A woman who has accused President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, of sexual assault decades ago wants her allegations to be investigated by the FBI before she appears at a US Senate hearing, her lawyers said on Tuesday, reports Reuters.
The development further roiled a confirmation process that once seemed smooth for Kavanaugh, whose confirmation to the lifetime post could consolidate the conservative grip on the top US court.
Christine Blasey Ford, a university professor in California, has accused Kavanaugh of attacking her and trying to remove her clothing while he was drunk at a suburban Maryland party in 1982 when they were both high school students, allegations Kavanaugh has called “completely false.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee, which is overseeing the nomination, had called a hearing for Monday to examine the matter, and the White House had said Kavanaugh was ready to testify.
In a letter to the committee’s chairman, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, Ford’s attorneys said an FBI investigation needed to come first.
Grassley said there is no reason to delay Ford’s testimony and an invitation for her to appear before the committee on Monday stands.
Democrats, already fiercely opposed to the nominee, have also been seeking an FBI investigation, a request that Republicans have rebuffed. Trump and other Republicans said they did not think the FBI needed to be involved.
A hearing would represent a potential make-or-break moment for the conservative federal appeals court judge’s confirmation chances, as Trump pursues his goal of moving the federal judiciary to the right.
“The Supreme Court is one of the main reasons I got elected President. I hope Republican Voters, and others, are watching, and studying, the Democrats Playbook,” Trump tweeted late on Tuesday.
Republicans control the Senate by only a narrow margin, meaning any defections within the party could sink the nomination and deal a major setback to Trump.
Earlier on Tuesday, Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the committee’s Republicans, said the panel would vote on the nomination next week whether or not Ford testified. A vote in committee would be a precursor to action in the full Senate.
In a statement on Monday, a representative for the Justice Department said the FBI had followed protocol forwarding information about the allegation to the White House.
“The FBI’s role in such matters is to provide information for the use of the decision makers,” the statement said.
Trump earlier on Tuesday stepped up his defense of Kavanaugh and expressed sympathy toward his nominee, who met with officials at the White House for a second straight day, although not with the president.
“I feel so badly for him that he’s going through this, to be honest with you,” Trump told a news conference. “This is not a man that deserves this.”
Senator John Cornyn, a member of the Senate Republican leadership, appeared to cast doubt on Ford’s allegations.
Cornyn’s fellow Republicans have generally avoided criticizing Ford, instead castigating Democrats for not revealing her allegations earlier.