WASHINGTON — Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and the woman who has accused him of sexually assaulting her decades ago will testify publicly before the Senate next Monday, setting up a potentially dramatic and politically perilous hearing that could determine the fate of his nomination.

Republicans, including President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., remained defiant as they scrambled to protect Kavanaugh’s nomination in the wake of the allegation by Christine Blasey Ford, who told The Washington Post in an interview published Sunday that Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed on her back, groped her and put his hand over her mouth at a house party in the early 1980s.

But by the end of the day, Senate Republicans had delayed a committee vote planned for Thursday and abandoned tentative plans for the matter to be handled behind closed doors amid growing calls by members of both parties for Kavanaugh and Ford to testify publicly under oath, injecting uncertainty into the nomination.

The White House said in a statement that Kavanaugh “looks forward to a hearing where he can clear his name of this false allegation” and stands poised to testify as soon as the Senate is ready to hear him.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said that his staff had contacted Ford to hear her account and held a follow-up call with Kavanaugh on Monday afternoon but that Democrats had declined to participate.

“However, to provide ample transparency, we will hold a public hearing Monday to give these recent allegations a full airing,” he said.

Trump on Monday defended Kavanaugh, praising him as “one of the finest people that anybody has known” and signaling that he supports a proposed hearing on the allegations.

“We want to go through a full process,” Trump told reporters. He added that the Senate will “go through a process and hear everybody out.”

And he criticized Democrats, who he said should have “done this a lot sooner because they had this information for many months.”

“If it takes a little delay, it’ll take a little delay,” Trump said of the confirmation process. “It will, I’m sure, work out very well.”

An attorney for Ford said Monday that Ford is willing to testify about the allegations before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In an article published Sunday, Ford told The Washington Post that one summer in the early 1980s, Kavanaugh and a friend – both “stumbling drunk,” Ford alleges – corralled her in a bedroom during a gathering of teenagers at a house in Montgomery County, Maryland.

While his friend watched, she said, Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers and clumsily attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she wore over it. When she tried to scream, she said, he put his hand over her mouth.

Kavanaugh on Monday issued a fresh denial of the allegations, which have roiled his confirmation process. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, a member of the committee, said that Kavanaugh told him in a conversation Monday that he was not present at the party in question.

“If I recall it correctly, he wasn’t even there,” Hatch said. “I believe him. He’s a person of immense integrity. I’ve known him for a long time, he’s always been straightforward, honest, truthful, and a very, very decent man.”

Ford has never said where and when the party occurred.

Democrats are insisting that the FBI handle the matter by reopening Kavanaugh’s background investigation rather than having committee staff make calls.

“In view of the enormity and seriousness of these allegations, a staff-only phone call behind closed doors is unacceptable and Democratic staff will not participate. This isn’t how things should be done and is in complete violation of how this committee has worked in the past,” Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats said in their statement.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., also called for the FBI to investigate.

“Republicans and their staff cannot investigate these allegations. They’ve already said they’re not true,” he said in remarks on the Senate floor.

“The double standard – the twisting of this body into a cruel, nasty partisanship, unprecedented in a feverish desire to fill the bench with people that the other side agrees with – it’s one of the lowest points I have seen in my years here,” Schumer said.

His remarks came shortly after McConnell took to the floor to blast Democrats for not raising Ford’s accusation earlier in the process.

“But now – now, at the 11th hour, with committee votes on schedule after Democrats have spent weeks and weeks searching for any possible reason that the nomination should be delayed – now, now, they choose to introduce this allegation,” McConnell said.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, tweeted that “Professor Ford and Judge Kavanaugh should both testify under oath before the Judiciary Committee.”


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