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Senate Judiciary GOPs Bringing in Woman to Question Ford at Kavanaugh Hearing

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), accompanied by other GOP leaders, takes a question from a reporter following a closed-door policy meeting at the Capitol on Sept. 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON — The Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee will bring in an unnamed woman to question Brett Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford at Thursday’s hearing, while Senate Democrats on the panel have chosen to directly question Kavanaugh and Ford about sexual assault allegations.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) scheduled a committee meeting for Friday, the day after the hearing. Kavanaugh’s nomination is on the agenda along with nine other judicial nominees and two pieces of legislation, so there’s no guarantee a Kavanaugh vote will happen that day.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the hearing was discussed during today’s closed caucus luncheon, telling reporters afterward that “our goal is to have a respectful hearing, which is what we believe Dr. Ford would like to have.”

“As you know, it is not uncommon to have professional staff do questioning in a situation like this. I’m reminded of Watergate, where Fred Thompson actually did most of the key questioning for Senator Baker, and I believe Sam Dash did it for the chair,” he added. “So that’s the way the hearing will be conducted, and once the hearing’s over it’s our plan to move forward in the very near future.”

“As the father of two adult daughters, as I’m approaching this hearing I’m thinking I want to make sure I treat Dr. Ford the same way my daughters would be treated in the event they were making an accusation, or my mother, or my wife,” added Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas). “To me, that’s I think the appropriate way that — for me to think about it, and I think maybe others might benefit from thinking about it that same way. But we need to also remember that this process has to be fair to both the nominee and to Dr. Ford.”

McConnell said that lawmakers “ought to go into these hearings with a presumption of innocence, but hear the argument on the other side, the testimony of the other side so that the members of the Senate can make a decision here on a very, very significant matter.”

He predicted, “I’m confident we’re going to win. I’m confident this — he will be confirmed in the very near future.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who doesn’t sit on the Judiciary Committee, where there are no Republican women, told reporters on Capitol Hill today that “it’s very important to take allegations of those who have come forward, to take them seriously and I think we need to go into this hearing with the view that we will listen to Dr. Ford’s story, we will listen to Judge Kavanaugh’s response and then we will weigh what we have heard.”

“I think it’s important to have the hearing, to get this out on the record and then to move on from there,” she said.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Democrats are still calling for the FBI to reopen Kavanaugh’s background investigation.

“It’s sort of very interesting that our Republican colleagues, who want to rush this through, are afraid to question Dr. Ford themselves, and have to put a surrogate there,” he told reporters of the GOP plan to bring in a woman to question Ford.

Schumer said he disagreed with McConnell’s assertion that Kavanaugh “deserves the presumption of innocence” because “it’s not a legal proceeding; it’s a fact-finding proceeding.”

“There’s no presumption of innocence or guilt when you have a nominee before you. There is rather, find the facts. Find the facts, and then let the Senate and let the American people make their judgment not whether the person’s guilty or innocent, but whether the person deserves to have the office for which he or she is chosen, plain and simple,” he added.