Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley kicked off the hearing where Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh will testify about allegations he groped her with an apology to both witnesses.
“They and their families have received vile threats,” Grassley said. “What they have endured ought to be considered by all of us as unacceptable and a poor reflection on the state of civility in our democracy.”
He said he intended to make Thursday’s hearing to be “safe, comfortable and dignified.”
The rest of Grassley’s remarks took a more defensive tone, as he sought to rebut the criticisms of Republicans’ response to Blasey Ford’s allegations. Thursday’s hearing represented a precarious political moment for Senate Republicans, who are determined to put Kavanaugh on the court but do not want to see their control of the upper chamber put in jeopardy during November’s midterms because they alienated women voters.
Grassley went on to recount how this moment came about, from the time Kavanaugh was nominated, to the FBI background checks he already received, to how the allegations did not come up during his initial round of Judiciary Committee hearings earlier this month.
Those FBI background checks did not turn up a “whiff of any issue, any issue at all, related in anyway to inappropriate sexual behavior.”
He defended how he handled the allegations once they did become public. His own committee investigated the claims, despite calls by Blasey Ford and Democrats that the FBI get involved.
“The process and procedure is what the committee always does,” Grassley said.
He also addressed Democrats’ criticism of the Judiciary GOP’s move to bring in an outside prosecutor, Rachel Mitchell, to handle Republicans’ questioning during the testimony.
“I see no basis for complaint other than the just plain politics,” Grassley said, before going into an extended appraisal of Mitchell’s qualifications.
Grassley also brought up the other women who have brought accusations of misconduct against Kavanaugh. He said that those women’s attorneys had not cooperated with his committee’s attempts to further vet their claims.
“The committee can’t’ do an investigation if the attorneys are stonewalling,” Grassley said.