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Kavanaugh-Ford Hearing Lookahead


We're going to start the program today with the latest on the nomination of Supreme Court hopeful Brett Kavanaugh. Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who has accused him of sexually assaulting her more than three decades ago, has agreed to testify publicly this coming week. She's scheduled to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday morning. Kavanaugh has strongly denied the allegation and is also expected to appear. This could be a critical moment for Kavanaugh's nomination, and it could also be a moment with political reverberations for both major parties just 40 days before the midterm. elections in November. NPR's congressional reporter Kelsey Snell has been following all of this, and she's with us now.

Kelsey, welcome. Thanks so much for being with us.


MARTIN: So now Ford's attorneys say they are still negotiating some of the details of her appearance. What have they agreed to so far?

SNELL: Yeah. They have agreed that both Kavanaugh and Ford will appear, but they will not be in the room at the same time. And they've also agreed to limited press access and a smaller hearing room that they say will kind of help manage the spectacle that they saw in the earlier part of his confirmation process. They also want to give breaks so that Ford if she - this is expected to be a really emotional time for her, and so the committee has agreed to give her breaks as she needs. And they've agreed to give equal time to every senator who wants to talk. They're also getting heightened security because both Kavanaugh and Ford have been receiving death threats.

It also looks like there won't be other witnesses, which is kind of a big bone of contention at this point. Democrats wanted to call Mark Judge, who's someone who was identified as being in the room when the attack happened back in the 1980s. Ford's attorneys say he wasn't subpoenaed. And Republicans are also circulating emails from other alleged witnesses who say they weren't aware of the attack even though they were named in a letter. Neither side will get to hear from those people, which is creating what Democrats are calling kind of a he-said, she-said situation.

MARTIN: Now, I think many people who've been following this might remember that this comes after some days of back-and-forth between committee Republicans and Ford's attorneys. Do we have any sense of what they were talking about for so long? What took so long?

SNELL: Yeah. They've been negotiating over some pretty crucial details according to an email exchange that we obtained earlier Today. Some parts seem to be still unresolved, but they seem fairly minor in the grand scheme of things. Perhaps the most contentious issue, though, has been a fight over who would question Ford. Her attorneys wanted it just to be senators, a Grassley's staff ended their email today saying the issue was non-negotiable, and witnesses don't get to choose who asks the questions.

MARTIN: Well, it sounds like, from what you're describing, that this could be a fairly arduous day with senators questioning both Ford and Kavanaugh. And it's obviously, I think, deeply political. So how are both sides handling it? How are the two parties handling this?

SNELL: Yeah. And it's one of those situations where it's become a partisan in-fight. And it's been like that for some time, but the issue of the allegations has really driven the two parties apart. As you mention, it'll be happening less than a month and a half before the election, and Republicans wanted his nomination and confirmation to be a part of, like, their big, final pitch to voters about how successful they've been. But now it's become really divisive, and they're on the defensive. Democrats are teeing up a situation where they'll hold Republicans accountable for how they behave in this hearing.

MARTIN: That's NPR's Kelsey Snell.

Kelsey, thank you.

SNELL: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.