23 Sep 2018

US Supreme Court nominee accuser agrees to testify

10:58 am on 23 September 2018

The woman accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault has agreed to testify against him next week.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh is sworn in during his US Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing to be an Associate Justice on the US Supreme Court in Washington.

US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh denies the allegations by Christine Blasey Ford. Photo: AFP

Lawyers for Dr Christine Blasey Ford said she accepted the Senate Judiciary Committee's request to appear before them to be questioned on the alleged attack at a party in 1982.

Some reports say she will testify on Wednesday or Thursday.

Judge Kavanaugh has repeatedly denied the allegations.

The allegations, which emerged in the US media last week, have delayed Judge Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court.

Dr Ford, a university professor, had originally been granted a deadline on Friday, which later was extended to Saturday, to agree to testify.

Prof Ford's lawyer Debra Katz said in a letter to the committee on Saturday that her client had accepted the request but wanted to "continue our negotiations" on the details.

She also criticised the process and said some of what the senators had been proposing was "fundamentally inconsistent with the Committee's promise of a fair, impartial investigation into her allegations" - but it was not clear to what she was referring.

How did the allegations come to light?

The allegation against Judge Kavanaugh became public last week, after it emerged Prof Ford had detailed the alleged assault in a confidential letter to the top Democratic senator on the judiciary committee, Dianne Feinstein, in July.

As the judge neared confirmation, news about the letter leaked to US media. Ms Feinstein then confirmed she had passed it on to the FBI.

After days of continued media speculation, Prof Ford went on record in a Washington Post article as the mystery accuser, detailing the alleged assault.

She said Mr Kavanaugh had tried to drunkenly remove her clothing at a party, pinned her to a bed and covered her mouth when she was 15 and he was 17.

Since then, her lawyers have been in back-and-forth negotiations with the judicial committee, trying to agree on terms for her to testify.

She had asked for a number of preconditions, including not testifying with Mr Kavanaugh in the room and the subpoenaing of his friend, Mark Judge, who she said had witnessed the alleged sexual assault.

What has been the reaction?

Some Republicans, including President Trump, have accused her and Democratic politicians of deliberately trying to delay and obstruct the judge's confirmation, and urged them to push forward the process.

The feelings are strong on both sides - with both Prof Ford and Brett Kavanaugh and his wife receiving threats and rallies of support over the matter.

Why is the hearing important?

The choice of a new justice for the Supreme Court is pivotal, as it often gives the final word on highly contentious laws and its nine judges have an immense impact on US public life.

As Mr Trump's pick, Brett Kavanaugh has to first be approved by the Senate before he can take his seat - but before that vote can happen, he has to be approved by the judiciary committee, where Prof Ford will now testify.

The Senate is made up of 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats - so her testimony on the allegations could prove key.


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