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 GrassleySenate approves border bill that prevents shutdown Grassley raises voice after McConnell interrupts Senate speech Senate confirms Trump pick William Barr as new attorney general 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 CollinsGOP braces for Trump's emergency declaration DOJ warns White House that national emergency will likely be blocked: report On The Money: Trump to sign border deal, declare emergency to build wall | Senate passes funding bill, House to follow | Dems promise challenge to emergency declaration MORE (Maine), Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeTrump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Live coverage: Trump delivers State of the Union Sasse’s jabs at Trump spark talk of primary challenger MORE (Ariz.), and Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerSasse’s jabs at Trump spark talk of primary challenger RNC votes to give Trump 'undivided support' ahead of 2020 Sen. Risch has unique chance to guide Trump on foreign policy 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 LeahyWinners and losers in the border security deal Greedy tort bar tarts up the CREATES Act Schumer: Trump should sign deal to prevent shutdown MORE (D-Vt.) and seven other Democratic colleagues who served as prosecutors before coming to Congress sent a letter to President TrumpDonald John TrumpBill Kristol resurfaces video of Pence calling Obama executive action on immigration a 'profound mistake' ACLU says planned national emergency declaration is 'clear abuse of presidential power' O'Rourke says he'd 'absolutely' take down border wall near El Paso if he could 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.