WASHINGTON – The Senate Judiciary Committee and lawyers for the woman who has accused Judge Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers reached a tentative agreement Saturday for her to publicly testify Thursday, an apparent breakthrough in halting negotiations.
After a brief call late Saturday, the lawyers and aides to Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley planned to talk again Sunday morning to continue negotiations over the conditions of the testimony, according to three people familiar with the call. Aides to Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the committee’s top Democrat, were also involved.
Negotiations could still falter over those details, which include who will question the woman, Christine Blasey Ford. But in tentatively agreeing to a Thursday hearing, Republicans made a significant concession.
If no final deal is made, Grassley will be left to decide Sunday whether to move ahead with a committee vote on Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination scheduled for Monday. Kavanaugh, who has vigorously denied the allegations, has repeatedly expressed his desire to testify.
In a letter to the committee Saturday afternoon, lawyers for Ford said they were hopeful an agreement could be reached on the details.
“Dr. Ford accepts the committee’s request to provide her firsthand knowledge of Brett Kavanaugh’s sexual misconduct next week,” they wrote. The lawyers called details of Grassley’s proposal “fundamentally inconsistent with the committee’s promise of a fair, impartial investigation into her allegations” but said they hoped to reach an agreement anyway.
The move by Ford, 51, a research psychologist in California, came after an extended back-and-forth between her lawyers and top Judiciary Committee aides.
The tentative deal came as White House officials and Republicans on Capitol Hill were growing increasingly frustrated at what they said was a ploy to delay Monday’s vote. Republicans had been pressing for Ford, if she were to agree to testify, to do so Wednesday.
Ford’s testimony would set up a potentially explosive showdown after days of uncertainty over whether she would appear at a hearing. It could also greatly complicate matters for Kavanaugh, who just last week seemed destined for confirmation.
The letter from Ford’s lawyers to the Judiciary Committee was the latest turn in an on-again, off-again negotiation that began cordially with Ford voicing an openness to testifying but quickly turned acrimonious. There have been several sticking points, including who would question her at a hearing — Republicans want an outside counsel; Ford would prefer to be questioned by senators — and how many news cameras would be present. The lawyers also have asked for the committee to subpoena testimony from a high school friend of Kavanaugh’s who Ford has said witnessed the assault.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he has enough votes to confirm Kavanaugh, but with at least two Senate Republicans undecided and with the party holding only a 51-49 majority, it is hardly assured. It is increasingly unlikely that Kavanaugh will have the support of even a single Senate Democrat.
Privately, GOP senators were working to resolve differences among themselves about how to proceed.