Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) sent a letter Wednesday to the lawyers of Brett Kavanaugh’s sexual assault accuser asking her to respond to a request to testify.
Christine Blasey Ford, a professor in California, alleges Kavanaugh attempted to rape her in high school more than three decades ago, and as a result of the accusation, Grassley reopened the hearing for her and Kavanaugh to attend Monday. In a letter sent to Rep. Anna Eshoo (D., Calif.) and then to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.), Ford claimed Kavanaugh drunkenly held her down, groped her, and attempted to undress her at a party in Maryland in the early 1980s.
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Ford announced Tuesday, however, that she would not testify until the FBI conducted an investigation, even though there is no alleged federal crime to investigate. Grassley wrote to Ford’s lawyers Debra Katz and Lisa Banks Wednesday to ask for an answer about the prospect of her attending the hearing Monday.
"You have stated repeatedly that Dr. Ford wants to tell her story. I sincerely hope that Dr. Ford will accept my invitation to do so, either privately or publicly, on Monday," Grassley wrote. "In the meantime, my staff would still welcome the opportunity to speak with Dr. Ford at a time and place convenient to her."
In his letter Grassley explained it is the responsibility of the Senate, not the FBI, to ascertain the accuracy of her statements.
"I certainly understand and respect Dr. Ford’s desire for an investigation of her allegations," Grassley wrote. "That is precisely what the Senate is doing."
"It is not the FBI’s role to investigate a matter such as this," Grassley added, explaining how the FBI conducts a background check as a courtesy to the Senate but it’s the Senate’s ultimate responsibility to assess and investigate a nominee’s qualifications.
He said Ford deserves to be heard and the committee wants to listen to her, allowing her to choose whether it would be in public or private. He also said Kavanaugh will have a chance to respond.
"By hearing out both Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh, the Committee will endeavor to discover the truth of the matter, and will be better able to make an informed judgement about Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination," Grassley wrote.
The process of handling Ford’s letter has drawn widespread criticism, with Feinstein taking flak from conservative commentators, Democrats, and the San Francisco Chronicle. Initially Democrats said Ford should be allowed to testify against Kavanaugh, but after Republicans acquiesced, she requested the process be delayed to accommodate an investigation.