Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, wrote a letter to Christine Blasey Ford’s lawyers Thursday asking for records and descriptions of communications with the offices of Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Mazie Hirono “in light of recently uncovered information.”
The new request, revealed in a late-Thursday press release sent hours after senators got a chance to read the FBI’s report on its investigation into the sexual misconduct allegations levied against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, was coupled with Grassley’s third attempt to ask Ford’s attorneys Debra Katz, Michael Bromwich, and Lisa Banks to share evidence cited as part of their client’s claim she was sexually assaulted by the judge when they were teenagers.
“I urge you once again, now for the third time in writing, to turn over the therapy notes, polygraph materials, and communications with The Washington Post that Dr. Ford has relied upon as evidence,” Grassley wrote at the end of his letter.
Some of those notes were given to the Washington Post and mentioned in the report last month in which Ford came forward as Kavanaugh’s first accuser. Ford’s lawyer refused the chairman’s request, saying in a letter Wednesday that they would only turn over her therapist’s notes and other documents to the FBI if she was interviewed by FBI investigators. Ford, however, was not interviewed, and the FBI completed it’s report this week. After speaking to 10 people, the FBI found “no corroboration of the allegations” made by two of Kavanaugh’s accusers, including Ford and Deborah Ramirez, according to an executive summary.
“In addition to the evidence I requested in my October 2 letter,” Grassley continued in his letter, “in light of recently uncovered information, please turn over records and descriptions of direct or indirect communications between Dr. Ford or her representatives and any of the following: (1) U.S. Senators or their staffs, particularly the offices of Senators Feinstein and Hirono, other than your communications with me and my staff in preparation for the September 27 hearing; (2) the alleged witnesses identified by Dr. Ford (Leland Keyser, Mark Judge, and Patrick “P.J.” Smyth); and (3) Debbie Ramirez, Julie Swetnick, or their representatives.”
He did not elaborate further on what “recently uncovered information” might be – the FBI’s file has not been released to the public.
Republicans have accused Democrats or members of their staff for leaking Ford’s July letter, sent to her local congresswoman, Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., and then forwarded to Feinstein, first detailing her allegation against Kavanaugh. Although in the correspondence Ford asked that her identity remain confidential, details of her allegation were leaked to the media last month, after which Feinstein sent the letter to the FBI and Ford went public in a Washington Post report as the controversy blew up.
Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, remains a top suspect for Republicans, despite her denial that neither she nor any one of her staffers leaked the letter and her explanation that she did not inform her colleagues — including Grassley — of its existence in order to protect the woman’s identity. Notably, Ryan Grim, the reporter for the Intercept who first exposed the letter’s existence, said on Twitter that he did not get it from Feinstein’s staff.
Still, President Trump recently mocked the California Democrat’s explanation and a group of Republican lawmakers sent a letter Wednesday to the House and Senate Ethics Committees requesting investigations into the leak.
Ford testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee last week that Feinstein’s office recommended the law firm Katz, Marshall & Banks, LLP, before she went public with her allegation of an early-1980s assault. Two members of the firm Feinstein’s office recommended, Debra Katz and Lisa Banks, represent Ford. Her third attorney, Michael Bromwich, also represents fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
Hirono, who hails from Hawaii, has been one of Ford’s strongest supporters and Kavanaugh’s most vocal critics. It’s unclear why she was included in Grassley’s letter Thursday, but over the weekend she failed to directly answer a question about whether she was “confident” that Democrats didn’t leak the letter. “All of these things do not focus on what we should be focusing on, which is the credibility of Judge Kavanaugh,” was her reply.
In his letter, Grassley stressed that it is still important for senators to obtain other materials Ford used to support her claims, including therapy notes, polygraph materials, and communications with the Washington Post. “Senators have a constitutional obligation to investigate and evaluate independently the President’s nominees. Our obligation is unrelated to anything the FBI does. That’s why we don’t just vote on nominees after the President loans us the FBI background investigation. We have to make our own assessment,” he wrote.
Taking a swipe at the insistence by Ford’s lawyers for the FBI to interview her, which case she would give these materials to FBI investigators, Grassley griped: “It’s not even clear to me what purpose turning over these materials to the FBI would accomplish. The FBI would simply turn over that evidence to the Senate. That is precisely the outcome I seek with this request.”
The process to confirm Kavanaugh is back in motion after being put on hold for the FBI’s investigation, which had been demanded by Democrats and some Republicans, including Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona.
Most Democrats are unsatisfied with FBI’s probe, calling it incomplete. Feinstein said Thursday the report was the “product of an incomplete investigation that was limited perhaps by the White House,” adding “The most notable part of this report is what’s not in it. The FBI did not interview Brett Kavanaugh, nor did the FBI interview Dr. Blasey Ford,” She also lamented how “Deborah Ramirez’s lawyer said he was unaware of any corroborating witnesses who were interviewed.”
Feinstein further argued that it’s “not credible” for Republicans to say testimony in last week’s hearing with Ford and Kavanaugh is a “substitute for FBI interviews.”
Ford’s lawyers too were upset with how the FBI inquiry was handled, writing in a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray that it was a “stain on the process, on the FBI and on our American ideal of justice.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has set up a procedural vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination to take place on Friday. If that hurdle is passed, a final vote on Kavanaugh will take place as early as Saturday.
The nomination Kavanaugh, who has vehemently denied all the sexual misconduct allegations he faces, remains an uncertainty given the Republican Party’s slim 51-49 hold over the Senate. Wavering GOP Sens. Flake and Susan Collins signaled they will back him after reading the FBI report, but have not come out with a firm position. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, also remains tight-lipped, and one vulnerable Democrat up for re-election this year, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, hasn’t said which way he will vote.