Politics & Government

Feinstein was right to withhold Kavanaugh letter, accuser’s attorney says

Kavanaugh accuser ‘should not be ignored,’ says Conway

Judge Brett Kavanaugh's accuser should testify under oath, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said on September 17, 2018. The woman is willing to tell her story to a Senate panel considering his nomination to the Supreme Court, her lawyer said .
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Judge Brett Kavanaugh's accuser should testify under oath, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said on September 17, 2018. The woman is willing to tell her story to a Senate panel considering his nomination to the Supreme Court, her lawyer said .

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein has come under intense scrutiny for her handling of the letter that is now at the center of a storm over Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination. But an attorney for the letter’s author, Palo Alto University Professor Christine Blasey Ford, says the veteran Democratic lawmaker was right to keep the letter confidential for more than a month.

“We do think that Feinstein did well by her, and we do think that people took this decision away from her, and that’s wrong,” Ford’s lawyer, Debra Katz, told the New York Times on Sunday. Ford sent a letter to Feinstein on July 30 detailing an incident from the 1980s in which, she claims, Kavanaugh held her down, groped her and attempted to pull off her clothes. Kavanaugh has repeatedly denied the allegations.

The letter only came to light on Sept. 12 after the Intercept reported that other Senate Democrats were pressuring Feinstein to share its contents. Feinstein’s office was not the source of those leaks.

Katz explained on CNN Monday morning that when Ford sent the initial letter, she “made the request that Senator Feinstein treat her allegations confidentially, and Senator Feinstein agreed to do so.” The senator’s “staff made it clear that if she changed her mind, she could come forward. As Dr. Blasey saw these hearings unfold, her choice became more clear in her mind that she did not want to come forward. She saw this as a very highly politicized and a very brutal process. And she was not wanting to inject herself into this.”

That changed, Ford told the Washington Post on Sunday, when the Intecept story came out and reporters began contacting Ford and her colleagues. Ford first contacted the Post via a tip line in early July, and after agonizing for weeks, agreed to go public with her explosive charges over the weekend.

Feinstein’s decision to keep the letter secret has drawn criticism from the left — including from her 2018 challenger, state Sen. Kevin de León — as well as from the right. Both sides argued she should have sought to address the allegations sooner. She has maintained her first priority was respecting the wishes of the alleged victim, a California constituent.

Katz told CNN that Ford is now willing to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss her allegations. But Republicans and Democrats have not yet agreed on the best way to assess her claims. Some Senate Republicans have now joined Senate Democrats in calling for a delay in the committee’s vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination, which was expected this week.

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