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Kavanaugh Again Denies Sexual Assault Allegation


Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh issued a new statement this morning denying again that he sexually assaulted a woman named Christine Blasey Ford more than 30 years ago when they were both in high school. All 10 Democrats who sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee are now calling for the committee chair, Republican Senator Charles Grassley, to delay the scheduled vote on the nomination, which is supposed to happen on Thursday.

NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley is following all these developments and joins me now in the studio. Scott, can you start off by just reminding us exactly what we know of this accusation against Brett Kavanaugh?

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Well, in an interview with The Washington Post, Christine Blasey Ford described a high school party from the early 1980s at which she said a drunken Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed, attempted to pull off her clothes, covered her mouth as she tried to scream. And she said she was able to escape after a friend of Kavanaugh's, Mark Judge, jumped on them. Her lawyer told MORNING EDITION this morning that Ford's recollection of those events is crystal-clear and that she is willing to share them with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

MARTIN: Which - Brett Kavanaugh has said he, too, would answer questions if the committee needs that kind of information. He is again denying this, though, releasing this statement. What else does it say?

HORSLEY: That's right. He had initially denied this allegation on Friday when the identity of his accuser was not known. He reiterated that denial this morning. In a statement issued through the White House, he said, this is a completely false allegation. I've never done anything like what the accuser describes to her or to anyone else. And he, too, said he is willing to speak to the Senate Judiciary Committee and answer any questions in whatever forum the committee deems appropriate.

MARTIN: NPR confirms that Brett Kavanaugh did appear at the White House this morning. I mean, are we getting any response from the White House on this?

HORSLEY: The White House is standing behind the president's nominee. And we believe that his appearance at the White House is just routine as they try to figure out how to deal with this - wouldn't want to read too much into that. But even as the White House is sticking by the nominee, Kellyanne Conway, White House counselor, went on television this morning to say this woman should not be insulted; she should not be ignored; this woman will be heard. So they are kind of walking a tightrope here. They're operating in a #MeToo environment, and they want to show some sensitivity to Brett Kavanaugh's accuser.

MARTIN: Anything from President Trump at this point, a man who we should just remind listeners again has his own #MeToo allegations against him?

HORSLEY: Thus far, the president has been silent.

MARTIN: Democrats, as I noted, are all calling for this vote on Kavanaugh's confirmation to be delayed. So at this point is at least one Republican that we know of, Jeff Flake of Arizona. Is Kavanaugh's confirmation in jeopardy at this point? Can we say that?

HORSLEY: Yes. And I think Senator Flake's suggestion that the vote might be delayed is probably going to carry more weight than those 10 Democrats on the committee. Remember; Democrats are in the minority. They have been trying to stall this all along. They wanted to postpone his confirmation hearing, and that effort went nowhere. But the fact that Senator Flake is now also saying that the vote might have to be delayed so that these accusations can be fully vetted means that the vote could be postponed. It's initially - it's scheduled to happen on Thursday.

MARTIN: And so far we haven't heard from Chuck Grassley, whether or not he is indeed going to invite Christine Blasey Ford or Brett Kavanaugh to testify publicly.

HORSLEY: No. Chuck Grassley, the Republican chairman of the committee, was scrambling yesterday to arrange staff telephone calls with both Kavanaugh and Ford. Senator Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the committee, says that's not sufficient. So we'll see what forum they decide is the appropriate way to go.

MARTIN: NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley - thanks, Scott.

HORSLEY: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rachel Martin is a host of Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.