Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley has given the woman who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault until 2:30 p.m. Saturday to decide if she will testify next week, according to a report in The New York Times.
The newspaper reported that Grassley sent an email to Christine Blasey Ford’s lawyers that said the Senate panel “absolutely must hear by 2:30 p.m.” about Ford’s decision.
The Senate committee had given Ford until 10 p.m. Friday to make a decision, but her lawyer asked for a one-day extension minutes before the Friday deadline.
Grassley announced the extension on Twitter in a post with an apologetic tone that was addressed to Kavanaugh.
Lawyers for Ford have said she wants to testify before a Senate panel next week, but only if her safety is ensured. According to U.S. media reports, attorney Debra Katz said in an email to the Senate Judiciary Committee that Ford wishes to testify “provided that we can agree on terms that are fair and which ensure her safety.”
Katz said her client has gotten death threats, and Ford and her family have been forced from their California home.
Grassley, a Republican, has scheduled a hearing for Monday for both Ford and Kavanaugh to appear to tell their stories.
But Katz wrote that “Monday’s date is not possible and the committee’s insistence that it occur then is arbitrary in any event.”
Katz said Ford’s “strong preference” is that “a full investigation” be completed before she testifies. She had earlier called for the FBI to look into the charges against Kavanaugh.
On Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump questioned the integrity of Ford, posting on Twitter that “if the attack … was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed” with police.
Trump also accused “radical left wing politicians” of attacking Kavanaugh, who Ford said sexually assaulted her at a house party 36 years ago.
Late Thursday, the White House released a letter from Kavanaugh to Grassley in which he said he wants to tell his side in a Monday hearing.
“I will be there. I continue to want a hearing as soon as possible so that I can clear my name,” he wrote.
Media reports say Kavanaugh has also received what law enforcement officials say are credible death threats.
Confirmation seemed certain
Trump chose Kavanaugh to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court created by the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy.
His approval by the Judiciary Committee and the Republican-majority Senate appeared to be an almost certainty until The Washington Post published its interview with Ford, who is now a California psychology professor.
She alleged a “stumbling drunk” 17-year-old Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a Maryland house party in 1982 when both were in high school. She said Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed and groped her, putting his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream, before she managed to escape.
Kavanaugh has adamantly denied the charges, saying he has never done any such thing to Ford or any other woman.
Supporters for both sides
Women who say they have known and worked with Kavanaugh throughout his legal career say he has been respectful and fair in dealing with them. Dozens of women who support Kavanaugh held a Washington news conference Friday.
Sara Fagen, who described herself as a friend and former colleague of Kavanaugh, said she and the other women at the news conference believe the allegation is untrue.
“The reason that we know that this allegation is false is because we know Brett Kavanaugh,” Fagen said.
Women who attended Holton-Arms High School in Bethesda, Maryland, with Ford signed a letter in support of her that was personally delivered Thursday to Republican Senator and Holton-Arms alumna Shelley Moore Capito. Organizers said it was signed by more than 1,000 former students.
“We believe Dr. Blasey Ford and are grateful that she came forward to tell her story,” the letter said. “Dr. Blasey Ford’s experience is all too consistent with stories we heard and lived while attending Holton. Many of us are survivors ourselves.”
Republican lawmakers are trying to win Senate confirmation for Kavanaugh ahead of the court’s start of a new term on Oct. 1, or if not by then, ahead of the Nov. 6 nationwide congressional elections, to show Republican voters they have made good on campaign promises to place conservative judges like Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court.