Senate Judiciary Committee investigates accusations

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Allegations of sexual assault by Brett Kavanaugh leveled by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford threaten to end his nomination for the Supreme Court.
USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – While the nation was captivated by the contentious negotiations this week over whether Dr. Christine Blasey Ford would testify against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, the Senate Judiciary Committee was investigating her claims by contacting people who may be able to shed light on what might have happened more than three decades ago. 

Throughout the week, the committee reached out to several people who might have information about a house party in 1982 where Ford, a 51-year-old college professor, says she was sexually assaulted by Ford, a source with knowledge of the investigation told USA TODAY, adding several people have offered statements to the committee. 

Among those who have been contacted: a friend of Ford, who USA TODAY isn’t naming to protect her privacy because she is seemingly not connected to the confirmation process.

The committee reached out to the friend on Tuesday as someone who was possibly in attendance at the party where Ford alleges an inebriated Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed, groped her, put his hand over her mouth to stifle her screams and tried to remove her clothes. 

Kavanaugh has repeatedly and categorically denied the allegations.

The committee asked the friend if she would agree to have a confidential phone call with minority and majority staff so she could be asked about the allegations against Kavanaugh, according to an email exchange obtained by USA TODAY. 

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But, it appears, the woman doesn’t remember the party described by Dr. Ford. 

Through her lawyer, the woman told the committee on Saturday that she does not know Kavanaugh and she didn’t remember being at a party with him, emails show. 

The only other person who has been publicly identified as being contacted by the committee is Mark Judge, a high school friend of Kavanaugh. Ford has said Judge witnessed the alleged assault. 

Ford told the committee he has no memory of the incident and does not want to testify.

“I did not ask to be involved in this matter nor did anyone asked me to be involved,” Judge said in a written statement forwarded to the committee by his attorney. “The only reason I am involved is that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford remembers me as the other person in the room during the alleged assault.”

More: Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford tentatively agrees to testify Thursday

More: Brett Kavanaugh’s friend Mark Judge declines to testify about alleged sexual assault

The correspondence reveals the behind-the-scenes work of the Republican-led committee as it attempts to investigate Ford’s accusations, even though it could affect the outcome of Kavanaugh’s appointment to the nation’s highest court. 

Ford’s attorney, Debbie Katz, said it wasn’t surprising that someone wouldn’t remember events at a party from 30 years ago. 

“As Dr Ford has said, she did not share her story publicly or with anyone for years following the incident with Judge Kavanaugh,” Katz said in a statement, adding it was an “unremarkable” party for others so it would make sense that her friend might not remember it. “Dr. Ford of course will never forget this gathering because of what happened to her there.”

The committee’s investigation has been in the backdrop of a  week filled with contentious negotiations between Ford, her attorneys and the committee leadership over whether she would testify. 

On Saturday, a tentative agreement was made for Ford to appear before Congress on Thursday. Other details over her appearance haven’t been outlined and the back-and-forth was sure to continue on Sunday and into next week. 

Some of those details included whether Ford would testify to the committee before or after Kavanaugh; whether the committee would subpoena a possible witness to the alleged assault, Kavanaugh’s boyhood friend Mark Judge; and who would conduct the questioning. 

Republicans had floated the idea of having a female committee staffer question Ford, to avoid the optics of the panel’s all-male Republican roster interrogating Ford. 

It’s unclear whether Saturday’s discussions between Ford and committee leadership resolved any of the details. 

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