Republicans extend deadline for Kavanaugh accuser to respond to hearing offer

WASHINGTON — The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday gave the lawyers for the woman accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her an extension to respond to their counter-offer that would push back the scheduled Monday hearing.

But on Friday, just before a 10 p.m. deadline, an attorney for accuser Christine Blasey Ford sent an email to committee staffers requesting an additional day to decide.

"The 10:00 p.m. deadline is arbitrary," the email from lawyer Debra Katz, which was obtained by NBC News, reads. "Its sole purpose is to bully Dr. Ford and deprive her of the ability to make a considered decision that has life-altering implications for her and her family."

Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, tweeted Friday night, "I just granted another extension" to the accuser to decide if she wants to testify.

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Earlier in the day, Grassley explained his 10 p.m. deadline in a statement.

"I’m extending the deadline for response yet again to 10 o’clock this evening," he said. "I’m providing a notice of a vote to occur Monday in the event that Dr. Ford’s attorneys don’t respond or Dr. Ford decides not to testify."

Grassley had originally given the lawyers for Christine Blasey Ford until 5 p.m. ET Friday to respond to the GOP's counter-offer regarding the ground rules for her testimony. Republicans said that they'd like to schedule the hearing for Ford and Kavanaugh to testify on Wednesday next week — even though Ford's lawyers said the earliest she would be able to appear would be Thursday. Grassley said they'd also "make every effort to guarantee [Dr. Ford's] safety."

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"Some of your other demands, however, are unreasonable and we are unable to accommodate them," the chairman said.

The GOP wants Ford to testify first and Kavanaugh second so he has an "opportunity to respond." Ford had asked to appear after Kavanaugh.

Ford also requested that only senators ask questions, an option Grassley ruled out. “We reserve the option to have female staff attorneys, who are sensitive to the particulars of Dr. Ford’s allegations and are experienced investigators, question both witnesses,” he said.

Grassley's deadline extension comes after President Donald Trump on Friday appeared doubtful of Ford's claim that she was sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh, when they were both in high school, marking the first time the president has publicly questioned the truthfulness of her allegation.

"I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents,” Trump said on Twitter Friday morning.

"The radical left lawyers want the FBI to get involved NOW. Why didn't someone call the FBI 36 years ago?" he added in a third tweet on the issue.

In an earlier post, Trump lauded Kavanaugh as "a fine man, with an impeccable reputation, who is under assault by radical left wing politicians who don’t want to know the answers."

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Later Friday morning, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., spoke about Kavanaugh at the Value Voters Summit in Washington, D.C. in which he suggested the Senate will wind up confirming him.

"President Trump has nominated a stunningly successful individual," he said. "You’ve watched the fight, you’ve watched the tactics but here’s what I want to tell you, in the very near future Judge Kavanaugh will be on the United States Supreme Court.

"Keep the faith. Don’t get rattled by all of this. We’re gonna plow right through it and do our job,” he told the crowd.

Trump later suggested the timing of the controversy had been a deliberate Democratic attempt to derail the confirmation process.

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Feinstein has said the existence of the letter was not revealed earlier because Ford had requested her story not be made public.

At a campaign stop in Springfield, Mo., Friday night, Trump used the nomination fight to slam Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, R-Mo., who is fending off a tough challenge from Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley.

"She just announced that she won't vote for him," Trump said of McCaskill's position on Kavanaugh. "Can you believe it?"

He went on to praise the jurist as coming from "central casting" and being "born for the U.S. Supreme Court," adding that Kavanaugh's confirmation is "going to happen."

Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday said that it has agreed to make a counter-offer to Ford and her attorney that would call for the hearing being held on Wednesday of next week. Under the terms of the offer, Ford would testify first, followed by Kavanaugh, according to a GOP senator on the committee. No other witnesses would be called, and Republicans would pick their own lawyer do questioning, rather than senators doing it themselves.

The senator said that the counter-offer by the committee would accommodate Ford's other requests: limited pool coverage, a guarantee for her safety and not having Kavanaugh and Ford in the same room at the same time.

After the committee made contact with Ford's lawyers Thursday, Republican and Democratic sources told NBC News that the earliest Ford could appear would be next Thursday.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., ranking member on panel, slammed Republicans in a statement Friday evening for not honoring Ford's request to testify on Thursday at the earliest, releasing a statement accusing them of "bullying a survivor of attempted rape."

“Brett Kavanaugh could serve on the court for 40 years, what’s another 24 hours to make sure we get this right?” she said.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. echoed the point in a Friday night tweet. "Dr. Ford says she can testify Thursday, but Republicans can’t wait that long," he wrote. "What is 1 extra day for serious allegations and a lifetime appointment? They clearly don’t want a hearing, like they don’t want an FBI investigation."

All 10 Democratic members of the committee on Friday outlined steps the panel should take such as inviting outside witnesses and providing transcripts of interviews Republicans did with witnesses referred to in Ford's original letter.

Kavanaugh has come under mounting scrutiny in the days sinceFord accused him of sexually assaulting her when they were both in high school in the early 1980s, Kavanaugh at the Georgetown Preparatory School outside of Washington, D.C., and Ford at nearby Holton-Arms.

Kavanaugh has vehemently denied the accusation.