The US Senate judiciary committee chair, Chuck Grassley, has granted a deadline extension to the woman accusing supreme court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault to decide if and how she will testify.
The committee had delayed a vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation after California professor Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations emerged last week, and her lawyers and committee staff were negotiating the conditions of her testimony.
“Judge Kavanaugh I just granted another extension to Dr Ford to decide if she wants to proceed [with] the statement she made last week to testify to the Senate,” Grassley wrote on Twitter. “She should decide so we can move on. I want to hear her. I hope you understand. It’s not my normal approach to be indecisive.”
Grassley did not say if a new deadline has been set.
Grassley earlier in the day said the panel would hold a vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation on Monday unless a deal was reached with Ford’s lawyers by 10pm on Friday, Washington time (0200 GMT Saturday).
In an email to judiciary committee staff, Ford’s lawyer Debra Katz called the deadline arbitrary.
Judge Kavanaugh I just granted another extension to Dr Ford to decide if she wants to proceed w the statement she made last week to testify to the senate She shld decide so we can move on I want to hear her. I hope u understand. It’s not my normal approach to b indecisive
— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) September 22, 2018
“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,” Katz wrote.
“Your cavalier treatment of a sexual assault survivor who has been doing her best to cooperate with the committee is completely inappropriate.“
Earlier on Friday, Trump sought to cast doubt on Ford’s allegation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in 1982 when both were high school students in Maryland.
Kavanaugh has denied the allegation and pledged to testify at Monday’s hearing.
The Republican-controlled Senate judiciary panel has struggled on how to proceed with Kavanaugh’s nomination. Democrats have demanded more time for scrutiny, and Republicans want to move ahead quickly with a confirmation vote in an increasingly volatile political climate ahead of the 6 November congressional elections.
Approval of Kavanaugh would cement conservative control of the supreme court and advance a White House effort to tilt the American judiciary further to the right.
Trump and the White House had been careful not to malign Ford after her allegations surfaced, but Trump dropped the restraint in his tweets on Friday.
“I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents,” Trump said. “I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time, and place!
“Judge Brett Kavanaugh is a fine man, with an impeccable reputation, who is under assault by radical left wing politicians who don’t want to know the answers, they just want to destroy and delay,” Trump wrote.
If the hearing proceeds, Republicans will be forced to walk a careful line in questioning Ford’s account without alienating women voters ahead of the elections. Before the 2016 presidential election, more than a dozen women accused Trump of making unwanted advances.
The Senate Judiciary Committee released a letter it sent to Ford’s attorneys earlier on Friday in which it accepted some of their demands, including that Kavanaugh not be in the room when she testifies.
The panel rejected some of the other demands, including that Kavanaugh testify first, that the committee call additional witnesses that Ford requests, and that only senators be allowed to ask questions.
“We reserve the option to have female staff attorneys, who are sensitive to the particulars of Dr Ford’s allegations and are experienced investigators, question both witnesses,” the letter said.
The Senate panel must approve Kavanaugh’s confirmation before a vote by the full Senate, where Republicans hold a 51-49 majority. Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the lifetime position would be the second of the Trump administration and solidify conservative control of the nation’s top court.