Kavanaugh’s accuser steps forward, GOP confused?

Senate Republicans are now confronted with a difficult decision on whether to speed forward on his nomination.

Senate Republicans’ are confronting a daunting question now that Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser has gone public: Should the Supreme Court nomination continue barreling forward amid sexual assault allegations?

Just hours after Republican senators brushed off the allegations as anonymous and too late to stop Kavanaugh’s ascendance to the court, the Washington Post published an account from Christine Blasey Ford that Kavanaugh groped her, tried to pull off her clothes and covered her mouth when she tried to scream at a party in Maryland more than three decades ago. Ford wrote a letter to a Democratic congresswoman detailing the incident, which were then passed along to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and gradually leaked out over the past week.

Feinstein said on Sunday afternoon that Ford’s allegations “bear heavily on Judge Kavanaugh’s character.” And after announcing she opposes Kavanaugh, called for a delay in the confirmation process and an FBI investigation.

Ford told the Post that at the time of the alleged assault she thought Kavanaugh “might inadvertently kill me.”

“He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing,” she said.

Republicans are now left wondering whether Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) will move forward with a committee vote this week without hearing testimony from Ford. And it is still unclear if undecided moderate Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) will support Kavanaugh, though GOP leaders have been supremely confident in his confirmation prospects.

Spokesmen for Grassley did not immediately say Sunday afternoon whether the nomination’s timetable would change, though the committee sent out a memo calling Feinstein to release “the letter she received back in July so that everyone can know what she’s known for weeks.”

A lawyer close to the White House said the nomination will not be withdrawn.

“No way, not even a hint of it,” the lawyer said. “If anything, it’s the opposite. If somebody can be brought down by accusations like this, then you, me, every man certainly should be worried. We can all be accused of something.”

Ford, 51, is a professor at Palo Alto (Calif.) University and she graduated from the Holton-Arms School in Bethesda, Md., in 1984. She told the Washington Post she took a polygraph regarding the incident, which the paper reviewed, and she passed.

The White House issued the same statement on Kavanaugh’s behalf that it did last week: “I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time.” The White House began hearing rumors of the new allegations last week, and White House counsel Don McGahn received a redacted version of the letter on Friday and sent it to Capitol Hill, according to a person familiar with the events.

On Sunday morning before Ford’s story emerged, Senate Republicans pledged to move forward with President Donald Trump’s pick, in part because Ford’s allegations have been anonymous until now. Just hours before Ford went public, Sen. John N. Kennedy (R-La.) of the Senate Judiciary Committee predicted Kavanaugh will win narrow confirmation.

“They’ve had this stuff for three months; if they were serious about it, they should have told us about it,” Kennedy said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I think every Republican will vote for Judge Kavanaugh. I think at least two, and maybe more, Democrats will” vote for him.