Perhaps confident that they have the votes to confirm Brett Kavanaugh as the next justice on the Supreme Court, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee have scheduled a Friday vote to move his nomination to a vote by the entire Senate.
The vote, scheduled for 9:30 a.m. ET, will come the day after the committee hears testimony from Christine Blasey Ford, a professor at Palo Alto University who has accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault when the two were high school students in Maryland.
Rather than face the potentially awkward spectacle of an all-male Republican contingent questioning Ford, Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, will turn over the questioning to a woman, a sex-crimes prosecutor he refused to name in advance.
“We have hired a female assistant to go on staff and to ask these questions in a respectful and professional way,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters.
Grassley told Politico earlier Tuesday that Republicans were not releasing the name of the questioner out of concern “for her safety.” He said it was undecided whether his party would reveal the identity of the prosecutor before the hearing.
The Washington Post reported Tuesday night that the party had chosen Rachel Mitchell, the sex crimes bureau chief for the Maricopa County Attorney’s office in Phoenix, Ariz., to question Ford.
In a letter to Grassley on Monday, Ford lawyer Michael Bromwich took issue with the plan for a prosecutor, not the Republicans on the committee, to question his client.
“This is not a criminal trial for which the involvement of an experienced sex-crimes prosecutor would be appropriate,” Bromwich said. “Neither Dr. Blasey Ford nor Judge Kavanaugh is on trial.”
The Democrats, including the four female senators from the party on the Judiciary Committee, will question Ford and Kavanaugh regarding the allegations.
Kavanaugh has denied any sexual improprieties in his past, and in an interview on Fox News on Monday he asserted that he had been a virgin into his 20s.
While Kavanaugh has been beset with a second allegation of sexual misconduct, Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has sought to fast-track a confirmation vote. Kavanaugh’s second accuser, Deborah Ramirez, will apparently not be given the opportunity to testify before the Judiciary Committee, according to one of the New Yorker journalists who first reported her claims.
Attorney Michael Avenatti, who represents Stormy Daniels, the adult-film actress who said she had a consensual liaison with President Trump, says he has another client who will accuse Kavanaugh of participating in gang rapes as a teenager. He has not released the name nor the details of what that person is alleging.
Democrats blasted the decision to schedule a Friday vote even though the Judiciary Committee had not yet heard from Ford.
“Republicans don’t even need to hear her before they move ahead with a vote,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., told reporters. “It’s clear to me that Republicans don’t want this to be a fair process.”
Grassley, however, said that scheduling the vote was not a guarantee that it would actually take place on Friday.