Prior to Christine Blasey Ford testifying in Washington, D.C. about her allegations that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her while they were in high school, she was presented multiple options for giving her testimony.
When she finally did testify on live TV in the Nation’s Capital, she seemed to indicate she was not aware that she had the option to give her testimony privately at her home in California. This raised questions about whether her attorneys gave her these options, which were presented clearly in multiple letters and emails sent by Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA). On Friday, her attorneys said they had presented her with all the letters and emails regarding her options, and that she was specifically referring to Grassley himself flying out to her to hear her testimony.
Let’s explore in detail.
On September 19, Grassley sent a letter to Ford’s attorney Debra Katz that stated Ford could testify “in either a public or closed session of the hearing.” He also stated that senate investigators had asked to speak with Ford. After explaining why the senate, and not the FBI, is investigating Ford’s claims, Grassley said that while they wait for Ford to tell her story to senators, “my staff would still welcome the opportunity to speak with Dr. Ford at a time and place convenient to her.”
On September 21, a Judiciary staffer sent an email to Katz stating Grassley “offered the ability for Dr. Ford to testify in an open session, a closed session, a public staff interview, and a private staff interview” and that he was “even willing to fly female staff investigators to meet Dr. Ford and you in California, or anywhere else, to obtain Dr. Ford’s testimony.”
Also on September 21, Grassley tweeted, in typical Grassley shorthand, that he wanted to hear Ford’s story: “Come to us or we to [you].”
On September 22, committee staff sent another email to Katz stating “committee investigators are available to meet with Dr. Ford, anywhere and anytime, if she would prefer to provide her testimony outside of a hearing setting.”
At the public hearing on September 27, Ford indicated that she “wasn’t clear” on what Grassley’s offer for testimony was. This raised questions about whether her attorneys kept this information from her, and some questioned whether they should be disbarred for contributing to their client’s stress by having to fly and testify in public.
Ford was asked by sex crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell whether it was “communicated to you by your counsel or someone else, that the committee had asked to interview you and that – that they offered to come out to California to do so?”
Ford’s attorney, Michael Bromwich, took over her microphone to object, saying that “any call for privileged conversations between counsel and Dr. Ford” was “privileged conversation.”
Grassley then asked if that question could be answered without violating privilege, and the following conversation ensued:
FORD: Can I say something to you — do you mind if I say something to you directly?
FORD: I just appreciate that you did offer that. I wasn’t clear on what the offer was. If you were going to come out to see me, I would have happily hosted you and had you — had been happy to speak with you out there. I just did not — it wasn’t clear to me that that was the case.
Those watching who were familiar with Grassley’s repeated statements that he would send committee staff to interview Ford took the “you” to refer to anyone associated with the investigation – Grassley or staffers, for example.
During another line of questioning, Ford said she hoped "that they would come to me, but then I realized that was an unrealistic request."
Ford’s attorneys, however, say that Ford was referring only to Grassley.
Dr. Ford wanted to detail the events of the sexual assault by Judge Kavanaugh directly to members of the Judiciary Committee. Dr. Ford was timely provided with all communications from the Majority’s staff and chose from the multiple options she was given by them. At the hearing, Dr. Ford understood Senator Grassley’s comment to be that he personally would have flown to California to speak with her. She would have welcomed Senator Grassley and other Committee members to California but that was not one of the options offered by Committee staff.
One can see how Ford may have thought the question related to only Grassley, even though it was Mitchell who first asked it. It is still unclear why, of all the options provided, Ford chose the most public one when she could have flown to D.C. and met with senators privately.