Trump: Ford Should Accept Invitation To Testify Before Senate Panel

Sep 19, 2018
Originally published on September 19, 2018 11:01 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

President Trump has spoken out about the sexual assault charge leveled against Brett Kavanaugh, his nominee to the Supreme Court. In remarks this morning before he traveled to North Carolina, the president said Christine Blasey Ford should accept the Senate Judiciary Committee's invitation to testify on Monday.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We want to get it over with. At the same time, we want to give tremendous amounts of time. If she shows up, that would be wonderful. If she doesn't show up, that would be unfortunate.

MARTIN: Ford's attorney said her client wants the FBI to investigate her claim that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were in high school. She wants this to happen before she testifies to the judiciary committee. Kavanaugh, too, has been asked to come answer questions in front of the committee. Joining us now, NPR politics reporter Ayesha Rascoe. Good morning, Ayesha.

AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: Good morning.

MARTIN: What else did President Trump have to say this morning?

RASCOE: President Trump, this morning, he has been asked about these allegations a number of times now, and it seems like he's been trying to walk this line where he doesn't want to say that - he doesn't want to attack Ford or say that he doesn't believe what she's saying is true, but today, he kind of crossed that line. He basically said, that because he believes Kavanaugh is such an incredible man and he's such a great guy, that basically he said it is very hard for him to imagine that anything happened. That said, he did say he wants to hear from Ford and that he wants her to see if she is credible, and that if she is credible then they would have to make a decision.

MARTIN: Democrats have been pushing for an FBI investigation. Christine Blasey Ford herself, through her attorneys, is pushing for an FBI investigation. Is that likely to happen?

RASCOE: President Trump showed no signs that he was going to ask the FBI. He was pressed on this issue, and he basically said the FBI has looked into Kavanaugh through background checks six times and that he doesn't think that they need to look into it. And he doesn't think they need to look into it anymore, and this doesn't seem like this is something that they do, according to President Trump.

MARTIN: That's what he said. But, of course, we should just point out the FBI could investigate this allegation. It would just demand that the White House file that request.

RASCOE: Yes. And so right now it seems like it isn't - different people - people are on different sides of this debate, and the White House seems to be coming out on the side of they don't want to ask the FBI to do this. They could. And obviously, President Trump on many occasions has shown a willingness to say that he's in charge of the Justice Department and he can tell them what to do. But in this case, he's saying that he wants to leave it up to the Senate to investigate.

MARTIN: The president and other Republicans are accusing Democrats of stalling, of intentionally trying to delay the confirmation process. Banks has - I'm sorry. Ford's attorney has been asked about this. Her name is Lisa Banks, and she was on CNN last night talking to anchor Anderson Cooper. Let's play this.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "ANDERSON COOPER 360")

LISA BANKS: It's not that there's a stalling tactic at play. She's more than willing to go forward and talk to the committee in whatever form that is and to assist with law enforcement in their investigation.

ANDERSON COOPER: Just not by Monday.

BANKS: Nothing of substance and nothing legitimate can happen by Monday.

MARTIN: Ayesha, what are Republicans saying? What is the argument against waiting?

RASCOE: The argument is that, basically, they're saying this has happened at the eleventh hour. They had already gone through formal hearings with Kavanaugh. This was not brought up. And so now they're saying now that these allegations have come out that Ford should testify under oath. It could be privately or publicly. But she should go under oath, and then they should move forward. And that that should happen on Monday. And that to hold it up would, you know, be unfair or just be a delaying tactic. Now, there's nothing that says this has to happen on Monday. This is...

MARTIN: Chuck Grassley, himself the chair of the committee, sets those timelines.

RASCOE: Yes. These are timelines set by the Republicans. And obviously, it is in their favor to try to get this done before the midterms and to get this wrapped up as soon as possible. But there is no legal thing saying they have to do this right now.

MARTIN: Do we know what happens next? Who has the ball in their court?

RASCOE: It seems like the Senate. It seems like the White House is leaving it to the Senate to decide what to do next, and that seems to be what President Trump was signaling. He says, ultimately, the Senate will decide what happens.

MARTIN: All right. Stay tuned. NPR White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe for us this morning. Thanks so much.

RASCOE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.