- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Republicans announced plans to hold a committee vote Friday morning on Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, signaling confidence they’ll be able to speed the process after Thursday’s showdown hearing involving the woman accusing him of sexual assault as a teenager.

The Friday vote could be followed by action in the full Senate over the weekend as the GOP tries to have Judge Kavanaugh installed as the high court convenes for its new term.

The aggressive schedule comes as President Trump, in his boldest comments yet, accused Democrats of playing a “con game” with the Kavanaugh pick, and top Senate Republicans said they were tiring of delays and obstruction over allegations that, nearly two weeks after they first emerged, have yet to be corroborated.

“I’m confident we’re going to win, confident he will be confirmed in the very near future,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said after meeting with his colleagues Tuesday.

Republicans rejected new calls for delays, saying it’s time to give both the judge and accuser Christine Blasey Ford their chance to testify.

“I am not going to silence Dr. Ford after I promised and assured her that I would provide her a safe, comfortable, and dignified opportunity to testify,” Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican and Judiciary Committee chairman, said in a letter to Democrats that also said more delays are unfair to Judge Kavanaugh, who has steadfastly denied the allegations and has asked for a speedy hearing to clear his name.

Friday’s committee vote is tentative, and Republicans said they’ll only go ahead if they feel they heard enough from the hearing to be comfortable.

“If we’re ready to vote, we will vote. If we aren’t ready, we won’t,” Mr. Grassley said.

Democrats said the quick scheduled vote is an insult to Ms. Blasey Ford, who has faced death threats after she came forward with her accusation of being sexually assaulted during a high school party in the early 1980s.

“It’s clear to me that Republicans don’t want this to be a fair process,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat.

She, Mr. Grassley and Ms. Blasey Ford’s legal team were still negotiating Tuesday over details of the hearing.

Ms. Blasey Ford’s team has demanded press access be limited — including naming some of the media outlets that should be allowed in.

Those include three major wire-service reporters, several wire service photographers, a print “pool” and three “robocams” operated by a specific network — C-SPAN. Longtime Capitol Hill staffers said they could not remember a precedent for a witness dictating who was allowed to cover a hearing.

For their part Republicans announced they hired an outside female lawyer to lead their questioning of both the judge and Ms. Blasey Ford, who are testifying separately.

There are no female Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee, and Democrats suggested the GOP was fearful of the image of male senators going toe-to-toe with Ms. Blasey Ford.

Democrats said their own members will ask their questions.

“Our senators are not afraid,” said Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer.

The GOP had yet to reveal the name of the outside lawyer, leaving Ms. Blasey Ford’s team to suspect underhanded dealing.

“Please let us know if you have similarly withheld the name of this person from Mr. Kavanaugh and his counsel. If you have not, which we assume to be the case, can you please explain the disparate treatment?” Debra Katz, one of Ms. Blasey Ford’s lawyers, wrote in an email seen by The Washington Times.

She also asked for a chance to meet ahead of time with the outside lawyer.

Ms. Blasey Ford and Democrats continue to argue for an FBI probe into her accusations, saying that’s the best way to get at the truth of what happened at the party more than three decades ago.

A key Republican suggested Thursday that’s also what she wanted to see.

“It would sure clear up all the questions, wouldn’t it?” Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska told reporters.

She’s one of several Republicans seen to be on the fence about Judge Kavanaugh. Republicans, with a 51-49 majority, can’t afford more than one defection if they want to guarantee confirmation.

Both Republicans and Democrats say they are trying to sort through myriad accusations that popped up at the 11th hour, after Judge Kavanaugh sat for 31 hours of hearings and just before a committee vote was scheduled.

The GOP put off that vote to give the accusers time to come forward.

Ms. Blasey Ford, after much negotiation, has taken that opportunity. But other accusers have not.

Deborah Ramirez, a classmate of Judge Kavanaugh’s from Yale University, has signaled she won’t testify about her accusation, made to The New Yorker, that he exposed himself to her during an alcohol-heavy dorm party in the 1980s.

Republicans said Senate investigators have tried to reach Ms. Ramirez but she has rebuffed those inquiries and hasn’t submitted any evidence nor given testimony.

Her lawyer, however, echoed Ms. Blasey Ford and Democrats in saying she wants an FBI probe instead.

Judge Kavanaugh has vehemently denied every allegation and so far no witnesses have come forward to corroborate either Ms. Blasey Ford’s or Ms. Ramirez’s claims. Indeed, the witnesses who have been identified have denied seeing anything.

The Justice Department has also said it doesn’t see a role for the FBI in investigating the accusations.

Meanwhile Michael Avenatti, a lawyer who has battled President Trump, continued to tease an anonymous “client” he said was both witness and victim to high-school behavior that included Judge Kavanaugh and friends using drugs and alcohol to recruit women into group sex.

Rowan Scarborough contributed to this article.

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