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GOP, Kavanaugh accuser struggle to reach deal

GOP, Kavanaugh accuser struggle to reach deal

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee and a woman who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault are struggling to reach an agreement on when and how she should testify at a high-stakes congressional hearing next week.

Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGOP plays hardball in race to confirm Trump's court picks Trump officials ratchet up drug pricing fight Dems angered by GOP plan to hold judicial hearings in October MORE (R-Iowa) had given Christine Blasey Ford, who claims that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her 36 years ago when the two were in high school, a deadline of 5 p.m. on Friday to accept the Senate panel’s latest counteroffer.

After that deadline passed without a deal, he extended it to 10 p.m.

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“It’s Friday night and nothing’s been agreed to despite our extensive efforts to make testimony possible,” Grassley said in a statement issued at 6:30 p.m. “I’m extending the deadline for response yet again to 10 o’clock this evening.”

The GOP has invited Ford to testify on Wednesday, instead of Monday as initially scheduled, and agreed to limit television coverage to one camera, in addition to keeping Kavanaugh out of the room while she testified.

Republicans did not agree to Ford’s request to bring in outside witnesses, such as Kavanaugh’s high school friend Mark Judge, who she says witnessed the alleged assault, or to have senators ask questions instead of outside counsel.

In the absence of a deal, the Judiciary panel will move forward with Kavanaugh’s confirmation next week.

“I’m providing a notice of a vote to occur Monday in the event that Dr. Ford’s attorneys don’t respond or Dr. Ford decides not to testify,” Grassley announced in his statement Friday. “In the event that we can come to a reasonable resolution as I’ve been seeking all week, then I will postpone the committee vote to accommodate her testimony. We cannot continue to delay.” 

A senior Democratic aide criticized the GOP counteroffer as “disingenuous” because Ford’s legal team had informed Republican lawmakers on Thursday that their client could not testify earlier than the following Thursday.

Republicans are negotiating directly with Ford’s legal team and a spokesman for Judiciary Committee Democrats said lawmakers on his side of the aisle had not formally received the GOP proposal for the hearing’s parameters.

Kavanaugh informed the committee Thursday evening that he wants to testify Monday to clear his name.

“Since the moment I first heard this allegation, I have categorically and unequivocally denied it,” he wrote. “I remain committed to defending my integrity.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellEx-lawmaker urges Americans to publicly confront officials Manchin wrestles with progressive backlash in West Virginia Democrats slide in battle for Senate MORE (R-Ky.) doubled down on his defense of Kavanaugh on Friday afternoon, accusing Democrats of “false, unfair and unfounded attacks” on the conservative judge.

The GOP leader tweeted a research document highlighting a Washington Post “Fact Checker” piece from a week ago disputing claims by Judiciary Committee Democrats that Kavanaugh gave false testimony to the panel during his confirmation hearings in 2004 and 2006.

“Democrats have perpetuated false, unfair and unfounded attacks on Judge Kavanaugh,” McConnell tweeted, citing the GOP document arguing that Democratic claims about Kavanaugh have been repeatedly “disproven.”

McConnell earlier in the day pledged to conservative activists at the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit that Kavanaugh would be confirmed.

“In the very near future, Judge Kavanaugh will be on the United States Supreme Court,” he told conservative activists. “Keep the faith, don’t get rattled by all of this. We’re going to plow right through it and do our job.”

Democrats, meanwhile, stepped up their pressure on Republicans to allow Ford to testify Thursday and accused them of bullying her.

“It’s just an extra day, why not wait 24 hours?” Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinDurbin to Trump: ‘We’re the mob? Give me a break’ Sen. Walter Huddleston was a reminder that immigration used to be a bipartisan issue GOP plays hardball in race to confirm Trump's court picks MORE (Calif.), the top Democrat on the Judiciary panel, asked GOP colleagues in a statement. “Show some heart. Wait until Dr. Ford feels that she can come before the committee.”

All 10 Democrats on the committee signed a letter to Grassley requesting notes and transcripts from witnesses interviewed as part of the panel’s investigation into Ford’s allegation.

They also requested that the committee allow testimony from character witnesses for Ford, Kavanaugh and Judge.

The letter from committee Democrats slammed Grassley’s treatment of Ford and drew comparisons to the panel’s harsh interrogation of Anita Hill in 1991, during Clarence Thomas’s confirmation hearings.

“Up to this point, the Committee majority's treatment of Dr. Ford has unquestionably been worse than the disgraceful treatment that Anita Hill received 27 years ago,” Democrats wrote.