Ford opens door to testifying next week

Christine Blasey Ford, the woman accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, says she's willing to testify next week under “terms that are fair and which ensure her safety.” 

The notice came in an email from her attorney to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Republicans on the panel had set a 10 a.m. Friday deadline for her to say whether she’d speak at a hearing scheduled for Monday where Kavanaugh is set to appear.

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The attorney, Debra Katz, says her client’s appearance on Monday “is not possible” and argued “the committee’s insistence that it occur then is arbitrary in any event.” 

But she also wrote that Ford is willing to testify, potentially unsettling Kavanaugh’s road to confirmation once again.

“I would like to set up a call with you later today to discuss the conditions under which Dr. Christine Blasey Ford would be prepared to testify next week,” reads the email from Katz, first obtained by The New York Times.  

“As you are aware, she has been receiving death threats, which have been reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and she and her family have been forced out of their home. She wishes to testify, provided that we can agree on terms that are fair and ensure her safety,” the email said.

Katz thanked Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyBooker, Sanders propose new federal agency to control drug prices GOP eager for report on alleged FBI surveillance abuse Johnson opens door to subpoenaing whistleblower, Schiff, Bidens MORE (R-Iowa) for suggesting various scenarios in which he would accept testimony from Ford. A day earlier, Grassley had offered to send people to California, where Ford lives, to interview her.

“Dr. Ford has asked me to let you know that she appreciates the various options you have suggested,” the email said.

The email did not insist that the FBI complete an investigation of her allegations before her testimony, which she had requested earlier this week. But in conclusion, the email said that her “strong preference continues to be for the Senate Judiciary Committee to allow for a full investigation prior to her testimony.”  

The email will put pressure on Grassley to postpone Monday’s hearing, despite the strong preference of some Senate Republican colleagues to get it over with sooner rather than later. 

Ford’s public testimony would make for a highly dramatic moment and could sway the votes of key Republicans such as Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families Senate confirms controversial circuit court nominee Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families MORE (Maine), Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeLindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight Kelly, McSally virtually tied in Arizona Senate race: poll The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Nareit — White House cheers Republicans for storming impeachment hearing MORE (Ariz.), and Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerLindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Nareit — White House cheers Republicans for storming impeachment hearing GOP senators frustrated with Romney jabs at Trump MORE (Tenn.), who are all undecided. 

Republicans control 51 seats and a defection from two members of their conference would sink Kavanaugh’s nomination if the Democrats unify against him, something that would be more likely if Ford provides credible testimony next week. 

The email is another twist for Kavanaugh, who a week ago seemed certain to win confirmation. Ford’s allegations and her decision to go public on Sunday put that confirmation in doubt, but when she did not agree to attend Monday’s hearing, it appeared she had given new momentum to the nominee.

Grassley has dismissed her request for the FBI investigation to take place before her testimony, calling it contrary to what he calls the Senate’s constitutional duty to examine the issue.  

The email broke nearly a day of silence from Ford’s legal team after it criticized the Judiciary Committee’s plan to move ahead with a hearing as “not a fair or good faith investigation.” 

It came amid escalating tensions and pressure from Democrats on Republicans to delay Monday’s hearing.  

Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyCongress hunts for path out of spending stalemate This week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Senators press NSA official over shuttered phone surveillance program MORE (D-Vt.) and seven other Democratic colleagues who served as prosecutors before coming to Congress sent a letter to President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump reversed course on flavored e-cigarette ban over fear of job losses: report Trump to award National Medal of Arts to actor Jon Voight Sondland notified Trump officials of investigation push ahead of Ukraine call: report MORE Thursday asking him to reconsider asking the FBI to reopen Kavanaugh’s background investigation. 

Anti-Kavanaugh protesters marched through the Senate office buildings earlier in the day, briefly occupying the offices of Grassley and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and blocking the hallway outside Sen. Bob Corker’s (R-Tenn.) office.  

Capitol Police arrested and charged 56 people for “unlawful demonstration activities.” 

Ford's lawyers in recent days have urged the FBI to open an investigation into Ford's sexual assault claim before she sits for a public hearing.