WASHINGTON - A woman who has accused U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault has agreed to testify before a Senate panel next week, her lawyers said Saturday.
U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley had set a Saturday afternoon deadline for Christine Blasey Ford, a California professor who accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her at a high school party 36 years ago, to decide whether and how she would testify.
"Dr. Ford accepts the committee's request to provide her firsthand knowledge of Brett Kavanaugh's sexual misconduct next week," Debra Katz and Lisa Banks, Ford's attorneys, said in a statement. "We are hopeful that we can reach agreement on details."
A person briefed on the discussions said late Saturday that a tentative agreement had been reached for the Judiciary Committee to hear testimony Thursday from Ford and Kavanaugh. Other terms of the public hearing are to be negotiated Sunday, the source said.
Lawyers for Ford earlier said she would testify only if her safety is ensured. Katz has said her client has received death threats. The Washington Post reported Saturday that Ford and her family are no longer living at their California home, which was surrounded by reporters shortly after her identity became public. The Post reported that Ford and her husband “have looked into a security service to escort their children to school.”
The Post says Ford met with FBI officials Friday to discuss her safety.
Kavanaugh and his wife also have received threats.
The Republican-controlled committee had delayed a vote on Kavanaugh's confirmation after Ford's allegation emerged last week. Kavanaugh has denied the allegation.
Confirming Kavanaugh's nomination would cement conservative control of the Supreme Court and advance a White House effort to tilt the American judiciary farther to the right.
Grassley had said earlier that the panel would vote on Kavanaugh's confirmation on Monday unless a deal was reached with Ford's lawyers by a Friday night deadline. Katz had said the deadline was "aggressive and artificial."
"Your cavalier treatment of a sexual assault survivor who has been doing her best to cooperate with the committee is completely inappropriate," Katz added.
The Judiciary Committee has struggled with how to proceed with Kavanaugh's nomination. Democrats have demanded more time for scrutiny, and Republicans want to move ahead quickly with a confirmation vote in an increasingly volatile political climate ahead of congressional elections on Nov. 6.
Senate GOP investigators
Senate Republican investigators have been looking into Ford's claims. The
lawyer for Leland Keyser, who Ford has said attended the 1980s party at which Kavanaugh allegedly molested her, has told those investigators that Keyser doesn’t recall such a gathering or know the Supreme Court nominee.
The Washington Post reported Saturday that Ford said Keyser was at that high school party. But in an email late Saturday, Keyser attorney Howard Walsh told the committee she “does not know Mr. Kavanaugh and she has no recollection” of ever attending a gathering with Kavanaugh.
In an interview with The Post at her home in Silver Spring, Maryland, Keyser added that she was close friends with Ford and believes her allegations.
'A fine man'
Trump and the White House had been careful not to malign Ford after her allegations surfaced, but Trump dropped the restraint in his tweets on Friday.
"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 wrote. "I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time, and place!
"Judge Brett Kavanaugh is a fine man, with an impeccable reputation, who is under assault by radical left wing politicians who don't want to know the answers, they just want to destroy and delay."
Earlier, Trump had said Ford should be heard, even if it meant a delay in the confirmation process.
Republicans will be forced to walk a careful line in questioning Ford's account without alienating female voters ahead of the elections. Before the 2016 presidential election, more than a dozen women accused Trump of making unwanted advances.
The Judiciary Committee released a letter it sent to Ford's attorneys on Friday in which it accepted some of their demands, including that Kavanaugh not be in the room when she testifies.
The panel rejected some of the other demands, including that Kavanaugh testify first, that the committee call additional witnesses that Ford requests, and that only senators be allowed to ask questions.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, speaking at a gathering of evangelical voters in Washington, assured them Kavanaugh would be confirmed.
The Senate panel must approve Kavanaugh's confirmation before a vote by the full Senate, where Republicans hold a 51-49 majority. Kavanaugh's confirmation to the lifetime position would be the second of the Trump administration and solidify conservative control of the nation's top court.
Some information for this report came from AP.