Ford Calls For FBI Investigation Of Alleged Sexual Assault

Sep 19, 2018
Originally published on September 19, 2018 9:53 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It is unclear now whether Christine Blasey Ford will testify under oath that Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were in high school in the '80s. The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee invited Ford to come lay out her allegations against the Supreme Court nominee on Monday. Kavanaugh, too, was asked to come answer questions. Now, Ford's attorney says she wants an FBI investigation to happen before her client will testify. Here's Ford's lawyer, Lisa Banks, speaking to host Anderson Cooper last night on CNN.

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LISA BANKS: It's not that there's a stalling tactic at play. She's more than willing to go forward and talk to the committee in whatever form that is and to assist with law enforcement in their investigation.

ANDERSON COOPER: Just not by Monday.

BANKS: Nothing of substance and nothing legitimate can happen by Monday.

MARTIN: NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson is here now. Good morning, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: What's the argument that Ford's lawyers are making for having an FBI investigation before hearing from her under oath?

LIASSON: They're making the argument that these are the kinds of charges and countercharges that should be investigated. And if they had come up earlier in the process, they probably would have been if the hearings hadn't started yet - this is the kind of thing that the FBI would check out. They would go back and look at high school yearbooks, see where this party occurred, who attended it and to see if Ford's charges were borne out by the facts...

MARTIN: Although...

LIASSON: ...Or Kavanagh's denials.

MARTIN: ...The reason it didn't come out earlier is because Ford wanted anonymity...

LIASSON: Right - she didn't...

MARTIN: ...And...

LIASSON: Right - she didn't want to come forward...

MARTIN: Right.

LIASSON: ...By name - yeah.

MARTIN: So how likely is this then to happen, an FBI investigation?

LIASSON: I think it's very unlikely. The White House says that the FBI has finished its job. It's done the background investigation. And any further investigation should be done by the investigative staff of the Senate.

MARTIN: So Republicans have said they want to hear Christine Blasey Ford out. But the subtext of their remarks is that after she is allowed to have her say, they're ready to move on. I want to play a clip from Senator John Cornyn. He's the No. 2 Republican in the Senate.

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JOHN CORNYN: We're hopeful that our Democratic colleagues will join us in making sure that we can restore some dignity and civility and decorum to the process rather than just have another repetition of what we saw during Judge Kavanaugh's earlier hearing, which is basically having a judiciary hearing by mob rule.

MARTIN: If Christine Blasey Ford does not appear to testify on Monday, I suppose it's plausible Republicans could say, we invited you. We gave you your opportunity. You declined. So we're going to move to confirm.

LIASSON: Absolutely. You even hear that from people who thought that the hearing should be delayed in order to hear from her. Jeff Flake tweeted at about midnight last night. He said that, when Dr. Ford came forward, I said her voice should be heard. I asked the Judiciary Committee to delay. Now I implore Dr. Ford to accept this invitation for Monday.

So the politics of this for Republicans are very tricky. As you heard in that clip from John Cornyn, they are very careful to blame Democrats but not to be seen as blaming Ford herself. They want to get Kavanaugh confirmed as soon as possible. And - but they don't want to treat Christine Blasey Ford in a way that would further anger suburban women voters or anger people like Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski or even Jeff Flake, whose votes are very important for this confirmation.

MARTIN: Right - and we are just weeks away now from a midterm election. You just outlined the stakes for Republicans politically speaking. What about the Democrats here?

LIASSON: I think that for Democrats, it makes it probably a little bit harder for red-state Senate incumbents like Heidi Heitkamp, for instance, or Joe Manchin or Joe Donnelly - these are the three Democrats who voted yes on Gorsuch - to vote yes on Kavanaugh. But so much of this depends on what happens or doesn't happen on Monday. It's even possible that - if all this should fall apart and Kavanagh should not be confirmed - that it could energize the Republican base right now. The Democrats are a lot more energized about the election than Republicans. But I think a lot of this depends what is going to happen on Monday.

MARTIN: And, of course, this is obviously complicated for President Trump, the man who sits atop the GOP, who has his own sexual assault allegations.

LIASSON: That's right. And what's been so fascinating to watch over the last couple of days is that Donald Trump's modus operandi in these situations, which is usually to go very aggressively against the women, against the accusers, has not been on display. He's been very careful. He has been following the playbook laid out by Kellyanne Conway, his adviser, which is that Ford should not be insulted. And he has tried to train his fire on Democrats for delaying this, but not treat Ford in a way that could make a political backlash.

MARTIN: NPR's Mara Liasson for us this morning. Thanks so much, Mara.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.