US Senate committee postpones Kavanaugh hearing

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Washington: A key US Senate committee has postponed its high-stakes hearing on sexual assault allegation against President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh after his accuser Christine Blasey Ford declined the committee’s request to testify before it.

Senator Chuck Grassley, who heads the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Friday that both Kavanaugh and accuser Ford had been invited for the hearing scheduled to take place on Monday. He said while Kavanaugh had agreed to testify, Ford, a clinical psychology professor at Palo Alto University, declined.

Grassley asked Ford, 51, to respond to the request by 10 pm Friday in the absence of which, he said, the Senate Judiciary Committee would vote on the nomination of the 53-year-old Judge Kavanaugh.

“I’m extending the deadline for response yet again to 10 o’clock this evening. I’m providing a notice of a vote to occur Monday in the event that Dr Ford’s attorneys don’t respond or Dr Ford decides not to testify,” Grassley said.

“In the event that we can come to a reasonable resolution as I’ve been seeking all week, then I will postpone the committee vote to accommodate her testimony. We cannot continue to delay,” the top Republican Senator said in a statement.

Soon, thereafter, he issued a notice of a committee executive business meeting, at which the committee can vote on the nomination of Kavanaugh to be an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, in a letter to Ford’s lawyers, said it had been “extremely accommodating” to her.

“We want to hear Dr Ford’s testimony and are prepared to accommodate many of your demands, including further delaying a hearing that is currently scheduled for Monday. We are unwilling to accommodate your unreasonable demands. Outside counsel may not dictate the terms under which Committee business will be conducted,” the letter said.

The committee said it was not able to accommodate Ford’s demand that Kavanaugh testify first.

“You demanded that Judge Kavanaugh be the first person to testify. Accommodating this demand would be an affront to fundamental notions of due process. In the United States, an individual accused of a crime is entitled to a presumption of innocence,” the committee said.

“And, further, the accused has the right to respond to allegations that are made about him. Judge Kavanaugh cannot be expected to respond to allegations that have been made to the press. He is entitled to hear the full, detailed testimony of Dr Ford before he testifies,” the letter said.

Earlier, all 10 Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee urged Grassley to learn from mistakes made during the Anita Hill hearings and outlined steps the committee should take to ensure a thorough investigation of Ford’s allegations and fair hearing.

According to a media report, the lawyer for Ford asked late Friday for an extra day to decide if she will testify next week.

President Trump continues to support the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh. He has questioned the motives of the Democrats in raising this issue.

Trump has also questioned the credibility of Ford who, contending that if the alleged attack was so bad then she would have reported it to the law enforcement when the incident happened 36 years ago.

Kavanaugh’s nomination plunged into chaos after Ford told ‘The Washington Post’ last week that she was subjected to a sexual assault by Kavanaugh in high school in the early 1980s.

She had also demanded a “full investigation” by the FBI before attending any Congressional hearing or “interrogation” into her accusations.

The Supreme Court nominee has rejected as “completely false” the sexual assault allegation, saying he was ready to testify before a Senate committee to “defend my integrity”.

Republicans hold a 51-49 majority in the Senate. PTI