Republicans press for Kavanaugh vote if accuser won't testify

As Democrats called for a full FBI investigation of sexual misconduct allegations made against Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Republican Senators on Wednesday said that if Dr. Christine Blasey Ford decides not to testify at a hearing set for next Monday, then the GOP should move forward to vote on the Kavanaugh nomination, as Republicans set a Friday morning deadline for Kavanaugh's accuser to decide if she will tell her story to Senators.

"We’re going to continue to try to hear from Dr. Ford in any format she's comfortable with," said Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has set a hearing for Monday for Dr. Ford - but so far, Ford and her lawyers have not indicated if she will testify.

In a letter sent on Wednesday, Grassley told Ford that she has until 10 am on Friday to submit documents and testimony for the Monday hearing, setting a deadline to force a decision on whether she will testify about her claim that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a party when they were teenagers in the early 1980's.

The announcement of that Friday deadline came as more GOP Senators were publicly saying that if Dr. Ford won't tell her story, then it's time to move on, and confirm Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"It is imperative the Judiciary committee move forward on the Kavanaugh nomination and a committee vote be taken ASAP," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who accused Democrats of an effort to delay action until after the November elections.

"Republicans extended a hand in good faith," said Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN). "If we don’t hear from both sides on Monday, let’s vote."

"The Judiciary Committee is attempting to investigate Dr. Ford’s allegation but can’t without her testimony," added Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).

One key member of that panel, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), pleaded with Ford to show up on Monday.

But Ford and Democrats argue a Monday hearing is too rushed - they want a broader FBI investigation that looks into her allegation against Kavanaugh.

"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," Ford's lawyer wrote in a Tuesday night letter to the GOP chairman, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA).

"Her allegations are credible and serious and should be treated as such," said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL). "The FBI must conduct an independent investigation before a hearing is held."

"Dr. Ford’s request for a basic investigation of these allegations before a public hearing is completely reasonable," said Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), as Democrats tried to shift the focus back on to Judge Kavanaugh.

While the feeling in the U.S. Capitol for much of Tuesday was one of uncertainty - an unusual situation where members in both parties weren't sure where this political drama was going next - Wednesday brought the sense that Republicans were prepared to move on, especially if Ford refused to accept the invitation to tell her story, whether in public or private session.

At the White House, President Trump again made clear his support for Judge Kavanaugh, and gently stepped into the question of whether Ford should speak out on her charge.

"I'd really want to see her. I really would want to see what she has to say," the President told reporters, just before flying to the Carolinas to see damage from Hurricane Florence, as Mr. Trump stuck with his Supreme Court pick.

"I would say this: I think he's an extraordinary man. I think he's a man of great intellect, as I've been telling you. And he has an unblemished record," the President added.

For now, the situation seems to boil down to two basic options:

+ If Ford decides to testify on Monday, then anything could happen to the Kavanaugh nomination in a politically explosive showdown on national television.

+ If Ford does not testify, then Republicans seem ready to push ahead for a vote on the President's Supreme Court nominee.

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