Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh said Monday that he would be willing to speak with lawmakers to refute an allegation of physical and sexual assault by a woman who has come forward publicly with the accusation.
“This is a completely false allegation,” Kavanaugh said in a statement. “I have never done anything like what the accuser describes — to her or to anyone. Because this never happened, I had no idea who was making this accusation until she identified herself yesterday. I am willing to talk to the Senate Judiciary Committee in any way the committee deems appropriate to refute this false allegation, from 36 years ago, and defend my integrity.”
Kavanaugh’s statement came shortly after his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, said through her attorney that she would be willing to speak with Congress to tell her side of the story.
Taken together, the pledges allow for the possibility that the Senate Judiciary Committee would receive dueling testimony about the alleged incident decades ago, which threatens President Donald Trump’s attempt to install a conservative legal mind in the place of frequent swing vote Justice Anthony Kennedy, potentially altering the balance of the court for a generation.
Senate Republicans hold a 51-49 majority and cannot afford two or more Republicans voting against Kavanaugh’s nomination unless they pick up votes from Democrats.
Maine GOP Sen. Susan Collins, one of the chamber’s most closely watched votes, said on Twitter that she wanted both Ford and Kavanaugh to testify under oath before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Kavanaugh was seen Monday morning arriving at the White House, which has stood by the judge in the face of the accusations. The 53-year-old judge was there to meet with the White House legal team to prepare for potential interviews or questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee, a source familiar with the matter said.
Trump and Kavanaugh were not scheduled to meet while the judge was at the White House on Monday, two officials said.
According to multiple sources, Kavanaugh has hired Beth Wilkinson, of the law firm Wilkinson Walsh and Eskovitz, to be his attorney. Wilkinson has not returned calls from CNN seeking comment.
Accuser’s decision to go public
Ford, a California professor, went public with her allegation in an article published by The Washington Post on Sunday. In the article, she alleged that at a party during their high school years, Kavanaugh pushed her into a bedroom along with his friend Mark Judge, attempted to remove her clothes and put his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream.
Judge denied the allegation in an interview with The Weekly Standard on Friday.
While Ford initially sought to keep her allegation confidential, she said she opted to go public once the allegation emerged in the public eye and reporters began pursuing her. Her attorney, Debra Katz, told CNN on Monday morning that Ford would be willing to testify before Congress and stood by her story in the face of expected push-back.
Katz described Ford’s recollection of the incident in stark terms, going as far as saying her client considered it an attempted rape.
“She believes that but for his inebriation and his inability to take her clothes off, he would have raped her,” Katz said.
Calls for delay
Ford’s decision to go public prompted some key senators to voice support for a delay in Kavanaugh’s nomination process, which was scheduled to be voted on in the Senate Judiciary Committee this week.
On Sunday evening, a pair of outgoing Republican senators said outright that the Senate Judiciary Committee should not vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination until they talk to his accuser.
“I’ve made it clear that I’m not comfortable moving ahead with the vote on Thursday if we have not heard her side of the story or explored this further,” Arizona’s Jeff Flake, a member of the committee, told the Post.
Bob Corker also believes Kavanaugh’s accuser should be heard out before the Judiciary Committee votes on his nomination, the Tennessee senator’s spokesperson, Micah Johnson, said in a statement to CNN. Corker, however, does not sit on the panel.
While some Republican senators, such as Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham and Flake, are concerned with process, one source said that doesn’t necessarily mean a long delay — and the concern is that a long delay is what Democrats are pushing for.
One supporter of Kavanaugh also pushed back on some reporting that the White House or Republicans would deploy any aggressive attack, calling it “infuriating.”
The Judiciary Committee’s 10 Democratic members joined together on a letter to the committee’s Republican chairman, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley on Monday, calling on him to delay the planned vote and allow for an FBI investigation before the panel moves forward.
“Once the FBI has completed its independent work, we hope that we can work together in a bipartisan manner to decide on next steps,” the letter read.