Senate Could Hear From Woman With Allegations Of Sexual Assault Against Kavanaugh

Sep 17, 2018
Originally published on September 17, 2018 7:12 pm
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Senator Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has confirmed that there will be a public hearing with President Trump's Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and the woman who accused him of sexually assaulting her when they were both in high school. NPR's Scott Detrow is here to talk more about the revelations leading up to the committee's decision to hold this hearing. Hey there, Scott.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Hey, Audie.

CORNISH: So at the start of the day, there were Republicans opposing the idea of a public hearing with Kavanaugh and his accuser, right? They talked about maybe having some sort of private testimony. What happened?

DETROW: So Republican leaders did not want to do this. They wanted to move forward with that Thursday vote. But it was clear as the day went on that enough Republican senators disagreed that they had to reverse course. Maine senator Susan Collins has been a key swing vote all along because of her pro-abortion rights stance. And she was pretty blunt today about the need to hit pause and hold a hearing.

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SUSAN COLLINS: Both Judge Kavanaugh and Professor Ford will be testifying under oath in a public hearing next Monday. That's exactly the outcome that I hoped for and advocated for.

DETROW: That under oath part was very key for Collins, to hear from Kavanaugh and Ford under oath. Of course, the flip side of this is could - it could very quickly become an ugly public spectacle. So I think the ground rules for questioning are going to be very key here.

CORNISH: Now, what are you hearing from Democrats? Because they had hoped to delay this committee vote, right?

DETROW: And they did. But they're still not happy. They're - the vote is delayed. It's not happening Thursday. The earliest would be at some point next week. And the committee is taking the accusations seriously at this point. But Democrats had wanted a full FBI investigation into this. Connecticut senator Richard Blumenthal says a hearing would be a sham if it happens before a full investigation.

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RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: There's no way I would put a crime survivor on the stand in front of a jury, let alone the American people, without a full investigation so that I know what the facts are before I start asking questions.

DETROW: It looks like there's not going to be a full FBI investigation. The Department of Justice has issued a statement basically saying they view their job complete of vetting Brett Kavanaugh. This is still better for Democrats, though, than the initial Republican plan to address this through committee phone calls with Kavanaugh and Ford. Democrats had said they would boycott that process.

CORNISH: So could the delay actually derail this nomination altogether?

DETROW: It's hard to say at this point. But, you know, given the accusations and how serious they are, it's going to likely be a straight party-line vote at this point. Republicans only have 51 votes. Two Republicans voting no would sink Kavanaugh's nomination. Jeff Flake said this evening that if you believe the charges are true, then you vote no. So this hearing's really going to be critical. It's clear at this point Republicans are not going to get Kavanaugh on the bench before the start of the fall term. And this is just a striking turn of events. After that initial hearing a couple of weeks ago, Kavanaugh looked like he'd be a shoo-in. And now things are really up in the air.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Scott Detrow. Thanks for your reporting.

DETROW: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.