WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A lawyer for the woman accusing Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee, of sexual assault told a Senate panel the professor would be willing to testify next week if it provides “terms that are fair and which ensure her safety,” an email seen on Thursday showed.
Christine Blasey Ford, a psychology professor at Palo Alto University in California, has been given a Friday deadline to decide whether to testify at a Judiciary Committee hearing planned for Monday, but Republican lawmakers and Ford remained locked in a high-stakes standoff over whether she will appear.
The email from Ford’s lawyer, Debra Katz, was provided by a Senate aide. In it, Katz told committee staff members she would like to set up a call later on Thursday to discuss the conditions under which Ford would be prepared to testify next week.
“As you are aware, she has been receiving death threats, which have been reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and she and her family have been forced out of their home. She wishes to testify, provided that we can agree on terms that are fair and which ensure her safety,” Katz wrote.
“A hearing on Monday is not possible and the Committee’s insistence that it occur then is arbitrary in any event,” Katz said in the email.
Kavanaugh, the conservative federal appeals court judge nominated by Trump in July for the lifetime job as a Supreme Court justice, also has been invited to testify on Monday.
Ford has said Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in 1982 when both were high school students in Maryland, an allegation Kavanaugh has called “completely false.”
Chuck Grassley, the committee’s Republican chairman, on Wednesday sent a letter to Ford’s lawyers giving her until 10 a.m. on Friday to submit prepared testimony if she intended to show up on Monday.
Ford’s lawyers had said on Tuesday she would testify before the committee only if the FBI first investigated her allegation. The FBI has said it is not investigating, a decision backed by Republicans.
In the new email, Katz said, “Dr. Ford has asked me to let you know that she appreciates the various options you have suggested. Her strong preference continues to be for the Senate Judiciary Committee to allow for a full investigation prior to her testimony.”
The confirmation fight has unfolded just weeks before Nov. 6 congressional elections in which Democrats are seeking to take control of Congress from Trump’s fellow Republicans. Kavanaugh’s confirmation would solidify conservative control of the Supreme Court and further Trump’s goal of moving the high court and the broader federal judiciary to the right.
The Senate is narrowly controlled by Republicans, who have embraced the idea of a quick vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination if Ford does not to testify.
Ford came forward with the allegation in an interview published in the Washington Post last Sunday. She accused Kavanaugh of attacking her and trying to remove her clothing while he was drunk at a party when he was 17 years old and she was 15.
Dozens of protesters, most of them women, clogged the lobby of Grassley’s Senate office on Thursday. Many wore buttons with the words “I believe Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.”
They asked to speak to Grassley and were told the senator is in Iowa, according to Marcie Wells of Las Vegas, a member of the Women’s March organization that has been outspoken in opposition to Kavanaugh’s nomination.
Democrats, who opposed Kavanaugh’s confirmation even before Ford’s allegation surfaced, pressed ahead with demands for an FBI investigation.
“For this to be a fair, deliberate and open process, we need to let the FBI do its job and allow agents to conduct a full investigation of the allegations bravely brought forward by Dr. Ford,” Democratic Senator Chris Coons wrote on Twitter on Thursday.
Responding on Twitter to Democratic criticism, the Republican-led Judiciary Committee on Twitter defended Grassley’s approach and described how its staff members have contacted four people alleged to have been present at the house where the alleged incident occurred.
One of the four has yet to be publicly identified. Two others have said they have no recollection of any incident like the one described by Ford.
Twelve of Ford’s family members wrote an open letter, posted on Twitter on Wednesday by her niece, actress and singer Bridgit Mendler, referring to Ford as “highly ethical” and saying “her honesty is above reproach.”
“We believe that Chrissy has acted bravely by voicing her experience from the past, and we know how difficult this is for her. Chrissy is not someone who chooses to be in the spotlight,” the letter said.
Reporting by Lawrence Hurley, Richard Cowan and Susan Heavey; Editing by Will Dunham