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Senators seek delay of Kavanaugh vote after Christine Blasey Ford reveals sexual assault allegation

“I thought he might inadvertently kill me,” Christine Blasey Ford told The Washington Post.
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WASHINGTON — The woman who accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her during their teenage years identified herself in a report from The Washington Post on Sunday, in which she spoke about the allegations publicly for the first time. Her account of the situation was detailed in a confidential letter sent to Democratic lawmakers earlier this year.

The Post identified Kavanaugh's accuser as Christine Blasey Ford, 51, a research psychologist in northern California.

Following the report, Democrats and some Republicans immediately called for a delay in this week's scheduled vote on the nomination, threatening to upend a key committee vote scheduled for Thursday on Kavanaugh's confirmation. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., wrote Sunday: "I support Mrs. Ford’s decision to share her story, and now that she has, it is in the hands of the FBI to conduct an investigation. This should happen before the Senate moves forward on this nominee."

Democrats and some Republicans have called for a delay, threatening to upend a key committee vote scheduled to take place this week to advance Kavanaugh's confirmation.

NBC News has reached out to Kavanaugh and the White House for comment. The White House responded by pointing to Kavanaugh’s Friday statement. NBC News reached out to Ford but did not immediately receive a response.

Another White House official, when asked if Kavanaugh would withdraw, offered a firm "no" and said the nominee "has unequivocally denied the allegation."

Taylor Foy, a spokesman for Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, dismissed the "uncorroborated allegations" and did not indicate that Grassley intended to delay the vote.

Another spokesman for Grassley, George Hartmann, said Sunday evening that the senator is trying to set up follow-up phone calls with Kavanaugh and Ford.

"Given the late addendum to the background file and revelations of Dr. Ford's identity, Chairman Grassley is actively working to set up such follow-up calls with Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford ahead of Thursday’s scheduled vote," Hartmann said.

The Washington Post reported Sunday night that Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., doesn't want to move forward with this week's vote until he hears more from Ford. Feinstein agreed, saying: "There's a lot of information we don’t know and the FBI should have the time it needs to investigate this new material. Staff calls aren’t the appropriate way to handle this."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called on Grassley to delay the confirmation vote "until, at a very minimum, these serious and credible allegations are thoroughly investigated." Later, he tweeted that the investigation should be conducted by the FBI and that the Senate should only move forward with the nomination once the probe is completed.

The Judiciary panel is currently scheduled to hold a vote Thursday to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination. GOP leaders have been aiming to have him confirmed as a Supreme Court justice before the court's new term begins in October.

Grassley's spokesman said the timing of the news raised questions about Democratic "tactics and motives."

"It’s disturbing that these uncorroborated allegations from more than 35 years ago, during high school, would surface on the eve of a committee vote after Democrats sat on them since July," Foy said, calling on Feinstein to release the letter she received in July.

Besides Grassley, NBC News reached out to the other 10 Republican members on the Judiciary panel. Nearly all remained silent, though Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., released a statement saying he's willing to hear her story.

"If the committee is to hear from Ms. Ford it should be done immediately so the process can continue as scheduled," said Graham, who added that he agreed with Grassely's concerns.

Retiring Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who is not a member of the Judiciary committee, told NBC's Kasie Hunt that the Senate shouldn't press ahead with a committee vote without hearing from Ford.

"They should give her a chance to be heard. But if she wishes to do so, she should do so promptly," Corker said. "I really think that is best for all involved, including the nominee."

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who has been eyed as a possible no vote against Kavanaugh, spoke to Kavanaugh by phone on Friday. Collins is not a member of the Judiciary Committee.

With a slim majority in the Senate, Republicans can only lose the support of two members should all Democrats stay united against Kavanaugh. Collins and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, have been targeted by Kavanaugh's opponents as the most likely Republicans to derail his confirmation.

Kavanaugh has denied Ford's allegations. "I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time," he said in a statement last week.

Other Democrats on the Judiciary Committee joined with Schumer and Feinstein in calling for the vote to be postponed. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) also expressed dismay that some Republicans were dismissing the allegations.

"Intimating that an assault is a mere political ploy not only offensively maligns Ms. Ford’s experience, it reinforces dangerous preconceptions that shame survivors into silence," he said in a statement.

Ford's allegations came to light in a letter sent to two California Democrats, Feinstein and Rep. Anna Eshoo, and were reported in The New Yorker by Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer. In The New Yorker's article, Ford asked not to be identified, but she later told the Post she wanted to go public.

Ford alleged that Kavanaugh and another person drunkenly "corralled her into a bedroom during a gathering of teenagers" in the suburbs of Maryland one summer in the early 1980s.

During the encounter, Ford alleges, Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes while grinding his body against hers, according to the Post. She claims Kavanaugh tried to pull off her one-piece bathing suit.

She said that, when she tried to scream, Kavanaugh put his hand over her mouth.

"I thought he might inadvertently kill me," she said. "He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing."

According to the Weekly Standard, Judge was named in the letter sent to Feinstein and Eshoo and denied that the incident occurred, telling the outlet, "It's just absolutely nuts. I never saw Brett act that way."

During a therapy session with her husband in 2012, Ford described the incident but did not mention Kavanaugh by name, according to therapist's notes reviewed by the Post. NBC News does not possess nor has it reviewed the notes.

The Post reported that Ford passed a polygraph test administered by a former FBI agent in early August. The test determined that Ford was being truthful when she said a statement summarizing her allegations, according to the Post.

CORRECTION (Sept. 17, 2018, 8:27 am ET): An earlier version of this article misstated whom Sen. Susan Collins spoke with on Friday night. She spoke with Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, not his accuser, Christine Ford.

Kalhan Rosenblatt reported from New York, and Rebecca Shabad from Washington.