Kavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and the woman accusing him of sexual misconduct during a party when they were teenagers will testify in public next week.

The hearing could be pivotal to Kavanaugh's confirmation, which was on a glide path until Christine Blasey Ford came forward publicly with her accusations on Sunday.

“There will be a full opportunity for both the accuser and the accused to be heard,” GOP Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) told reporters.

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Asked if he meant be heard publicly, Kennedy said “yes.”

Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchDACA remains in place, but Dreamers still in limbo Bottom line Bottom line MORE (R-Utah), a member of the Judiciary Committee, and a GOP staff member confirmed that the public hearing will occur on Monday, Sept. 24.

The announcement came as Republican members of the panel huddled behind closed doors on Monday evening to discuss a path forward for Kavanaugh's nomination, which was threatening to be derailed by the  assault allegation.

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyTrump second-term plans remain a mystery to GOP IRS, taxpayers face obstacles ahead of July 15 filing deadline Congress gears up for battle over expiring unemployment benefits MORE (R-Iowa), formally announced the hearing shortly after word of his decision leaked, saying it will give lawmakers a chance “give these recent allegations a full airing.”

“As I said earlier, anyone who comes forward as Dr. Ford has done deserves to be heard,” added Grassey, who chairs the Judiciary Committee.

The public hearing will spark a media frenzy around Capitol Hill, after Kavanaugh’s first round of confirmation hearings were marked by constant interruptions from protesters and testy back-and-forths among members of the committee.

The allegations against have Kavanaugh have drawn comparisons to the Anita Hill hearings, in which a former colleague of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas testified about allegations of sexual harassment. Thomas was confirmed despite Hill’s testimony, which was carried live on television at the time.

Republican senators signaled on Monday that they are accurately aware that the shadow of that public hearing is influencing how a public hearing with Kavanaugh and Ford will be viewed.

“I was just a young intern back in the Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill days, but I don’t know how you can ever be sure. It’s the best process we have — it’s the only process,” said GOP Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeCheney clashes with Trump Sessions-Tuberville Senate runoff heats up in Alabama GOP lawmakers stick to Trump amid new criticism MORE (Ariz.) when asked how he would be able to determine who was telling the truth.

Hatch brushed off a question comparing the Kavanaugh allegations to the Hill hearings, saying the two instances had little in common.

“No, other than he’s being accused. I don’t see any similarities there,” said Hatch who took part of in the 1991 hearings. Pressed what the differences are, he added, “I’d prefer not to get into the differences between the two cases.”

The public hearing will pose a multi-pronged test to Senate Republicans less than two months before a midterm election where control of Congress hangs in the balance.

Both parties are conscious of the role that women voters will play in the midterms. Polls suggest women are breaking against the GOP and Trump, who has himself faced accusations of sexual harassment and assault.

And lawmakers have watched as several public officials, including some of their own colleagues, have been toppled in the "Me Too" era.

But Republicans were facing enormous pressure from multiple parts of their own caucus to give Ford the chance to speak with lawmakers before the Judiciary Committee took up the nomination for a vote.

Pressure built steadily on GOP leadership after Ford told The Washington Post that Kavanaugh pinned her down and tried to remove her clothes at a party when they were both in high school in the early 1980s.

“She deserves to be heard. That was the overwhelming decision. ...I would say it was overwhelming, certainly a majority—more felt that way than not—that she needed to be heard,” Flake said, asked about the GOP’s thinking on letting Ford speak publicly.

Flake said he warned leadership that he would vote no if Ford wasn't given the chance to testify publicly. He added that he remained undecided but if the allegation was true it would be "disqualifying."

GOP Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenators push foreign media to disclose if they are registered as foreign agents GOP senators debate replacing Columbus Day with Juneteenth as a federal holiday New legislation required to secure US semiconductor leadership MORE (R-Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican, was spotted leaving Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTrump sealed his own fate Congress eyes tighter restrictions on next round of small business help The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Stagwell President Mark Penn says Trump is losing on fighting the virus; Fauci says U.S. 'going in the wrong direction' in fight against virus MORE's (R-Maine) office on Monday. The swing-vote senator also spoke with Grassley. 

