Washington • Sen. Orrin Hatch said Monday that the woman alleging Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh assaulted her when they were in high school must be “mistaken” and that even if the accusation is true, Kavanaugh is a “good man” and senators should judge who he is now.
“I think she’s mistaken,” Hatch told CNN about Christine Blasey Ford, who has come forward to say Kavanaugh pinned her down and assaulted her nearly four decades ago. “I think she’s mistaking something, but I don’t know, I mean, I don’t know her."
Hatch, a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which was set to vote on Kavanaugh’s appointment Thursday, said he believes Kavanaugh’s denial that he never attempted to force himself on Ford.
"If that was true,” Hatch told reporters, “I think it would be hard for senators to not consider who the judge is today. That’s the issue. Is this judge a really good man? And he is. And by any measure he is."
Ford, a California research psychologist, had sent a letter to her congresswoman — it was later forwarded to Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee — saying Kavanaugh pinned her down and touched her inappropriately during a high school party when they were teenagers. Ford, who came forward publicly in a Washington Post story Sunday, said Kavanaugh was drunk, and she escaped before he was able to remove her clothes.
Kavanaugh, a federal appeals court judge whom President Donald Trump named to fill the seat of retired Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, says the alleged incident never happened.
“I have never done anything like what the accuser describes — to her or to anyone,” he said in a statement released through the White House. “Because this never happened, I had no idea who was making this accusation until she identified herself yesterday.”
Ford’s attorney said his client would testify about her claim and several senators, including Republican moderates, have called for a public hearing to hear the allegations.
After a day of back-and-forth negotiations, the White House announced late Monday that Kavanaugh would appear before the committee again to address the allegations. Ford is also scheduled to testify.
“Judge Kavanaugh looks forward to a hearing where he can clear his name of this false allegation,” said White House spokesman Raj Shah. “He stands ready to testify tomorrow if the Senate is ready to hear him.”
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who is on the Judiciary Committee with Hatch, is looking forward “to hearing their testimony,” his spokesman Conn Carroll said.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, had said earlier Monday the panel would be willing to set up phone calls to question Ford but declined calls to delay the confirmation vote.
“Anyone who comes forward as Dr. Ford has deserves to be heard, so I will continue working on a way to hear her out in an appropriate, precedented and respectful manner,” Grassley said in a statement, noting that the “standard procedure” is to conduct calls with the relevant parties.
Grassley said Feinstein has refused to hold such calls and condemned Democrats for holding back Ford’s letter until after Kavanaugh’s hearings and talking publicly about it only a week before the scheduled vote.
“Dr. Ford’s attorney could have approached my office, while keeping her client confidential and anonymous, so that these allegations could be thoroughly investigated,” Grassley said. “Nevertheless, we are working diligently to get to the bottom of these claims.”
Grassley later said that he’s agreed to a hearing.
“As I said earlier, anyone who comes forward as Dr. Ford has done deserves to be heard,” Grassley said. “My staff has reached out to Dr. Ford to hear her account, and they held a follow-up call with Judge Kavanaugh this afternoon. Unfortunately, committee Democrats have refused to join us in this effort. However, to provide ample transparency, we will hold a public hearing Monday to give these recent allegations a full airing.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told ABC’s “The View” that he believes Ford’s account.
“I think she's credible and I think when the investigation is finished and when she testifies and Judge Kavanaugh testifies, I think a majority of senators will find her credible,” Schumer said.
The Democratic leader said rushing the confirmation vote after the allegation surfaced is an “insult to the women of America and an insult to the majesty of the Supreme Court of the United States.”
Feinstein also defended Ford, saying that it was her choice to come forward and pushing back on attacks against her character.
“From the outset, I have believed these allegations were extremely serious and bear heavily on Judge Kavanaugh’s character,” Feinstein said. “However, as we have seen over the past few days, they also come at a price for the victim. I hope the attacks and shaming of her will stop and this will be treated with the seriousness it deserves.”
Hatch, who has been a die-hard supporter of Kavanaugh since his nomination, sided with the judge after the revelations.
“The judge, who I know very, very well, is an honest man, said this didn’t happen,” Hatch said.
In a prepared statement, Hatch said that “any accuser deserves to be heard," adding that he backed Grassley’s efforts for “due diligence in the regular order” of committee procedure.
“I remain deeply disappointed by the way Senate Democrats have so grossly mishandled these accusations thus far. It seems in bad faith to hold this information from Republicans and from the FBI for over a month and then to suggest at the final hour that the only path forward is delaying the confirmation to allow the FBI to investigate. By working with us to get the facts expeditiously — and by maintaining Chairman Grassley’s initial timeline — Democrats can prove that their first priority is the truth, not politics.”
Trump said Monday that Kavanaugh has “never even had a little blemish on his record” and also criticized Democrats for not coming forward with this information sooner.
The president, though, said he was fine with a “little delay” in Kavanaugh's confirmation.
Ford, who had attempted to stay anonymous in sending her letter, spoke to The Post about the alleged assault and passed a lie-detector test as well as offered up records from therapy sessions where she revealed the accusation.
While Republicans hold a small majority in the Senate, some key votes on Kavanaugh's confirmation signaled they wanted further hearings about the allegation against the nominee.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, tweeted that “Professor Ford and Judge Kavanaugh should both testify under oath before the Judiciary Committee.”
All 10 Democrats on the Judiciary Committee sent a letter Monday urging Grassley to delay the Thursday vote so that the FBI could fully investigate Ford’s accusation.
“Once the FBI has completed its independent work," the Democrats wrote, “we hope that we can work together in a bipartisan manner to decide on next steps.”
Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Bob Corker of Tennessee, both Republicans who are not seeking re-election, also said Monday the vote should be postponed.
Former presidential nominee Mitt Romney, a Republican seeking to fill Hatch's seat when he finishes his term this year, retweeted a comment from Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., saying that Ford needs to be heard.
“Her accusation is serious,” Romney said in a statement Monday. “She deserves to be given a full and respectful opportunity to testify before the Judiciary Committee."
Graham had also argued in his tweet that Ford should testify quickly so that the “process can continue as scheduled.”
Jenny Wilson, a Democrat running for the Senate against Romney, said that Ford’s allegation is “credible and disturbing.”
“The Senate has a constitutional responsibility to thoroughly vet an appointee to the highest court in our land, and as such should delay their vote until a thorough, public, and transparent investigation is completed,” Wilson said in a statement. “I believe the language of the Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans’ statement attempts to make a partisan issue of Ms. Ford’s allegation.”