Senate Judiciary Committee threatens to vote on Kavanaugh nomination if Ford doesn't accept proposal to testify

Key Points
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee proposed holding a hearing next Wednesday to hear testimony from Supreme Court pick Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, who alleges he sexually assaulted her decades earlier, NBC News reported Friday.
  • No other witnesses would be called under the proposal, and the committee would pick a lawyer to conduct questioning.
  • Ford's lawyers also asked the committee to subpoena Mark Judge, a friend of Kavanaugh's who Ford alleges participated in the incident.
Trump steps up Kavanaugh defense as 'mistaken identity' theory shot down
Trump steps up Kavanaugh defense as 'mistaken identity' theory shot down

The Senate Judiciary Committee's ranking lawmaker threatened to advance a vote on the nomination of Supreme Court pick Brett Kavanaugh on Monday, issuing an ultimatum to a California professor who has accused the judge of sexual misconduct to accept a proposal to testify by Friday at 10 pm.

Christine Blasey Ford alleges that the nominee for the nation's highest court sexually assaulted her decades earlier. The accusation has ricocheted through Washington, costing Kavanaugh public support and stalling the confirmation process.

The offer would require Ford, 51, to testify under oath before Kavanaugh, 53, by next week. Late Friday, GOP Senator Charles Grassley, the Senate Judiciary Chair, issued an ultimatum that would require Ford to accept the offer — or Kavanaugh's nomination would be voted upon by the committee early next week.

"It's Friday night and nothing's been agreed to despite our extensive efforts to make testimony possible," Grassley said in a statement, after an original 5 pm deadline lapsed without a response from Ford or her legal team.

"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."

Debra Katz, Ford's lawyer, responded by requesting one more day to consider the committee's terms for her client to testify. In a letter, Katz dismissed the Friday deadline as "arbitrary" and denounced it as an effort to "bully" Ford.

Ford met with the FBI for several hours about death threats she has received, and wants to delay her response until Saturday. However, If agreed upon, that proposal would skirt a number of the conditions put forward by Ford's lawyers earlier in the week.

Ford alleged in a letter obtained in late July by the committee's ranking Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California that Kavanaugh had held her down on a bed, covered her mouth with his hand and tried to undress her while highly intoxicated at a gathering in the early 1980s, when they were both in high school.

Kavanaugh strongly denies the allegation. He has said multiple times that he is willing to testify under oath before the committee.

Ford's lawyers told the committee's counsel last night that the earliest she could appear to testify was Thursday, Sept. 27. Ford's lawyers also asked the committee to subpoena Mark Judge, a friend of Kavanaugh's who Ford alleges participated in the incident.

Judge has said he has no recollection of the incident Ford described and that he does not wish to speak publicly on the subject.

The committee could accommodate other requests Ford made Thursday night, including limited video coverage, keeping Kavanaugh out of the room while she testifies and guaranteeing her safety. Sources close to Ford told news outlets that she has received death threats and is currently living away from her home.

A senior Democratic leadership aide reacted negatively to the committee's proposal, telling NBC News it was a disingenuous gesture since they already knew Ford was not willing to testify before Thursday.

Below is the complete text of Katz' response to Sen. Grassley's deadline:

Dear Ms. Willey and Ms. Davis:

I am writing to respond to your emails from earlier today. I was stunned to see that the Judiciary Committee noticed Judge Kavanaugh's vote for Monday morning, in the midst of our ongoing discussions regarding the terms and conditions under which Dr. Christine Blasey Ford could testify before the Committee.

Incredibly, you did so well before the 10:00 p.m. deadline you had arbitrarily imposed just hours before. The imposition of aggressive and artificial deadlines regarding the date and conditions of any hearing has created tremendous and unwarranted anxiety and stress on Dr. Ford. Your cavalier treatment of a sexual assault survivor who has been doing her best to cooperate with the Committee is completely inappropriate.

Yesterday, we had what I thought was a productive dialogue about the conditions Dr. Ford would find acceptable to be able to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee about her allegations of sexual assault involving Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Rather than continuing that dialogue, Senator Grassley today conveyed a counterproposal through the media, insisting that she appear for a hearing on a date I had expressly told you was not feasible for her.

Hours after those media accounts first appeared, you sent me a response to the proposals that we had conveyed in good faith yesterday. You rejected a number of the proposals that are important to Dr. Ford to ensure that the process would be a fair one, including subpoenaing Mark Judge to testify. Instead, you spent much of your email making points that distorted the requests we had made and the sequence of events.

It would be fruitless to review each of those misstatements as it is now abundantly clear that regardless of the assurances Senator Grassley has made, you have been tasked with pressuring Dr. Ford to agree to conditions you find advantageous to the nominee and also with denying Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee any input about how this hearing would proceed. When I urged you to include them in our discussions today, you rejected my request outright, accusing them of being the source of leaks. Even more disturbing, while you took almost a full day to consider our proposal, you demanded a 5:00 p.m. response to your proposal this evening.

By email sent today at 4:01 p.m., I advised you that Dr. Ford had traveled to meet with the FBI for several hours about the death threats she had been receiving, and we would need until tomorrow to confer with her and to be able to provide you with a well-considered response. Rather than allowing her the time she needs to respond to the take-it-or-leave-it demand you conveyed, you sent us an email at 5:47 p.m. – which you again gave to the media first – insisting that we accept your "invitation" for a Wednesday hearing by 10:00 p.m. tonight.

I now have learned that Senator Grassley has scheduled the Committee's vote for this Monday. The 10:00 p.m. deadline is arbitrary. Its sole purpose is to bully Dr. Ford and deprive her of the ability to make a considered decision that has life-altering implications for her and her family. She has already been forced out of her home and continues to be subjected to harassment, hate mail, and death threats. Our modest request is that she be given an additional day to make her decision.

Sincerely, Debra S. Katz

--The Associated Press contributed to this article.