At Thursday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Christine Blasey Ford’s sexual assault allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Chairman Chuck Grassley claimed he had done everything he could to collect information about allegations made by two other women. “Every opportunity you have to go and question a witness, every opportunity that we’ve had to find more truth and to find more facts, we have done it,” he said, adding that his staff had made eight requests for evidence from attorneys representing one of them, Kavanaugh’s Yale classmate Deborah Ramirez, but that the “committee can’t do an investigation if attorneys are stonewalling.”
Emails to the attorneys from Grassley staffer Mike Davis, the chief counsel for nominations on the committee, were leaked to conservative news outlets on the day before the hearing that ostensibly backed up the senator’s words.
But on Friday, the New Yorker, the magazine that first reported Ramirez’s story — she alleged that Kavanaugh thrust his exposed penis in her face during a drunken dorm room party, causing her to touch it against her will — published a more extensive email correspondence that revealed it was Davis who stonewalled her attorneys, repeatedly making requests for more information before proceeding further even as they made clear they were willing to talk to the committee and had additional evidence, including witnesses.
Specifically, Davis repeatedly questioned one of Ramirez’s lawyers, John Clune, on whether his client had more information than what was published by the New Yorker and if she would agree to give committee investigators testimony. Clune told Davis that Ramirez wanted an FBI investigation of the allegations against Kavanaugh and that, “on appropriate terms, she would also agree to be interviewed in person.” He requested more information about “whatever process you are contemplating” so that the legal team could “advise the client accordingly.”
Davis refused to move forward with phone calls, insisting that Clune provide a written statement to committee investigators of the evidence he’d been requesting. Instead, Clune followed up with a Democratic staffer included on the email exchange, Heather Sawyer, but was cut off by Davis, who again insisted on a written statement.
“As you’re aware, Ms. Ramirez’s counsel have repeatedly requested to speak with the Committee, on a bipartisan basis, to determine how to proceed,” Sawyer replied. “You refused. I’ve never encountered an instance where the Committee has refused even to speak with an individual or counsel. I am perplexed as to why this is happening here, except that it seems designed to ensure that the Majority can falsely claim that Ms. Ramirez and her lawyers refused to cooperate. That simply is not true.”
Davis protested, saying he’d reached out seven times over the past 48 hours. Eventually, one of Ramirez’s attorneys provided a written request for an FBI investigation that added she was willing to speak to the committee but was being refused. A different Republican aide responded to a request for comment from the New Yorker about the emails, claiming that the committee had reached out soon after the initial article was published and in a bipartisan manner but that Ramirez’s lawyers had refused to provide any information.
Clune disputed that in a statement for the magazine. He had responded promptly to all of Davis’ requests, he said, but it quickly became clear that Republicans were trying to suss out information about the witnesses more than anything else. “Since it was only the majority staff that made these demands, as the minority staff questioned those demands as unprecedented, we became suspicious that any disclosures we might file would be shared inappropriately with Judge Kavanaugh or others to prepare and attack Debbie’s account,” Clune told the New Yorker.
He added that his team since provided more written information but received no response, calling it “remarkable” that the committee acknowledged the information in the article about Ramirez was enough to go on to question Kavanaugh yet repeatedly refused to even discuss it with her attorneys over the phone.
On Friday, Grassley reconvened the committee for a vote to pass Kavanaugh’s nomination along to the full Senate with a recommendation that it confirm him to the Supreme Court. Before the vote, Grassley and his Republican colleagues on the committee rejected a motion from Democrat Richard Blumenthal to subpoena Mark Judge, a friend of Kavanaugh’s whom Ford said was in the same room when Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her during high school. Although Judge’s testimony, as well as Ramirez’s, could have provided the committee with additional details corroborating Ford’s account, Grassley said no burden of proof was met for her claims, even though he found her “sincere.” He added that he realized that “a lot of people are irritated right now” and also chided Democrats for being “hostile” toward Kavanaugh the day before.
The committee approved Kavanaugh’s recommendation by an 11-10 party-line vote, but not before Arizona Republican Jeff Flake, who earlier in the day said he would vote yes to confirm Kavanaugh, caused a dramatic scene to play out as he negotiated behind closed doors with Democrats and Republicans on the committee and said he would not vote in favor of the judge without a 10-day FBI investigation first. A confirmation vote scheduled for next week was subsequently delayed as President Trump ordered an investigation.