Kevin Daley on September 18, 2018

Democrats lambasted the Senate Judiciary Committee’s plans to convene a hearing on Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh Tuesday, while the panel’s top Democrat appeared to doubt the veracity of Ford’s memory.

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the Judiciary Committee’s ranking member, spent much of the day criticizing committee Republicans for moving too hastily. But by Tuesday afternoon, she told reporters that the trauma of the event Ford described may have adversely affected her memory.

The senator subsequently clarified that she believes Ford is credible.

Early Tuesday, her office told reporters that the GOP was wrong to limit public testimony to Kavanaugh and Ford, urging them to call other witnesses who can speak to the character of the parties or the events alleged.

“Chairman Grassley today said there would be only two witnesses invited to testify at the Kavanaugh hearing next week on sexual assault allegations,” Feinstein said in a statement. “Compare that to the 22 witnesses at the 1991 Anita Hill hearing and it’s impossible to take this process seriously.”

Republican Judiciary Committee lawyers have begun conducting interviews in advance of Monday’s hearings. In particular, committee lawyers will use a Washington Post story substantiating the allegations as the basis for future interviews. Democrats are not participating in this process, according to a spokesperson.

Kavanaugh took questions from the committee by phone on Monday night. A Senate spokesperson described his answers as “forthright and candid.”

Perhaps the most relevant witness for the committee’s purposes is Mark Judge, a Georgetown Prep student who Ford says was present when Kavanaugh attacked her. Judge’s attorney sent a letter to the panel Tuesday asserting Kavanaugh’s innocence but declining to participate in Monday’s proceedings.

Read Judge’s letter:

Mark Judge attorney submitted this letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee. (Screenshot)

As of this writing, it is still an open question whether Monday’s hearing will actually take place. Debra Katz, Ford’s attorney, has yet to confirm that they will appear, or even that they are in receipt of the invitation.

Republicans have offered to hold the hearing in a public or private setting, as Ford prefers.

It was not immediately clear if the special session would proceed without Ford, though Republican senators gave no evidence to the contrary and Judge Kavanaugh is said to be eager to defend himself.

Also unclear was the format the hearing might take. GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine suggested Tuesday that Ford’s attorney, Katz, should question Kavanaugh while Kavanaugh’s attorney, Beth Wilkinson, should question Ford, followed by another line of inquiry from senators.

But Democrats are adamant that action on the Kavanaugh nomination should be delayed until federal investigators have dispensed with a probe. They further say that Ford is entitled to privacy and under no obligation to answer the committee’s summons.

“Why should we participate in the victimization of someone who has the courage to come forward?” Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii said Tuesday. “And she is under absolutely no obligation to participate in a smearing of her and her family.”

“I just want to say to the men of this country just shut up and step up,” she added. “Do the right thing for a change.”

The FBI has twice declined to pursue the matter. A criminal investigation would be unusual, as it is not clear if the Bureau even has jurisdiction over the issue and what the relevant statute of limitations are. However, Democrats argue the FBI could explore the allegation to the extent it bears on his government background check.

This story was updated to include Sen. Feinstein’s clarification on her remarks about Dr. Ford.

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