Kavanaugh accuser may testify under right conditions, lawyer says

Christine Blasey Ford may personally testify against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh after all, her attorney said Thursday, breathing new life into the prospect of a dramatic Senate showdown next week over Ford’s accusation that he assaulted her when both were in high school.

Ford will tell her story to the Judiciary Committee, whose senators will vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation — but only if agreement can be reached on “terms that are fair and which ensure her safety,” the attorney said.

A Senate aide said Ford’s lawyer told the Judiciary Committee she prefers to testify next Thursday and doesn’t want Kavanaugh in the room.

Attorney Debra Katz outlined five points during a call late Thursday with committee staff ahead of Ford’s possible appearance. The aide was unauthorized to discuss the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Ford and Kavanaugh were invited to appear Monday about her allegation that he sexually assaulted her when they were teens. Kavanaugh has denied the allegation.

The attorney raised questions about security that staff said would be provided by Capitol Police. Press access for the testimony would be similar to during Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing.

She also wants the committee to subpoena Mark Judge, who Ford has said was present for the alleged assaulted.

Lawyer: Ford received death threats

Katz said anew that Ford, 51, a psychology professor in California, has received death threats and for safety reasons has relocated her family.

“She wishes to testify, provided that we can agree on terms that are fair and which ensure her safety,” Katz wrote in an email, which was obtained by The Associated Press after first being reported by The New York Times.

The accusation has jarred the 53-year-old conservative jurist’s prospects for winning confirmation, which until Ford’s emergence last week had seemed all but certain. It has also bloomed into a broader clash over whether women alleging abuse are taken seriously by men and how both political parties address such claims with the advent of the #MeToo movement — a theme that could echo in this November’s elections for control of Congress.

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Republicans are anxious to move ahead to a vote by he committee, where they hold an 11-10 majority, and then by the full Senate, which they control, 51-49.

Taylor Foy, spokesman for Republicans on the panel, made no commitment but said in a written statement, “We are happy that Dr. Ford’s attorneys are now engaging with the Committee.”

Should Ford testify, especially in public, it would pit the words of two distinguished professionals against each other as television close-ups capture every emotion. Assessing them would be not just the committee’s 21 senators — of whom only four are women, all Democrats — but millions of viewing voters.

Underscoring the sensitivity of all-male Republican senators grilling a woman who’s alleged abuse, Republicans are considering reaching out to female attorneys who might question Ford, according to a person who spoke only on condition of anonymity.

Eager to testify

If Ford opts not to participate, Republicans could well dispense with the hearing to avoid giving Democrats a forum for peppering Kavanaugh with embarrassing questions. They would argue that they’d offered Ford several options for describing her accusation, but that she’d snubbed them.

Kavanaugh, who’s been eager to testify, said he was ready to appear Monday.

“I will be there,” he wrote Grassley in a letter. “I continue to want a hearing as soon as possible, so that I can clear my name.”

Ford has contended that at a house party in Washington’s Maryland suburbs, a drunken Kavanaugh tried undressing her and stifling her cries on a bed before she fled.

Grassley previously said that in the interest of making Ford comfortable, he’d be willing to let Ford testify in public or private. He even offered to send committee aides to her California home to take testimony.

“Dr. Ford has asked me to let you know that she appreciates the various options you have suggested,” Katz wrote. The email did not say any option was preferred.

Kavanaugh was spotted at the White House Thursday, and allies said he is eager to address the accusation and will be prepared to address the committee Monday. President Donald Trump refrained from tweeting about his nominee.

Republicans have resisted all Democratic efforts to slow and perhaps block Kavanaugh’s confirmation. A substantial delay could push confirmation past the November elections, when Democrats have a shot at winning Senate control, plus allow more time for unforeseen problems to crop up.

Alumnae support Ford

Women who attended Ford’s high school have delivered a letter in support of her to senators. Organizers say more than 1,000 women from the school signed the letter.

The women say they believe Ford, calling her accusation “all too consistent with stories we heard and lived,” while going to the Holton-Arms School in Bethesda, Md.

Alumnae of Holton-Arms School speak to members of the media about a letter they delivered in support of Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her while both were students at the school. (Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press)

Some personally delivered copies of the letter to Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, a West Virginia Republican who also graduated from Holton-Arms.

Alumna Alexis Goldstein says word of the letter spread through social media and personal networks. She describes Ford as courageous.

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