“I told them that I thought it was very important that we hear from both Professor Ford and Judge Kavanaugh under oath on this issue,” Collins said, when asked about talks she had with leadership on Kavanaugh’s nomination.

GOP Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSenators will have access to intelligence on Russian bounties on US troops Overnight Defense: Lawmakers demand answers on reported Russian bounties for US troops deaths in Afghanistan | Defense bill amendments target Germany withdrawal, Pentagon program giving weapons to police Senators push to limit transfer of military-grade equipment to police MORE (Alaska) added that Ford “should be heard and she must have an opportunity to present her story before the committee under oath, with Judge Kavanaugh having the opportunity to respond under oath as well.”

Both Collins and Murkowski are undecided on Kavanaugh’s nomination and how they decide to vote could determine if Kavanaugh ends up getting confirmed.

The decision to hold a public hearing on Monday, Sept. 24, means a committee vote scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 20, is being postponed. Grassley couldn't tell reporters on Monday when it would be rescheduled. 

Republicans have a narrow 51-49 majority in the Senate meaning they can only afford to lose one GOP senator before they need to lean on Democrats to help confirm Kavanaugh.

Democratic Sens. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyEx-Sen. Joe Donnelly endorses Biden Lobbying world 70 former senators propose bipartisan caucus for incumbents MORE (Ind.), Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinEnergy companies cancel Atlantic Coast Pipeline Trump nominee faces Senate hurdles to securing public lands post OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Watchdog accuses Commerce of holding up 'Sharpiegate' report | Climate change erases millennia of cooling: study | Senate nixes proposal limiting Energy Department's control on nuclear agency budget MORE (W.Va.) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn Heitkamp70 former senators propose bipartisan caucus for incumbents Susan Collins set to play pivotal role in impeachment drama Pro-trade group launches media buy as Trump and Democrats near deal on new NAFTA MORE (N.D.) were viewed as potential swing votes on Kavanaugh, but that has been thrown into question amid the sexual assault allegation.

Collins and Murkowski weren’t the only Republicans saying they wanted to hear from Ford before moving forward with Kavanaugh’s nomination, underscoring the shaky ground his nomination was on over the allegation. 

Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonTrump second-term plans remain a mystery to GOP Congress eyes tighter restrictions on next round of small business help Republicans fear backlash over Trump's threatened veto on Confederate names MORE (R-Wis.) told a Wisconsin radio station on Monday that Ford “is willing to come forward and tell her story and we should listen to her."

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntRussian bounties revive Trump-GOP foreign policy divide The Hill's Morning Report - Republicans shift, urge people to wear masks Hillicon Valley: Facebook takes down 'boogaloo' network after pressure | Election security measure pulled from Senate bill | FCC officially designating Huawei, ZTE as threats MORE (R-Mo.) became the first member of leadership on Monday to say Ford’s allegation should be looked into before the Judiciary Committee moves forward.

And Flake and Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCheney clashes with Trump Sessions-Tuberville Senate runoff heats up in Alabama GOP lawmakers stick to Trump amid new criticism MORE (Tenn.), two vocal GOP Trump critics who are retiring after this year, called for the a committee vote to be delayed until senators were able to talk to Ford.

Corker told reporters on Monday evening that Kavanaugh had called senators and told them he wanted to testify. 

The White House had said earlier Monday that Kavanaugh was ready to testify as soon as Tuesday if the Senate asks him to.

“Judge Kavanaugh looks forward to a hearing where he can clear his name of this false allegation. He stands ready to testify tomorrow if the Senate is ready to hear him,” Raj Shah, a spokesman for the White House, said.

Republicans have faced growing calls for Kavanaugh and Ford, his accuser, to speak with lawmakers after Ford told The Washington Post that Kavanaugh pinned her down and tried to remove her clothes at a party when they were both in high school in the early 1980s.

It wasn't immediately clear if Ford had agreed to testify next week. But her lawyer said earlier Monday that she was willing to testify before the Judiciary Committee. 

—Updated at 8:07 p.m.