Schumer, Feinstein Call For Delay On Kavanaugh, As GOP Scrambles On Endangered Nomination

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Kevin Daley Supreme Court correspondent
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  • Sens. Chuck Schumer and Dianne Feinstein are pushing Republicans to delay consideration of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination after his #MeToo accuser came forward in The Washington Post.
  • The accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, says Kavanaugh held her down on a bed, groped her, and attempted to remove her clothing. 
  • Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley is scheduling separate calls with Kavanaugh and Ford this week. 

Senate Democratic leadership urged Republicans to delay further action on Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court Sunday, after The Washington Post revealed the identity of a once-anonymous woman accusing the nominee of sexual assault when they were in high school.

A spokesperson said that Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley is working to schedule calls with Kavanaugh and his accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford ahead of a Thursday vote in which Kavanaugh’s nomination could be forwarded to the full Senate for final consideration.

“The chairman and ranking member routinely hold bipartisan staff calls with nominees when updates are made to nominees’ background files,” the spokesperson said. “Given the late addendum to the background file and revelations of Dr. Ford’s identity, Chairman Grassley is actively working to set up such follow-up calls with Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford ahead of Thursday’s scheduled vote.”

Ford, a researcher affiliated with Stanford and Palo Alto University, provided additional details about the alleged assault to The Post, the first time she has spoken publicly about her accusations.

By Ford’s telling, Kavanaugh allegedly held her down on a bed and groped her at a house party in suburban Maryland at some point in the early 1980s. The alleged encounter ended when a third person, Mark Judge, intervened by jumping on top of them. At the time of the alleged incident, Kavanaugh was 17 and Ford was 15.

For his part, Kavanaugh adamantly denies the charge.

“I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time,” the judge said in a statement provided by the White House.

Judge’s involvement was first reported to The Weekly Standard, to whom he denied any wrongdoing on his or Kavanaugh’s part. (RELATED: Kavanaugh Allies Deny Anti-Mueller Back Channel, As Democrats Suggest Impropriety)

Following The Post report, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Twitter that the accusations must be “thoroughly investigated” before a confirmation vote can proceed.

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, similarly said in a statement that the Senate should delay consideration of Kavanaugh’s nomination until federal investigators have completed an inquiry.

“I support Mrs. Ford’s decision to share her story, and now that she has, it is in the hands of the FBI to conduct an investigation,” Feinstein said. “This should happen before the Senate moves forward on this nominee.”

The FBI has already declined to open an investigation.

Feinstein’s own conduct respecting the allegations could itself prove problematic for Democrats hoping to slow a confirmation once seen as inevitable. The senator first learned of Ford’s accusations in July, but concealed practically all information relating to it for weeks. She even staved off fellow Democrats, many of whom only learned about the general outlines of the alleged incident in recent days.

Though the senator received a letter from Ford in July via Democratic Rep. Anna Eshoo, the allegations were not broached during Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings in early September, nor were they raised in private settings when lawmakers were free to question the judge about sensitive topics.

All told, a verdict on Feinstein’s maneuvering has yet to be rendered, and will likely depend on the fate of Kavanaugh’s nomination.

“It’s disturbing that these uncorroborated allegations from more than 35 years ago, during high school, would surface on the eve of a committee vote after Democrats sat on them since July,” a Republican spokesperson for Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley said Sunday. “If Ranking Member Feinstein and other Committee Democrats took this claim seriously, they should have brought it to the full Committee’s attention much earlier.”

“It raises a lot of questions about Democrats’ tactics and motives to bring this to the rest of the committee’s attention only now rather than during these many steps along the way,” the spokesperson added. (RELATED: Kavanaugh Addresses His Encounter With A Parkland Dad In Written Supplement To Testimony)

The lengthy statement, which included testimonies from women who knew Kavanaugh in high school and at various phases of his professional life, gave no indication that Grassley will delay the committee’s plans to forward the nomination to the full Senate on Thursday.

However, GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who sits on the Judiciary Committee, tweeted Sunday afternoon that he would “gladly listen” to whatever information Ford wants to relay to the committee, provided it could be done so on an expedited basis.

GOP Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, a lame duck incumbent who is not seeking reelection this November, went further still, telling Politico that he is “not comfortable voting yes” until he learns more about the allegation.

The White House and Kavanaugh’s conservative supporters remained defiant as of Sunday night, and the possibility of a withdrawn nomination did not appear imminent.

Ford’s emergence from anonymity is an enormous complication for Republicans, who hoped to fill the high court vacancy before the November midterm elections. The prospect of a delayed — or abandoned — Kavanaugh nomination creates a plausible scenario in which Democrats seize control of the Senate and refuse to confirm President Donald Trump’s nominees to the Supreme Court.

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