Judiciary Committee Dem. Sen. Chris Coons (Del.) wants additional witnesses to testify in an upcoming hearing about sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
“I think if we’re going to go ahead with a Monday hearing at the very least we should have Mark Judge testify. And the FBI agent who was responsible for the background investigation,” the Delaware Democrat told reporters Tuesday.
Christine Blasey Ford last week came forward to accuse Kavanaugh of allegedly attempting to sexually assault her when they were in high school.
Ford also said Kavanuagh’s friend Mark Judge was in the room at the time.
Coons explained that Judge, a former classmate of Kavanaugh, is “called out by Dr. Ford in her letter as the other person in the room, and I think if you’ve got someone who is an identified participant in this assault …it seems completely appropriate that he be called to testify.”
Kavanaugh has denied the allegations, but the Judiciary committee delayed his confirmation vote and has asked both the judge and Ford to testify about the alleged incident on Monday.
Coons said he also wants to know from the FBI: “Why wasn’t this surfaced? Were questions asked about this incident? Was there any awareness of any other allegations that maybe didn’t come in front of the committee?”
“My hope was that the FBI would be engaged in thorough background check on these allegations,” he said.
Several Republicans have joined Democrats in calling for more investigation.
“These are strong allegations, they should be listened to, they should be taken seriously. Dr. Ford should be given opportunity, in a respectful and dignified setting to provide as much info as she’s willing to provide,” said Republican Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.). “And [Kavanaugh] deserves the opportunity to respond to it.”
According to Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Ford’s attorney has not responded to emails and calls from his committee to schedule her appearance at the public hearing on Monday.
Asked what happens if Ford fails to appear, Rubio said, “if she doesn’t show up then we don’t have the benefit of that information … in terms of the Senate, we can only make decisions based on info we have.”
“I don’t criticize her if she decides not to show up. My only wish is that this info had been made available earlier in a setting that would have protected her confidentiality because there would have been more time to consider all of this,” Rubio added.
The Judiciary Committee was set to vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination on Thursday of this week, until Ford revealed herself as the accuser to the Washington Post on Sunday and key GOP senators pressed for a delay and public hearings.
Ford had originally sent a letter to her congresswoman, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), who shared it with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), a senior Democrat on the Judiciary committee. Feinstein kept her identity and the contents of the letter anonymous until Ford came forward over the weekend.
“I respect that Senator Feinstein heard repeated requests from the victim that she wanted to remain anonymous and asked for confidentiality and as a result of that Sen. Feinstein felt really caught in between revealing this publicly and respecting her confidentiality,” Coons said.
Some Democrats, including Feinstein, say Monday’s public hearing is too soon and that the FBI must investigate before the committee should take public testimony. Feinstein accused the Republicans of making the same mistakes by rushing as they did in 1991 with Clarence Thomas’ confirmation hearing.
“Republicans have learned nothing from Anita Hill,” she tweeted on Tuesday, referencing the woman who accused Thomas of sexual harassment in public hearings at the time.
Her fellow Democratic colleague, Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.), who was elected in 1992, agreed.
“Having arrived here because of how Anita Hill was treated I think it’s incredibly important that the Senate take these allegations seriously, do a thorough background FBI check and do an investigation so that senators have the ability to make the decision correctly,” Murray told Hill.TV.
“Most importantly to take these allegations seriously, because we do not want the outcome to be that – as it did with Anita Hill – women are afraid again to come forward,” Murray added.
– Molly K. Hooper