party described in Dr. Ford's letter. More to the point, I never saw Brett act in the manner Dr. Ford describes," the letter quoted Judge as saying.

Judge is the author of a 1997 memoir titled "Wasted: Tales of a Gen X Drunk," which recounts his experiences as a teenage alcoholic.

One Democratic senator, Richard Blumenthal, said Kavanaugh should withdraw his nomination.

"I believe Dr. Ford. I believe the survivor here," Blumenthal said. "She has come forward courageously and bravely, knowing she would face a nightmare of possible and vicious scrutiny."

The showdown has echoes of current Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas' contentious confirmation hearings in 1991 involving sexual harassment allegations lodged against him by a law professor named Anita Hill.

Thomas, the court's second black justice, was ultimately confirmed, but only after a nasty televised hearing in which Hill faced pointed questions from Republican senators and the nominee said he was the victim of "a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks."

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African-American politician and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas reviewing large sack of mail related to a new employment law poster during his time with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, 1982. (Photo by Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 10: US Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas raises his right hand as he is sworn in, 10 September 1991, during confirmation hearings before the US Senate Judiciary Committee, in Washington D.C.. US law professor Anita Hill filed sexual harassment charges against US Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. (Photo credit should read J. DAVID AKE/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 11: THOMAS CONFIRMATION HEARING--U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas tesifies during his hearing before Senate Judiciary. (Photo by Michael Jenkins/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - JUNE 18: (EXCLUSIVE, NO U.S. TABLOID SALES, BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE) U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas poses for a portrait in his chambers at the Supreme Court June 18, 2002 in Washington, DC. (Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, UNITED STATES: Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States pose for an official photo, 05 December 2003 at the Supreme Court in Washigton DC. L-R seated Associate Justices Antonin Scalia, and John Paul Stevens, Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Associate Justices Sandra Day O'Connor, and Anthony Kennedy. L-R standing: Associate Justices Ruth Ginsburg, David H. Souter, Clarence Thomas, and Stephen G. Breyer. AFP PHOTO/Joyce NALTCHAYAN (Photo credit should read JOYCE NALTCHAYAN/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MARCH 17: Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas appears before the House Appropriations Committee in Washington, DC, March 17, 2004 to discuss the Fiscal Year 2005 budget. (Photo by Chris Kleponis/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - APRIL 12: Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas, right, and Anthony Kennedy appear before a hearing of the House Appropriations Subcommittee, to discuss the FY 2006 budget for the Supreme Court. (Photo By Tom Williams/Roll Call/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 3: Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg (L-R), David H. Souter, Antonin Scalia, John Paul Stevens, Chief Justice John Roberts, Justices Sandra Day O'Connor, Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Stephen G. Breyer pose for the first picture of with Roberts in his position in the Chief Justice Conference Room Monday October 3, 2005 at the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Ken Heinen/U.S. Supreme Court via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - FEBRUARY 01: Associate Justice's of the U.S Supreme Court, Justice David H. Souter (L), Clarence Thomas (2nd-L), Ruth Bader Ginsburg (2nd-R) and Stephen G. Breyer (R) attend the swearing in ceremony for Samual Alitod in the East Room at the White House February 1, 2006 in Washington, DC. The U.S. Senate voted in favor of Alito 58-42, mostly along party lines, on January 31. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - JANUARY 31: (L-R) Members of U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Steven Breyer, and Justice Samuel Alito attend President George W. Bush's State of the Union address in the House chamber of the Capitol January 31, 2006 in Washington, DC. Bush laid out his agenda for the year during his address. (Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais-Pool/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 09: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas makes remarks to the National Historically Black Colleges and Universities Week Conference in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2008. The theme of this year's conference is 'Evolving With the Times, Essential for Today and Tomorrow.' (Photo by Dennis Brack/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - MARCH 08: U.S. Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas winces at a joke about baseball told between members of the House Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee while he testified before the subcommittee on Capitol Hill March 8, 2007 in Washington, DC. Thomas and fellow Justice Anthony Kennedy spoke about concerns with the ongoing remodeling of the court building, the reduction of paperwork due to electronic media and the disparity of pay between federal judges and lawyers working in the private sector. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
The Justices of the US Supreme Court sit for their official photograph on October 8, 2010 at the Supreme Court in Washington, DC. Front row (L-R): Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy and Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Back Row (L-R): Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, Associate Justice Samuel Alito Jr. and Associate Justice Elena Kagan. AFP PHOTO / TIM SLOAN (Photo credit should read TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images)
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(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley and Eric Beech; Additional reporting by Richard Cowan, Roberta Rampton, Steve Holland, Andrew Chung, Amanda Becker and Mohammad Zargham; Writing by Tim Ahmann; Editing by Will Dunham and Peter Cooney)

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