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WASHINGTON — The lawyer for the woman who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault said Wednesday that the GOP's "rush to a hearing is unnecessary, and contrary to the Committee discovering the truth."
"Dr. Ford was reluctantly thrust into the public spotlight only two days ago," Lisa Banks, attorney for Christine Blasey Ford, said in a statement. "She is currently unable to go home, and is receiving ongoing threats to her and her family's safety. Fairness and respect for her situation dictate that she should have time to deal with this."
Banks added that Ford "continues to believe that a full nonpartisan investigation" is needed, and that she is willing to cooperate with the committee.
"However, the Committee's stated plan to move forward with a hearing that has only two witnesses is not a fair or good faith investigation; there are multiple witnesses whose names have appeared publicly and should be included in any proceeding," she said. "The rush to a hearing is unnecessary, and contrary to the Committee discovering the truth."
The statement calling for additional witnesses, which followed the Tuesday call by Ford's attorneys for an FBI investigation into the allegations, came after Republican lawmakers appeared poised Wednesday to push ahead with a confirmation vote on Kavanaugh if Ford did not agree to participate in a Monday Senate hearing to air the allegation that he assaulted her while both were in high school.
Amid the controversy, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who faces a tough re-election this November and was considered a potential swing vote on Kavanaugh, announced her opposition to his nomination Wednesday night — but said it was not based on the Ford allegation.
"I have been thorough in examining Judge Kavanaugh’s record," McCaskill said in a statement. "And while the recent allegations against him are troubling and deserve a thorough and fair examination by the Senate Judiciary Committee, my decision is not based on those allegations but rather on his positions on several key issues, most importantly the avalanche of dark, anonymous money that is crushing our democracy."
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said earlier Wednesday that no law enforcement investigation was warranted and that the invitation for her to testify on Monday "still stands."
The chairman again told Ford's lawyers Wednesday afternoon in a letter that he believed FBI involvement is not needed and that the Senate doesn't have the power to authorize such an investigation.
"It is not the FBI’s role to investigate a matter such as this," Grassley wrote, saying the White House requests and provides FBI background investigation files to the Senate "as a courtesy to help us determine whether to confirm a nominee. The FBI does not make a credibility assessment of any information it receives with respect to a nominee."
"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. In the meantime, my staff would still welcome the opportunity to speak with Dr. Ford at a time and place convenient to her," said Grassley, echoing a statement by spokesman Garrett Ventry earlier Wednesday that the chairman was willing to send committee staff to speak to Ford in California "if that is what she prefers.”
Grassley also said that the committee has attempted to contact Ford's lawyers directly by phone and email "several times to schedule a call at a time convenient for you and your client. We thus far have not heard back from you with regard to that request." He said Ford would need to submit her biography and prepared testimony by Friday at 10 a.m. if she intends to testify Monday.
In a series of tweets earlier in the day, Grassley said that investigators for the panel are "following up on the leads from Dr. Ford's allegations & news stories. No other OUTSIDE investigation is necessary ..."
Grassley ridiculed Democrats who are not cooperating in another letter Wednesday evening, arguing again that there's no need for the FBI to investigate now that Ford has come forward.
"The purpose of the background investigation process is to compile information in a confidential manner," he wrote. "Because Dr. Ford's allegations are in the public arena, there is no longer a need for a confidential FBI investigation."
Grassley also said that GOP staff on his committee "has also sought to set up interviews with Dr. Ford, Mark Judge, and two other alleged witnesses." Judge, who according to Ford, allegedly witnessed the sexual assault said Tuesday he had "no memory" of the incident and said he does not wish to answer questions publicly. Grassley did not say who the other two potential witnesses were.
In another letter, Grassley asked Feinstein for an unredacted version of the letter the California senator originally received from Ford in July, detailing the allegations.
On Wednesday, other GOP lawmakers also signaled that without Ford's testimony, a confirmation vote on Kavanaugh could go forward. President Donald Trump, for his part, said it would be "unfortunate" if Ford chose not to appear before the panel.
"I really want to see her. I would really want to see what she has to say. But I want to give it all the time they need. They've already given it time. They've delayed a major hearing," he told reporters on the White House South Lawn on Wednesday.
"This is a very tough thing for him and his family, and we want to get it over with but at the same time we want to give it tremendous amounts of time. If she shows up, that would be wonderful. If she doesn't show up, that would be unfortunate," Trump added.
The president also criticized the handling of the allegation by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, who said she has been aware of the information from Ford since she received her letter in July.
Feinstein quickly shot back. "President Trump, Dr. Blasey Ford did not want her story of sexual assault to be public," she tweeted. "She requested confidentiality and I honored that. It wasn't until the media outed her that she decided to come forward. You may not respect women and the wishes of victims, but I do."
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a member of the Judiciary Committee, said in a tweet that requiring an FBI investigation "is more about stalling the process until after November's elections than getting to the truth."
"It is imperative the Judiciary committee move forward on the Kavanaugh nomination and a committee vote be taken ASAP," Graham said Wednesday.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who is considered a swing vote on Kavanaugh, tweeted Wednesday that she hopes Ford "will reconsider" the offer and testify on Monday: "It is my understanding that the Committee has offered to hold either a public or a private session, whichever would make her more comfortable," wrote Collins, who had a call with the deputy director of the FBI to get a better sense of how background investigations are conducted, according to a source close to the Maine senator.
In a radio interview with Maine radio station WVOM Wednesday, Collins said: "Much to my surprise, it now appears she’s turning down all three options even though her attorney said earlier this week that she would come testify. ... I just don't understand why the hearing shouldn't go forth."
"In the meantime, I think we should be providing her law enforcement protection, but I think it’s not fair to Judge Kavanaugh for her not to come forward and testify. Both of them need to testify under oath next Monday before the Judiciary Committee."
“After learning of the allegation, Chairman @ChuckGrassley took immediate action to ensure both Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh have the opportunity to be heard, in public or private. Republicans extended a hand in good faith. If we don’t hear from both sides on Monday, let’s vote," Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., tweeted late Tuesday.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who sits on the Judiciary committee, said in a Tuesday tweet: “When Dr. Ford came forward, I said that her voice should be heard and asked the Judiciary Committee to delay its vote on Judge Kavanaugh. It did so. I now implore Dr. Ford to accept the invitation for Monday, in a public or private setting. The committee should hear her voice."
Ford detailed her allegations in The Washington Post this week in which she claims Kavanaugh drunkenly tried to sexually assault her while they were teenagers in Maryland in the 1980s. Kavanaugh has vehemently denied the allegations, and accepted Grassley's invitation to appear before the panel on Monday.
Trump reiterated on Wednesday that he believes the FBI does not want to look into Ford's allegation.
"Well, it would seem that the FBI really doesn't do that," Trump told reporters on the White House South Lawn in response to a question about whether he would order a probe.
The only way the FBI can investigate the allegations is if the White House asks it to do so.
Anita Hill, whose 1991 testimony that now-Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her created a political maelstrom, urged the committee on Wednesday to halt the confirmation vote until the allegations against Kavanaugh were fully investigated.
"My advice is to push the pause button on this hearing, get the information together, bring in the experts and put together a hearing that is fair, that is impartial, that is not biased by politics or by myth, and bring this information to the American public," she told ABC's "Good Morning America."