What we know.
When Christine Blasey Ford, a professor at Palo Alto University in California, came forward with a sexual assault allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh over the weekend, all eyes turned to the Senate: Would this stop the confirmation proceedings in their tracks?
Ford told the Washington Post that Kavanaugh held her down at a high school party in the 1980s and attempted to force himself on her, covering her mouth to quiet her protests. Her allegations were documented by her therapist in notes from sessions in 2012 and 2013, in which Ford talked about a “rape attempt” and being attacked by students “from an elitist boys’ school.” Kavanaugh denied the allegations, as did another male classmate who Ford said was involved in the incident. The White House, so far, has stood by Kavanaugh.
Senate Republicans have been pushing to get Kavanaugh confirmed to the Supreme Court this fall, before the midterm elections. They spun the allegations as a last-ditch Democratic attempt to hold up the confirmation.
But as more details emerge, and with Ford’s identity now public, there’s been pressure to investigate the allegations and hear from Ford. Ford’s lawyer said she is willing to testify to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
For now, though, there are a lot of moving parts and unanswered questions. Here’s what we know so far about where things stand, what the White House is saying, and what kind of investigation might be conducted.
Where the confirmation process stands
- The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to vote on Kavanaugh on Thursday. This is the first vote in the process of confirming Kavanaugh to the Court and serves as a recommendation to the Senate as a whole. The full Senate can still vote — and confirm — Kavanaugh even without the Judiciary Committee’s approval.
- So far, the vote is going ahead as scheduled.
- But Democratic senators both on and off the Judiciary Committee are calling to delay the committee’s vote. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), who sits on the committee, called it a “constitutional responsibility” to scrutinize Supreme Court nominees.
- Republican senators aren’t so sure. Some — like Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who sits on the Judiciary Committee — have said the vote should only happen if the Senate has heard from Ford. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has said he is open to hearing from Ford but hasn’t indicated that he thinks the vote is contingent on it.
- If Ford is to testify, it’s not clear when that would be. Interviewed on CNN, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) said this week would be too soon for her testimony, calling it “too fast.”
Are the allegations against Kavanaugh going to be investigated?
- So far, statements from both Republican and Democratic senators seem to suggest an interest in investigating these allegations. But there is a big question about what that investigation would look like.
- Republicans have said they want the committee to hold calls with Kavanaugh and Ford. Democrats, however, say that Republicans aren’t capable of handling this review in an impartial manner and think the FBI needs to conduct an investigation.
- As it stands right now, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has referred the case to the FBI, which is in charge of background checks for nominees. The FBI said it has added the letter to Kavanaugh’s background file, which means that the White House and the full body of senators now have access to it. The background check is something that all Supreme Court nominees in recent memory have had to undergo.
- Republican senators have suggested holding follow-up phone calls between the committee, Kavanaugh, and Ford before the scheduled committee vote on Thursday.
- Democratic lawmakers aren’t having it; they want the FBI to spearhead the investigation into sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh, not Congress. They argue that these allegations require a formal investigation and note that the partisan handling of Kavanaugh’s nomination thus far suggests that Congress is not up to the task. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, especially, has said Senate Republicans are incapable of “impartially investigat[ing].”
The White House is starting to comment on the allegations
- Over the weekend, anonymous sources told Politico that they expected Trump to go after the accuser.
- But the response from the White House has for the most part left Ford out of it. On Monday morning, the White House released a statement standing by Kavanaugh’s denial. The statement read: “On Friday, Judge Kavanaugh ‘categorically and unequivocally’ denied this allegation. This has not changed. Judge Kavanaugh and the White House both stand by that statement.”
- According to CNN’s Abby Phillip, there is some concern in the White House that going after the accuser could lose Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, whose votes are needed to confirm Kavanaugh.
- Meanwhile, Kellyanne Conway, who is currently serving as the counselor to the president, said on Fox News that Ford should be heard. “This woman should not be ignored and should not be insulted. She should be heard,” she said.