Colorado's US senators open to Kavanaugh accuser testifying publicly; Bennet wants vote delayed

Colorado's US senators open to Kavanaugh accuser testifying publicly; Bennet wants vote delayed
Posted at 1:52 PM, Sep 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-17 18:29:50-04

DENVER – Both of Colorado’s U.S. senators believe the woman who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her decades ago should be given the opportunity to testify publicly in front of the entire Senate Judiciary Committee, but differ on their beliefs of whether or not the committee’s planned Thursday vote should take place regardless.

A spokesman for Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., said Monday that the senator believes the Senate Judiciary Committee needs to interview both Kavanaugh and the woman who has accused him “without delay to gather as many facts as possible.”

Gardner’s fellow senator from Colorado, Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., believes that the woman should “be given the full opportunity to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee,” a spokesperson said, adding that the senator thinks the Senate should not move forward with Kavanaugh’s nomination until the allegations are fully investigated.

Bennet already said last week he wouldn't be supporting Kavanaugh's nomination, citing concerns over Kavanaugh's record in dealing with women's reproductive rights and environmental issues, among others. He also laid blame at the feet of the White House and Republicans for abdicating the "Senate’s constitutional responsibility to advise and consent."

The woman, Christine Blasey Ford, came forward and publicly identified herself Sunday in The Washington Postas the woman behind a letter that became public last week alleging that the Supreme Court nominee had sexually assaulted her while they were at a party in high school. She claims that while Kavanaugh was drunk, he and a friend brought her into a bedroom where he groped her and tried to remove her bathing suit, then covered her mouth with his hand when she tried to scream. The incident only stopped, according to Ford, when Kavanaugh’s friend jumped on the two of them and she was able to run away.

Kavanaugh last week denied any of the allegations when they were still anonymous. But after Ford, who is a research psychologist in California, went on the record with the Washington Post, the newspaper corroborated her story with her current husband and a therapist who took notes when Ford discussed the allegations during a session in 2012.

The sexual assault allegations have further roiled an already-controversial nomination, which Republicans have attempted to fast-track before November’s elections, further angering Democrats and opponents of Kavanaugh’s who still have the GOP’s blocking of Merrick Garland for the court in 2016 fresh on their minds.

Pressure has increased on Senate Republicans, especially those on the Senate Judiciary Committee, to fully investigate Kavanaugh’s record. The White House has also been lambasted for failing to release many documents relating to his prior positions in the government and courts.

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said he was “not comfortable” voting for Kavanaugh until he heard more from Ford. And Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, tweeted Monday that she thinks Kavanaugh and Ford should both testify before the committee prior to a vote. Flake is on the committee, but Collins is one of several Republicans thought to be on the fence over supporting Kavanaugh.

Gardner is also among those Republicans, though his vote was thought to be set after he met with Kavanaugh in late July. At the time, he said the current appeals court judge was “well-qualified” and that the two “had a good conversation about how he would be on the Supreme Court.” Republicans hold a 51-49 majority in the Senate.

“It was a very good meeting and I think he will make an incredible Supreme Court Justice,” Gardner said in a statement at the time.

On Monday, Gardner’s spokesperson, Casey Contres, said the Judiciary Committee should investigate the allegations without delay and said Gardner supported Ford testifying in an open hearing. Judiciary Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has called for the two to be interviewed over the phone by the committee’s staffers, though Democrats said that wasn’t enough.

“Dr. Ford’s voice deserves to be heard,” Contres said in a statement to Denver7 Monday. “Senator Gardner believes that the Senate Judiciary Committee needs to interview Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh without delay to gather as many facts as possible.”

Responding to a follow-up question about if a phone conversation would be enough, Contres said: “Senator Gardner would absolutely be supportive of Dr. Ford being allowed to testify publicly.”

All 10 Democrats on the Judiciary Committee on Monday sent a letter to Grassley asking him to delay Thursday’s planned committee vote to send Kavanaugh’s nomination to the full Senate until the FBI can investigate Ford’s allegations.

Kavanaugh issued a new statementMonday calling the allegation “completely false” and said he’d be “willing to talk” to the committee “in any way the committee deems appropriate.”

Ford’s attorney said Ford was ready to speak to the committee if she is contacted and told NBC’s Today Show: “She believes that if it were not for the severe intoxication of Brett Kavanaugh, she would have been raped.”

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said Ford “should testify under oath” and said what happened next would be up to the Judiciary Committee.

ABC News reported Monday that liberal activist group We Demand Justice would be buying TV and digital advertisements focused on the Ford allegations in Colorado to put pressure on Gardner, and in other states like Alaska, Maine and Nevada, whose senators haven’t committed one way or another on supporting Kavanaugh.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., spoke in support of Kavanaugh Monday on the Senate floor, and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said that Kavanaugh told him Monday that he was not at the party in which Ford alleges Kavanaugh assaulted her.

And on Monday afternoon, the White House sent out statements from two of Kavanaugh's former girlfriends defending him.

Then it issued a statement: "Judge Kavanaugh looks forward to a hearing where he can clear his name of this false allegation. He stands ready to testify tomorrow if the Senate is ready to hear him."

By 4:30 p.m. MT Monday, Grassley had agreed to hold a public hearing on Monday, Sept. 24 in which Kavanaugh and Ford will both testify.

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.