Kavanaugh accuser given more time to decide if she will testify

Brett Kavanaugh during the confirmation hearings.  Reuters

Brett Kavanaugh during the confirmation hearings. Reuters

Lawyers for Christine Blasey Ford told the Senate Judiciary Committee she's willing to testify next week about her sexual assault allegation against Brett Kavanaugh, but only under certain conditions.

Grassley later added: "With all the extensions we give Dr Ford to decide if she still wants to testify to the Senate I feel like I'm playing 2nd trombone in the judiciary orchestra and Schumer is the conductor".

However, she rejected a deadline of late Friday imposed by the committee's Republican leader to agree to his terms for the hearing, which he said should take place next Wednesday.

He said if an agreement with Ford isn't reached by 10 p.m. Friday, the committee will move forward with a vote on Kavanaugh's nomination on Monday.

That silence and Mr Grassley's offer, which did not rule out further compromise, left uncertain whether Ms Ford would appear and tell politicians about her allegation that an inebriated Mr Kavanaugh trapped her on a bed and tried removing her clothes when both were teenagers in the 1980s.

Ford also requested that at no point during any potential hearing would she be in the same room as Kavanaugh.

Politico said Republican members of the Judiciary Committee held a conference call Friday morning to discuss how to respond to Ford's requests.

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Senator Susan Collins, a moderate Republican and potentially a key vote on Kavanaugh's nomination, said at an event in Portland, Maine, that she was "appalled" by Trump's tweet.

"First of all, we know that allegations of sexual assault - I'm not saying that's what happened in this case - but we know allegations of sexual assault are one of the most unreported crimes that exist".

Mr Kavanaugh's confirmation hangs in the balance.

But supporters of both Judge Kavanaugh and Prof Ford have also been vocal.

Both families - Kavanaugh's and Ford's - have said they're getting death threats.

The remark drew fury online, including accusations that Trump was "victim shaming" Ford.

Ford, who until now was unknown to the wider public, finds herself a lightning rod in everything from Washington power politics to the #MeToo movement of women breaking silence on decades of workplace harassment by powerful men.

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"I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents", Trump tweeted.

Trump's Friday tweets contrasted with comments earlier in the week when he said Ford should be heard, even if it meant a delay in the confirmation process.

Kavanaugh has vehemently denied the allegation.

The aggressive posture reflected Trump's fear that time is running out to get his hand-picked judge confirmed - thereby tilting the Supreme Court firmly to the right for years to come - before November elections when Republicans risk losing control of Congress. "I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time, and place", Trump tweeted. "I continue to want a hearing as soon as possible so that I can clear my name", he wrote. That would save them from the optics of 11 Republican men questioning a woman about a sexual assault.

While Kavanaugh has seen his near coronation transformed into a fight for his basic reputation, Ford has found herself thrown into the harsh light of an all-out Washington political fight.

Inside the Senate, split 51-49, only six Republicans are women.

During his 2016 presidential campaign alone, he was accused by more than a dozen women of sexual misconduct and endured the release of a 2005 video that captured him boasting about groping women.

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