Sen. Hatch says Senate must vet allegation against Kavanaugh but slams Dems for holding back information until now

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, right, meets with Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, July 11, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Washington • Sen. Orrin Hatch said Tuesday he welcomed further vetting of an accusation of an almost-four-decade-old assault by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh but railed – again – against Democrats for holding back the allegation until the week before a now-rescheduled committee vote.

Hatch has said he believes Kavanaugh’s denial that he never tried to force himself on a teenage girl when they were both in high school. In a series of tweets Tuesday, he said that Republicans are making concessions to move the vote to hear from the accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, and Kavanaugh on Monday, but Democrats are being obstructionists.

“Reminder that NONE of this was necessary had these accusations been given to the FBI six weeks ago for an apolitical investigation out of public eye,” Hatch's office tweeted. “But because Republicans and Kavanaugh himself first heard them in the media there really was no alternative.”

“Democrats are being increasingly transparent that their game plan was about delay all along,” Hatch added.

Ford came forward publicly Sunday to say Kavanaugh pinned her down and assaulted her at a house party when they were teenagers. Her attorney has said Ford would testify about the alleged incident, but Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley says she has not responded to requests so far to coordinate.

Grassley told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that the offer stands but it was unclear if a proposed Monday hearing – one added so Ford could tell her story and Kavanaugh could confront the allegations – would go forward.

"We have reached out to her in the last 36 hours, three or four times, by email, and we have not heard from them," Grassley said. "So it kind of raises the question, do they want to come to the public hearing or not?"

The Judiciary Committee, on which Hatch and Sen. Mike Lee of Utah both sit, was slated to vote Thursday on Kavanaugh’s appointment to fill retired Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy’s seat, but the vote is off while the parties figure out their way forward after Ford’s accusation.

Senate Democrats charged Tuesday that no hearing should be held until the FBI investigates Ford’s claim and urged reopening Kavanaugh’s background check.

“The need for the FBI to perform its due diligence has become even more important in light of Chairman Grassley’s announcement that he plans to move forward with a hearing on this matter next Monday,” all 10 Democrats on the Judiciary Committee said in a letter.

“The committee should have the completed report before any hearing occurs and we ask that you take immediate steps to make sure that we have the FBI’s report before we proceed,” they continued.

President Donald Trump, who nominated Kavanaugh, signaled he didn't want the FBI to probe the alleged incident.

““I don’t think the FBI should be involved because they don’t want to be involved,” Trump said Tuesday. “As you say, this is not really their thing. The senators will do a good job” reviewing the allegation.

Meanwhile, a friend of Kavanaugh’s, who Ford alleges helped trap her in a room at a suburban Washington home while Kavanaugh groped her and tried to remove her clothes, said Tuesday he has no interest in testifying.

“I have no memory of this alleged incident,” Mark Judge states in a letter sent by his lawyer, Barbara Van Gelder, and released by the Judiciary Committee. “Brett Kavanaugh and I were friends in high school but I do not recall the party described in Dr. Ford’s letter. More to the point, I never saw Brett act in the manner Dr. Ford describes.”

Ford, a research psychologist and biostatistician in California, had initially sent a letter raising concerns about Kavanaugh’s actions in high school to her congresswoman. The letter was forwarded to Sen. Diane Feinstein, who later sent it to the FBI. Ford, who originally wanted to be anonymous, identified herself in a Washington Post story on Sunday as the alleged victim.

Hatch, an ardent supporter of Kavanaugh's appointment to the high court, said Monday that Ford must be “mistaken” and even if the allegation was true, Kavanaugh is a “good man” and senators would judge him for who he is now.

“I think she’s mistaken,” Hatch told CNN. “I think she’s mistaking something, but I don’t know, I mean, I don’t know her."

"If that was true,” Hatch added, “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."

Also Tuesday, Anita Hill, whose allegations of sexual harassment by then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas roiled his confirmation in 1991, wrote an op-ed in The New York Times that senators should approach dealing with this accusation better than her situation was handled.

Thomas was confirmed – though by a 52-28 margin, the closest in modern history – but only after days of testimony from witnesses about his interactions with Hill in different government jobs.

Hill, now a professor at Brandeis University, said that “with the current heightened awareness of sexual violence comes heightened accountability for our representatives.”

“To do better, the 2018 Senate Judiciary Committee must demonstrate a clear understanding that sexual violence is a social reality to which elected representatives must respond,” she wrote in The Times. “A fair, neutral and well-thought-out course is the only way to approach Dr. Blasey and Judge Kavanaugh’s forthcoming testimony.”

One more word of caution, Hill added: “Do not rush these hearings. Doing so would not only signal that sexual assault accusations are not important — hastily appraising this situation would very likely lead to facts being overlooked that are necessary for the Senate and the public to evaluate.”