Bredesen: Committee should consider proceeding if Kavanaugh accuser doesn’t testify

FILE - In this Aug. 24, 2018, file photo, Democratic Senate candidat Phil Bredesen speaks at a summit on the opioid crisis in Nashville, Tenn. Bredesen says he is “embarrassed by the circus” in the hearings for Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation, pointing at Republicans and Democrats. The former governor said Sept. 12 that Republicans are “running this thing through in a way that I don’t think was the founders’ intent.” (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Democratic Senate candidate Phil Bredesen said that the woman accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault “has a very credible story.” But he said the Judiciary Committee should consider proceeding with a vote if she does not testify under oath.

“She has put herself out there,” Bredesen said Wednesday of Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of assaulting her while they were both in high school. “If she decided at this point to not do something, I guess the committee has to go ahead and say, ‘Well, we were willing to listen, but if she’s not willing to talk, we need to go forward.’”

The Senate race in Tennessee, a reliably Republican state, is among the most competitive in the nation. Bredesen, the state’s former governor, is running as a centrist against Republican U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn and keeping a distance from national Democrats. The seat is opening up with the retirement of Republican Sen. Bob Corker.

Bredesen has avoided saying whether he would vote to confirm Kavanaugh for the high court if he were in the Senate. In an interview with The Associated Press, he said the allegation against Kavanaugh, if true, is “close to being disqualifying, if not disqualifying.”

But Bredesen said hearing directly from Ford would have significant sway over his decision.

“Even what she’s done so far would impact my thinking, but not nearly as much as if she sat there and I had a chance to question her,” Bredesen said.

GOP warns time is running out

This week, Republicans warned Ford that her time is running out to tell Congress about her claim that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when both were teenagers. The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said his panel still planned a Monday morning hearing that Kavanaugh and Ford were invited to attend.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, wrote Ford’s attorneys Wednesday that the panel was giving the California psychology professor until 10 a.m. Friday to submit a biography and a prepared statement “if she intends to testify” Monday.

It remained unclear, though, whether Ford would attend or if the hearing would occur without her

After initially saying through a lawyer Monday that she was willing to appear, Ford has since said she first wants a full FBI investigation of her accusation. Trump and Senate Republicans have been emphatic that an FBI renewal of its background checks on Kavanaugh won’t happen, saying an investigation by committee staff — which Democrats are boycotting — is sufficient.

Ford’s demand has been fully backed by Democrats.

Lisa Banks, a Ford attorney, wrote that Grassley’s plan to call just two witnesses, Kavanaugh and Ford, “is not a fair or good faith investigation” and said “multiple witnesses” she did not name should be included.

“The rush to a hearing is unnecessary, and contrary to the Committee discovering the truth,” Banks wrote.

Republicans are resisting all Democratic efforts to slow and perhaps block what once seemed a smooth path to confirmation that would promote the conservative appeals court judge by the Oct. 1 opening of the Supreme Court’s new term. A substantial delay could push confirmation past the November elections, when Democrats have a shot at winning Senate control, plus allow more time for unforeseen problems to pop up.

Moderate GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who’s had her share of clashes with Trump, said she hoped Ford would reconsider a decision not to testify and “it’s not fair to Judge Kavanaugh” if she refuses. “Otherwise, there are these very serious allegations hanging over the head of a nominee who has emphatically denied them,” she said on radio WVOM in Bangor.

Going further, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Democrats’ demands for an FBI investigation were a ploy to delay a confirmation vote. “It is imperative the Judiciary Committee move forward on the Kavanaugh nomination and a committee vote be taken as soon as possible,” the committee member said in a statement.

As for a possible FBI intervention, Grassley said in his letter to Ford’s lawyers, “We have no power to commandeer an Executive Branch agency into conducting our due diligence.”

In a separate letter to Democrats, Grassley wrote that committee aides were “even willing to fly to California, or anywhere else, to meet her.” He also wrote that GOP aides tried to arrange interviews with two other “alleged witnesses.” The letter mentioned no names and committee staff declined to identify them.

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