WASHINGTON — Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and the woman who has accused him of sexually assaulting her decades ago will testify publicly before the Senate next Monday, setting up a potentially dramatic and politically perilous hearing that could determine the fate of his nomination.
Republicans, including President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, remained defiant as they scrambled to protect Kavanaugh’s nomination in the wake of the allegation by Christine Blasey Ford, who told the Washington Post in an interview published Sunday that Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed on her back, groped her and put his hand over her mouth at a house party in the early 1980s.
But by the end of the day, Senate Republicans had delayed a committee vote planned for Thursday and abandoned tentative plans for the matter to be handled behind closed doors amid growing calls by members of both parties for Kavanaugh and Ford to testify publicly under oath, injecting uncertainty into the nomination.
The White House said in a statement that Kavanaugh “looks forward to a hearing where he can clear his name of this false allegation” and stands poised to testify as soon as the Senate is ready to hear him.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said that his staff had contacted Ford to hear her account and held a follow-up call with Kavanaugh Monday afternoon but that Democrats had declined to participate.
“However, to provide ample transparency, we will hold a public hearing Monday to give these recent allegations a full airing,” he said.
Trump on Monday defended Kavanaugh, praising him as “one of the finest people that anybody has known” and signaling that he supports a proposed hearing on the allegations.
“We want to go through a full process,” Trump told reporters at an event on workforce development. He added that the Senate will “go through a process and hear everybody out.”
He called Kavanaugh “somebody very special” who “never even had a little blemish on his record.” And he criticized Democrats, who he said should have “done this a lot sooner because they had this information for many months.”
“If it takes a little delay, it’ll take a little delay,” Trump said of the confirmation process. “It will, I’m sure, work out very well.”
Trump’s comments marked his first public response after The Post reported Sunday on Ford’s accusation against Kavanaugh.
An attorney for Ford said Monday that Ford is willing to testify about the allegations before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
In an article published Sunday, Ford told The Washington Post that one summer in the early 1980s, Kavanaugh and a friend — both “stumbling drunk,” Ford alleges — corralled her in a bedroom during a gathering of teenagers at a house in Montgomery County, Maryland.
While his friend watched, she said, Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers and clumsily attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she wore over it. When she tried to scream, she said, he put his hand over her mouth.
Kavanaugh on Monday issued a fresh denial of the allegations, which have roiled his confirmation process. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, a member of the committee, said that Kavanaugh told him in a conversation Monday that he was not present at the party in question.