Negotiators reached a tentative agreement Saturday for the Senate Judiciary Committee to hear testimony Thursday from Christine Blasey Ford, the woman accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault from decades ago, according to two people briefed on the matter.
Lawyers for Ford and bipartisan representatives of the committee came to the tentative agreement after a short phone call, said one of the people, who was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity. The person said Kavanaugh would also appear.
Some details of the hearing, such as the order of their appearance, remained in negotiation. Talks were expected to continue Sunday.
The tentative accord could bring to a close days of high-stakes brinkmanship that have roiled Washington ahead of midterm elections and threated to jeopardize Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the court.
Tensions have been running on overdrive since Ford, a 51-year-old college professor in California, went public with her allegation that Kavanaugh assaulted her when they were at a house party in high school. Kavanaugh, 53, an appellate court judge, denied the allegation and said he wanted to testify as soon as possible to clear his name.
Ford initially indicated she wanted to tell her story to the committee, but talks dragged on as her lawyers negotiated terms of her appearance.
Republicans grew frustrated as Ford’s lawyers insisted on a hearing next Thursday rather than Monday or even Wednesday and made other requests, some of which the committee chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, rejected. Democrats, against the backdrop of the #MeToo movement, countered that Ford should be shown respect and given accommodation to tell her story.
As the talks continued, Grassley countered that he would end the standoff by scheduling a Monday vote on whether to recommend Kavanaugh’s nomination to the full Senate. Meanwhile, Republicans viewed Ford’s requests as a way to delay voting on President Donald Trump’s nominee.
Earlier Saturday, a senior official at the White House said Ford’s requests amounted to “a clever way to push off the vote Monday without committing to appear Wednesday.” The official was not authorized to publicly discuss the negotiations and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The White House views Ford’s potential testimony with trepidation, nervous that an emotional performance might not just damage Kavanaugh’s chances but could further energize female voters to turn out against Republicans in November.
Moreover, the West Wing aides who had urged Trump to remain muted in his response to the accusations worried about how the president might react if she ended up partaking in an hourslong, televised hearing. In a single tweet Friday, Trump broke his silence to cast doubt on Ford’s story in ways Republicans had been carefully trying to avoid.
Trump mused to confidants that the “fake” attacks against his nominee were meant to undermine his presidency, according to a White House official and a Republican close to the White House. Both spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss private conversations.
Other Republicans had scoffed at Ford’s willingness to tell her story. “When?” tweeted the No. 2 GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, a member of the committee.
Ford attorneys Debra Katz and Lisa Banks had said that many aspects of Grassley’s latest offer were “fundamentally inconsistent” with the committee’s promise of a “fair, impartial investigation.” They said they remained disappointed by the “bullying” that “tainted the process.”
Earlier Saturday, Vice President Mike Pence called Kavanaugh “a man of integrity with impeccable credentials.” He expressed confidence that Republicans “will manage this confirmation properly with the utmost respect for all concerned” and said he expected Kavanaugh to join the high court soon.
Kavanaugh, Ford Agree to Testify on Thursday