by Kevin Daley
Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee have hired a female attorney to question Dr. Christine Blasey Ford at Thursday’s hearing on the sexual assault allegation she lodged against Judge Brett Kavanaugh, which is unlikely to include Deborah Ramirez.
The move is meant to improve the optics of Thursday’s proceedings — the particulars of which are still taking shape — as all 11 Republicans on the committee are men.
“We have hired a female assistant to go on staff and to ask these questions in a respectful and professional way,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said at a Tuesday press conference. “We want this hearing to be handled very professionally, not a political sideshow like you saw put on by the Democrats when they were questioning Judge Kavanaugh.”
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley told reporters that he would not disclose the name of the individual tapped for Thursday’s proceedings out of concern for her safety, while cautioning that he was unaware of any specific threats against her.
It’s not clear what format the hearing will take. Grassley has not yet disclosed how much time lawmakers or their proxies will be given for questions, among other outstanding items. The possibility that Ramirez — the second woman to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct — would testify did not appear likely as of Tuesday afternoon.
In a Tuesday letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the ranking Democrat on the panel, Grassley said he did not believe that Ramirez’s allegation has any bearing on Blasey Ford’s testimony. GOP Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana told reporters that Ramirez’s lawyer did not seem inclined to cooperate with the Judiciary Committee.
“Our counsel repeatedly tried to reach him,” Kennedy said. “They finally did reach him, and he said we are not issuing a statement. He said if you want our statement, read the New Yorker.”
Feinstein left open the possibility that Blasey Ford would not actually appear, telling Fox News that the GOP’s decision to use outside counsel could prompt her to skip the hearing, as her attorneys have repeatedly insisted that lawmakers should lead the questioning.
Should the hearing in fact take place, the committee will convene in a smaller space with limited seating for onlookers and reporters. In a Saturday letter to Grassley, Blasey Ford requested that the proceeding take place in a controlled, respectful setting.
“I am relying on [my attorneys] and you to ensure that the Committee will agree to conditions that will allow me to testify in a fair setting that won’t disrupt families and become a media TV show,” the letter reads.
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