By Lisa Mascaro and Mary Clare Jalonick - Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing Thursday for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, a woman who says he sexually assaulted her as a teenager, as a claim of sexual misconduct emerged from another woman.
The New Yorker magazine reported Sunday night that Senate Democrats were investigating a second woman’s accusation of sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh dating to the 1983-84 academic year, Kavanaugh’s first at Yale University.
The New Yorker said 53-year-old Deborah Ramirez described the incident in an interview after being contacted by the magazine. Ramirez recalled that Kavanaugh exposed himself at a drunken dormitory party, thrust his penis in her face, and caused her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away, the magazine reported.
In a statement provided by the White House, Kavanaugh said the event “did not happen” and that the allegation was “a smear, plain and simple.” A White House spokeswoman added in a second statement that the allegation was “designed to tear down a good man.”
The magazine reported that Ramirez was reluctant at first to speak publicly “partly because her memories contained gaps because she had been drinking at the time of the alleged incident.” She also acknowledged reluctance “to characterize Kavanaugh’s role in the alleged incident with certainty.”
The magazine reports that after “six days of carefully assessing her memories and consulting with her attorney, Ramirez said that she felt confident enough of her recollections” to recall the incident.
The new information came hours after the Senate committee agreed to a date and time for a hearing after nearly a week of uncertainty over whether Ford would appear to tell her story.
The agreement and the latest accusation set the stage for a dramatic showdown as Kavanaugh and Ford each tell their side of the story. The developments could also determine the fate of Kavanaugh’s confirmation, which hangs on the votes of a handful of senators.
It had seemed assured before Ford, a 51-year-old California college professor, went public a week ago with her allegation that Kavanaugh assaulted her at a party when they were in high school.
Kavanaugh, 53, an appellate court judge, has denied Ford’s allegation and said he wanted to testify as soon as possible to clear his name.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, wrangled with Ford’s lawyers for the last week over the exact terms of her appearance. She made several requests, some of which were accommodated — a Thursday hearing, three days later than originally scheduled, and a smaller hearing room with less press access to avoid a media circus, for example. Grassley’s staff also agreed to let Ford testify without Kavanaugh in the room, for there to be only one camera in the room, “adequate” breaks and a high security presence.
The committee said it would not negotiate on other points, though, including Ford’s desire for additional witnesses and a request to testify after, not before, Kavanaugh.
“As with any witness who comes before the Senate, the Senate Judiciary Committee cannot hand over its constitutional duties to attorneys for outside witnesses,” Mike Davis, Grassley’s top nominations counsel, wrote in an email exchange with Ford’s lawyers obtained by The Associated Press. “The committee determines which witnesses to call, how many witnesses to call, in what order to call them, and who will question them. These are non-negotiable.”
Ford’s lawyers said it was still unclear who will ask questions, as Republicans were trying to hire an outside female counsel who could take over the questioning. The 11 senators on the GOP side of the dais are all men, which could send an unwanted message on live television against the backdrop of the #MeToo era. They could also use Republican staff attorneys on the committee.
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