Earlier this week, Republican Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, invited both Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, to appear before the committee on Monday.
Ms Ford has accused Mr Kavanaugh of trying to take her clothes off at a high school party three decades ago, and he has stridently denied the allegation. Mr Grassley and the White House had hoped to move the issue forward by having both appear and answer questions from senators or else an independent lawyer.
But on Tuesday evening, Lisa Banks, a lawyer for Ms Ford, a California-based professor, said the priority for her 51-year-old client was having the FBI thoroughly probe the allegation she has made about Mr Kavanaugh. She has said the alleged incident, which she did not talk about for years and which she was very concerned about speaking publicly about, took place at a party in Maryland in 1982.
In a letter to Mr Grassley, Ms Ford’s lawyer said the investigation should precede any testimony. “A full investigation by law enforcement officials will ensure that the crucial facts and witnesses in this matter are assessed in a non-partisan manner, and that the committee is fully informed before conducting any hearing or making any decisions,” the lawyers wrote.
“In the 36 hours since her name became public, Dr Ford has received a stunning amount of support from her community and from fellow citizens across our country. At the same time, however, her worst fears have materialised.”
Lisa Banks, attorney for Christine Blasey Ford, calling for an FBI investigation: “There’s no reason that we should have a public hearing on Monday. This is being rushed through, and it’s too important to be rushed through.”#Maddow pic.twitter.com/H1puWII4W0— Polly Sigh (@dcpoll) September 19, 2018
They added: “She has been the target of vicious harassment and even death threats. As a result of these kind of threats, her family was forced to relocate out of their home. Her email has been hacked, and she has been impersonated online.”
The lawyers added that while Ms Ford’s life was being turned “upside down”, they organised for her to “testify at the same table as Judge Kavanaugh in front of two dozen US senators on national television to relive this traumatic and harrowing incident”.
“The hearing was scheduled for six short days from today and would include interrogation by senators who appear to have made up their minds that she is “mistaken” and “mixed up”,” they added.
“While no sexual assault survivor should be subjected to such an ordeal, Dr Ford wants to cooperate with the Committee and with law enforcement officials.”
Later, speaking to CNN, Ms Banks was asked if Ms Ford would appear on Monday, as many had expected her to.
“There’s no reason that we should have a public hearing on Monday. This is being rushed through, and it’s too important to be rushed through,” she said.
Earlier on Tuesday, Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the committee’s Republican members, said the panel would vote on the nomination next week whether or not Ms Ford testified. A vote in committee would be a precursor to action in the full Senate.
“If she does not want to come Monday, publicly or privately, we’re going to move on and vote Wednesday,” he told Fox News.
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.
On Tuesday, Mr Trump doubled down on his defence for his nominee and even expressed sympathy.
“I feel so badly for him that he’s going through this, to be honest with you,” Mr Trump told a news conference, according to Reuters. “This is not a man that deserves this.”
He added: “Hopefully the woman will come forward, state her case. He will state his case before representatives of the United States Senate. And then they will vote.“