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Grassley: Kavanaugh accuser 'deserves to be heard' in 'appropriate' manner
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Monday said that Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct, "deserves to be heard" in an "appropriate" manner.
"Anyone who comes forward as Dr. Ford has deserves to be heard, so I will continue working on a way to hear her out in an appropriate, precedented and respectful manner," Grassley said in a statement.
He said his committee is "working diligently to get to the bottom of these claims," an indication that another round of committee hearings is possible.
The most prominent precedent is from 1991, when the Senate Judiciary Committee held additional hearings on then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas to review allegations by Anita Hill, a former subordinate, who accused the Thomas of multiple incidents of sexual harassment.
Grassley has come under intense pressure from colleagues to postpone a vote scheduled for Thursday on Kavanaugh and to have both the nominee and his accuser testify under oath before the committee.
Three key swing votes, Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), on Monday called for the Judiciary Committee to spend more time looking into the allegations, which surfaced last week, throwing Kavanaugh's nomination into turmoil.
Grassley hasn't yet committed to an additional round of public questioning, but at this point it may be impossible to avoid.
He has tried to schedule follow-up calls with Ford and Kavanaugh, but Democrats have so far refused to participate.
"The standard procedure for updates to any nominee's background investigation file is to conduct separate follow-up calls with relevant parties," Grassley said in his statement.
"In this case, that would entail phone calls with at least Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford. Consistent with that practice, I asked Senator Feinstein's office yesterday to join me in scheduling these follow-ups. Thus far, they have refused. But as a necessary step in evaluating these claims, I'll continue working to set them up," he said.
Senate GOP staff say that follow-up calls are the next appropriate step and that the chairman will then make a decision on whether to schedule additional hearings.
Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), a member of the Judiciary panel, praised Grassley's handling of the allegations and faulted Democrats for partisanship.
"I applaud Chairman Grassley for immediately initiating the committee process for situations like this, which respects confidentiality," Cornyn said in a statement.
"That Democrats have so egregiously mishandled this up until now is no excuse for us to do the same. If Democrats reject the committee handling this swiftly and in a bipartisan way through regular order, then it's clear that their only intention is to smear Judge Kavanaugh and derail his nomination," he added.
Both Kavanaugh and Ford have said they are willing to testify publicly.
In a new denial issued Monday, Kavanaugh said, "This is a completely false allegation."
"I have never done anything like what the accuser describes - to her or to anyone."
Updated: 1:18 p.m.