Schumer vows votes on background checks, voting rights after break
Ford's lawyer: Hearing doesn't appear to be designed for 'fair,' 'respectful' treatment
A lawyer for Christine Blasey Ford - the woman accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault - raised concerns on Monday about the setup for a public hearing where Ford will testify later this week.
Michael Bromwich, a lawyer for Ford, said in a letter to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, that the plan for Thursday's public hearing "does not appear designed to provide Dr. Blasey Ford with fair and respectful treatment."
The letter casts some doubt on the deal Ford's team made with Senate Judiciary leaders to appear at a hearing on Thursday.
Bromwich in the letter pointed to the hiring of "an unnamed 'experienced sex crimes prosecutor,' " warning it could help turn the Judiciary Committee hearing into a "circus."
"[It] is contrary to the Majority's repeated emphasis on the need for the Senate and this Committee's members to fulfill their constitutional obligations. It is also inconsistent with your stated wish to avoid a 'circus,' as well as Dr. Blasey Ford's repeated requests through counsel that senators conduct the questioning," Bromwich wrote.
"This is not a criminal trial for which the involvement of an experienced sex crimes prosecutor would be appropriate. Neither Dr. Blasey Ford nor Judge Kavanaugh is on trial. The goal should be to develop the relevant facts, not try a case," he continued.
He added that there was "no precedent" for the Judiciary Committee to use an outside counsel "for the sole purpose of shielding the members" from asking a witness questions when they are testifying before the committee.
Bromwich added that Grassley's staff hasn't responded "to a number of outstanding questions about the hearing," including what the role will be for the "experienced sex crimes prosecutor" during the hearing.
"Please identify this person and ask your staff to send us her resume immediately. We respectfully request to meet with her tomorrow," he added.
Republican senators have been mulling bringing in an outside counsel, potentially a woman, to question Ford and Kavanaugh during Thursday's hearing.
GOP Sen. John Cornyn (Texas) said on Monday after a meeting with Judiciary Committee Republican members that they were "leaning toward" using an outside counsel.
"I think we're leaning toward having a staff lawyer, an outside lawyer do it on our side for continuity ... rather than having 11 people for five minutes each," he told reporters.
But Ford's legal team has raised concerns during negotiations with Grassley's staff that using an outside lawyer would make the hearing too much like a trial. Democrats have said they are going to ask their own questions.
Bromwich in the letter also took aim at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who argued during a Senate floor speech that Democrats were using Ford's allegations against Kavanaugh as part of a "smear campaign."
"The Majority Leader dismissed Dr. Ford's experience as a 'smear campaign,' claiming mistakenly that the witnesses' statements to the Committee constitute 'a complete lack of evidence,' implying that there has been a thorough investigation," he said in the letter to Grassley.
McConnell during his Senate floor speech accused Democrats of running a "choreographed smear campaign that ignored Dr. Ford's request for confidentiality" in an attempt to hurt Kavanaugh's nomination.
"This is an allegation of misconduct which all four supposed witnesses either flatly contradict or are unable to back up. In addition to Judge Kavanaugh, the other three supposed witnesses have said they have - quote - 'no knowledge,' 'no recollection' and 'no memory' of the alleged incident," McConnell said.
Bromwich's letter comes after Grassley sent his own letter to Ford on Monday saying both she and Kavanaugh "deserve a credible and fair process."
"I'm writing to say that I am committed to fair and respectful treatment of you, as you've requested. I've worked to make certain the committee I chair handles all individuals involved in hearings in that manner, and you deserve the same," Grassley said.