The U.S. Senate judiciary committee has scheduled a hearing Thursday for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, a woman who says he sexually assaulted her as a teenager, as second claim of sexual misconduct emerged from another woman.
The New Yorker magazine reported Sunday night that Senate Democrats were investigating a second woman's accusation of sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh dating to the 1983-84 academic year, Kavanaugh's first at Yale University.
The New Yorker said 53-year-old Deborah Ramirez described the incident in an interview after being contacted by the magazine. Ramirez recalled that Kavanaugh exposed himself at a drunken dormitory party, thrust his penis in her face, and caused her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away, the magazine reported.
In a statement provided by the White House, Kavanaugh said the event "did not happen" and that the allegation was "a smear, plain and simple." A White House spokesperson added in a second statement that the allegation was "designed to tear down a good man."
Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the ranking Democrat on the judiciary committee, called Sunday night for the "immediate postponement" of any further action on Kavanaugh's nomination. She also asked the committee's chairman, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, to have the FBI investigate the allegations of both Ford and Ramirez.
The magazine reported that Ramirez was reluctant at first to speak publicly "partly because her memories contained gaps because she had been drinking at the time of the alleged incident." She also acknowledged reluctance "to characterize Kavanaugh's role in the alleged incident with certainty."
The magazine reports that after "six days of carefully assessing her memories and consulting with her attorney, Ramirez said that she felt confident enough of her recollections" to recall the incident.
Ford to testify before Senate
The new information came hours after the Senate committee agreed to a date and time for a hearing after nearly a week of uncertainty over whether Ford would appear to tell her story.
The agreement and the latest accusation set the stage for a dramatic showdown as Kavanaugh and Ford each tell their side of the story. The developments could also determine the fate of Kavanaugh's confirmation, which hangs on the votes of a handful of senators.
It had seemed assured before Ford, a 51-year-old California college professor, went public a week ago with her allegation that Kavanaugh assaulted her at a party when they were in high school.
Kavanaugh, 53, an appellate court judge, has denied Ford's allegation and said he wanted to testify as soon as possible to clear his name.
Michael Avenatti, the attorney representing porn actress Stormy Daniels in her legal fight with U.S. President Donald Trump, inserted himself into the maelstrom Sunday night when he claimed to represent a woman with information about high school-era parties attended by Kavanaugh and urged the Senate to investigate. Avenatti told The Associated Press that he will disclose his client's identity in the coming days and that she is prepared to testify before the committee, as well as provide names of corroborating witnesses.
Grassley wrangled with Ford's lawyers for the last week over the exact terms of her appearance. She made several requests, some of which were accommodated — a Thursday hearing, three days later than originally scheduled, and a smaller hearing room with less press access to avoid a media circus, for example. Grassley's staff also agreed to let Ford testify without Kavanaugh in the room, for there to be only one camera in the room, "adequate" breaks and a high security presence.
The committee said it would not negotiate on other points, though, including Ford's desire for additional witnesses and a request to testify after, not before, Kavanaugh.
"As with any witness who comes before the Senate, the Senate judiciary committee cannot hand over its constitutional duties to attorneys for outside witnesses," Mike Davis, Grassley's top nominations counsel, wrote in an email exchange with Ford's lawyers obtained by The Associated Press. "The committee determines which witnesses to call, how many witnesses to call, in what order to call them, and who will question them. These are non-negotiable."
The 11 senators on the Republican side of the dais are all men, which could send an unwanted message on live television against the backdrop of the #MeToo era. (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)
Ford's lawyers said it was still unclear who will ask questions, as Republicans were trying to hire an outside female counsel who could take over the questioning. The 11 senators on the Republican side of the dais are all men, which could send an unwanted message on live television against the backdrop of the #MeToo era. They could also use Republican staff attorneys on the committee.
Democratic senators were expected to ask their own questions.
"We were told no decision has been made on this important issue, even though various senators have been dismissive of her account and should have to shoulder their responsibility to ask her questions," the attorneys for Ford said in a statement.
As he builds a case for his innocence, Kavanaugh plans to turn over to the committee calendars from the summer of 1982 that don't show a party consistent with Ford's description of the gathering in which she says he attacked her, The New York Times reported Sunday. The newspaper reported that it had examined the calendars and noted they list basketball games, movie outings, football workouts, college interviews, and a few parties with names of friends other than those identified by Ford.
A person working on Kavanaugh's confirmation confirmed the Times account to The Associated Press. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the matter.
GOP, Ford's lawyers working out terms
Earlier Sunday, Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican on the Senate judiciary committee, said lawyers for Ford were contesting two Republican conditions — that Ford and Kavanaugh would be the only witnesses and that an independent counsel would ask the questions.
"If they continue to contest those two things, there won't be a hearing," Graham said. "We're not going to let her determine how many people we call" and on outside counsel. "I hope she comes."
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said he's "not going to ruin Judge Kavanaugh's life over this." (Andrew Harnik/Associated Press)
Graham, speaking on Fox News Sunday, promised a fair hearing in which both Ford and Kavanaugh "will be challenged" but said "unless there's something more" to back up her accusation, he indicated he will vote to confirm Kavanaugh. Graham said he's "not going to ruin Judge Kavanaugh's life over this."
One issue that appeared to have been resolved in Sunday's hour-long phone call between judiciary staff and Ford's lawyers was the committee's refusal to subpoena Mark Judge, the other person Ford alleges was in the room when the assault occurred. Judge has told the committee he does not recall the incident.
The lawyers for Ford want the committee to hear from other witnesses, including a person who conducted a polygraph of Ford earlier this year, the person familiar with the talks said. Ford's lawyers also want to call on two trauma experts, the person said.
Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat on the committee, said Sunday he believed Ford's requests have been reasonable and that she deserves a fair hearing to determine whether her allegations are serious enough to vote down Kavanaugh's nomination.
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