House panel invites Watt accuser to testify at Thursday hearing

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A Federal Housing Finance Administration (FHFA) employee who has accused Director Mel Watt of sexual harassment has been invited to testify Thursday at a House hearing where Watt is scheduled to appear.

A spokeswoman for the House Financial Services Committee said Tuesday that panel leaders invited FHFA special advisor Simone Grimes to testify about her allegations that Watt made sexual advances toward her.

The Financial Services panel will hold a hearing Thursday on FHFA oversight where Watt, a former Democratic congressman, is scheduled to appear. Watt has denied Grimes’ allegations and has refused to cooperate with a federal investigation into her claims.

{mosads}Grimes claimed that Watt harassed her 17 times and declined to give her a promised raise when she rejected his advances, according to an investigation report obtained by the Washington Post.

Politico first reported the allegations in July without identifying her. Grimes subsequently sued FHFA and publicly accused Watt in August.

The hearing is set to begin Thursday at 10 a.m., the same time that the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hear testimony from Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Stanford professor Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault.

Grimes and her attorney had made several public requests to the House Financial Services and Senate Banking committees for a chance to testify about her allegations against Watt. They also asked the Banking Committee to hold a hearing where Watt would be questioned on the allegations.

Grimes met with Financial Services panel staff Tuesday, a day after Rep. Maxine Waters (Calif.), the committee’s ranking Democrat, asked Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) to invite the FHFA employee to testify.

“We must face the reality that women throughout all sectors feel that existing practices and procedures have worked against them and left them silenced when they have complaints about discrimination and harassment,” Waters wrote in the Monday letter.

“Therefore, given the seriousness of this matter, I am requesting that you invite Ms. Grimes to testify at the hearing this Thursday.”

Hensarling spokeswoman Sarah Flaim said in a statement that committee staff had already been speaking to Grimes and her attorney about testifying before the panel in the future before Waters sent her request.

“The Committee had been in contact with Ms. Grimes’ attorney prior to the Ranking Member’s letter and requested she come in to meet with staff to present her claims and supporting evidence — as is our regular practice for anyone making claims of this nature,” Flaim said.

Flaim said Grimes “is expected to meet with majority and minority staff this afternoon and has been invited to testify on Thursday pending the meeting with staff.”

Tags Jeb Hensarling Maxine Waters Mel Watt
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