Kavanaugh accuser calls for FBI investigation into alleged assault

Christine Blasey Ford says she has received death threats since speaking out

US president Donald Trump says that he feels "badly" for his supreme court nominee Brett Kavanaugh as his nomination hangs in the balance due to sexual assault allegations from 1982. Video: The White House

 

The stand-off between Republicans and Democrats over Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court continued on Wednesday as the woman at the centre of sexual assault allegations called for an FBI investigation to be opened before she agrees to testify.

In a letter sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee, lawyers for Christine Blasey Ford effectively ruled out her appearance at a planned public hearing next Monday, instead stating that an FBI investigation should be the “first step”.

“A full investigation by law enforcement officials will ensure that the crucial facts and witnesses in this matter are assessed in a non-partisan manner, and that the committee is fully informed before conducting any hearing or making any decisions,” the letter said.

The letter also revealed that Ms Blasey Ford has been the target of “vicious harassment and even death threats” since she publicly accused Mr Kavanaugh of assaulting her when both were teenagers.

“As a result of these kind of threats, her family was forced to relocate out of their home. Her email has been hacked, and she has been impersonated online,” the letter said.

Committee hearing

But with congressional Republicans and US president Donald Trump indicating that they would not ask the FBI to reopen a background investigation into Mr Kavanaugh, it appeared likely that the committee hearing on Monday would proceed without her.

Committee chairman Chuck Grassley wrote to Ms Blasey Ford’s lawyers requesting that their client confirm whether she is attending by Friday. He also suggested that he could send aides to interview Mr Blasey Ford in California.

But Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the committee, said that the Senate nomination should be postponed until an FBI investigation is complete, noting that “the FBI routinely investigates allegations like Dr Ford’s”.

Speaking on his way to North Carolina to inspect the storm damage from Hurricane Florence, Mr Trump said that it was “very hard for me to imagine anything happened” between Mr Kavanaugh and his accuser. He repeated his descriptions of the Supreme Court nominee as an “extraordinary man” with an “unblemished record”. He said he would like to see what Mr Kavanaugh’s accuser “has to say”.

“If she shows up that would be wonderful. If she doesn’t show up that would be unfortunate.”

Escalated

The president also escalated his attacks on attorney general Jeff Sessions on Wednesday. In some of his sharpest comments to date, Mr Trump delivered a scathing attack on the former senator, who recused himself from the Russia investigation last year.

“I don’t have an attorney general. It’s very sad,” he said, in an interview with The Hill. Criticising Mr Sessions’s performance at his nomination hearing more than a year ago, Mr Trump said he had come across “very poorly”.

“I mean, he was mixed up and confused, and people that worked with him for, you know, a long time in the Senate were not nice to him, but he was giving very confusing answers,” he said. “Answers that should have been easily answered. And that was a rough time for him.”

Although he repeated his displeasure at Mr Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, which effectively gave responsibility for the investigation to deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, Mr Trump indicated that he was unlikely to fire him.

“We’ll see what happens. A lot of people have asked me to do that. And I guess I study history, and I say I just want to leave things alone, but it was very unfair what he did.”

Mr Trump also appeared to criticise Mr Sessions’s handling of immigration – an issue that is of major concern to many Republican voters.

“I’m not happy at the border, I’m not happy with numerous things, not just this,” he said, referring to the Russia investigation.