Senate

GOP senator suspects Schumer of being behind release of Ford letter

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) on Tuesday said he "strongly suspects" Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) was behind the leak of an explosive letter that almost derailed Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court.

Cotton did not provide any direct evidence to support his claim although he pointed to what he thinks is are suspicious circumstances surrounding the leak. 

Cotton and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) have called for an investigation into how a letter from Christine Blasey Ford alleging that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school was made public, despite Ford's wishes. 

"I believe the Schumer political operation was behind this from the very beginning," Cotton told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt in an interview Tuesday.  

A spokesman for Schumer dismissed the charge as a "fairy tale."

Cotton noted recent media reports that Monica McLean, a friend of Ford's, allegedly pressured a key witness, Leland Keyser, into changing her statement to the FBI that she did not remember the party where Kavanaugh was accused of assaulting Ford.

"We learned last week that a woman named Monica McClean was Ms. Ford's roommate, and she was one of the so-called beach friends who encouraged Ms. Ford to go to Dianne Feinstein and the partisan Democrats on the Judiciary Committee," Cotton said, referring to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the top-ranking Democrat on the Judiciary panel.

Cotton said the fact that McClean once worked for former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara indicates that Schumer's political operation was involved in the leak because Bharara used to work for Schumer on Capitol Hill.

"So I strongly suspect that Chuck Schumer's political operations knew about Ms. Ford's allegations as far back as July and manipulated the process all along," he said.

Matt House, a spokesman for Schumer, dismissed the theory and questioned Cotton's credibility.

"Another fairy tale from Sen. Cotton, reminiscent of his trip to the White House when he lied about what the president said about immigrants from Africa," House said, referring to a White House meeting in January at which Cotton was present when Trump demanded why the United States should accept immigrants from "shithole countries."

Cotton initially said that he "did not hear derogatory comments about individuals or persons" at that meeting but then later acknowledged, "I never denied there wasn't strong language in the room used by lots of people."

Cotton, Cruz and other Republicans are pushing for an investigation into how Ford's letter became public after she requested that Feinstein keep her name confidential.

Feinstein has repeatedly denied leaking the letter and says her staff didn't leak it either. 

Cotton last month called for an investigation of Feinstein and her staff.

"There is a well-established process of confidentiality on that committee," Cotton told CBS News's John Dickerson on Sept. 30. "Dianne Feinstein and her staff is going to face an investigation for why they leaked that."

Cruz recently told reporters that if Democrats leaked the letter, "it was wrong, cynical and unethical."

He said his Republican colleagues are discussing who should conduct an investigation into the matter. 

Cotton has also called for an investigation of Ford's lawyers, Debra Katz and Lisa Banks, by the D.C. bar association for not communicating to their client that Judiciary panel investigators were willing to fly to California to interview her in private instead of having her testify in public before the committee in open session. 

Feinstein recently told reporters that "I didn't break any law" and called Cotton's call for an investigation "pretty ridiculous." 

She also told colleagues on the Judiciary Committee when Kavanaugh testified before the panel earlier this month that neither she nor her staff leaked Ford's letter. 

Feinstein says she kept the document confidential out of respect for Ford's wishes and doesn't know how its existence became public. 

-Updated at 4:32 p.m.

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