September 21, 2018

Judiciary Committee Democrats to Grassley: Learn from Past Mistakes

Washington—All 10 Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee today urged Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) to learn from mistakes made during the Anita Hill hearings and outlined steps the committee should take to ensure a thorough investigation of Dr. Blasey Ford’s allegations and fair hearing.

            The senators wrote: “The parallels between 1991 and 2018 are undeniable. Both episodes have prompted the country to engage in serious conversations about sexual assault and harassment. Twenty-seven years ago, it was Anita Hill who bravely shared her account of sexual harassment by Clarence Thomas. Today, Christine Blasey Ford has bravely shared her own account that Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her. The question is how the Senate Judiciary Committee responds in 2018.”

            Full text of the letter follows:

September 21, 2018

 

Honorable Charles Grassley
Chairman
Committee on the Judiciary
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Chairman Grassley:

            The country is watching our Committee to see how we handle Dr. Ford’s serious and credible allegations. It is imperative that we handle this matter with respect and fairness.

            The parallels between 1991 and 2018 are undeniable. Both episodes have prompted the country to engage in serious conversations about sexual assault and harassment. Twenty-seven years ago, it was Anita Hill who bravely shared her account of sexual harassment by Clarence Thomas. Today, Christine Blasey Ford has bravely shared her own account that Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her. The question is how the Senate Judiciary Committee responds in 2018.

            Then, Professor Hill’s confidential report to the Judiciary Committee was leaked against her wishes, and she was asked to testify just five days later, after a three-day FBI investigation. Today, just a week after Dr. Ford came forward, there has been another attempt to rush into a hearing without ascertaining all the facts.

            Then, the Judiciary Committee and the Bush White House demanded that the FBI investigate before the hearing, the hearings were conducted over three days, and twenty two witnesses testified. Today, Senate Republicans and President Trump are refusing to allow the FBI to do its job and falsely claiming that this is not what the FBI does. In addition, majority staff have unilaterally reached out to potential witnesses without notifying the minority and have solicited letters where individuals refuse to come before the Committee to answer questions. Senate Republicans have stated that they believe Dr. Ford’s allegations are “uncorroborated” and “there are gaps that need to be filled” and yet are also refusing to allow any additional witnesses – including Mark Judge who has been identified as a participant. This is not an effort to get to the truth.

            Finally, we are disheartened to see many of our colleagues in the majority have already made up their minds and begun to dismiss and diminish Dr. Ford’s experience. Some have gone so far as to state, “She’s mixed up”; “She’s mistaken”; “She’s not in really a position to make conditions”; and, "I’ll listen to the lady, but we’re going to bring this to a close.” These shameful attacks show why it is so difficult for survivors of sexual assault to come forward.

            We fear that rather than learning from the past, Senate Republicans and the Trump Administration are repeating this Committee’s previous mistakes and making new ones. Up to this point, the Committee majority’s treatment of Dr. Ford has unquestionably been worse than the disgraceful treatment that Anita Hill received 27 years ago.

            We are better than this.

            Now that it appears the Committee may be holding a hearing potentially as soon as next Thursday, we need to ensure the hearing is fair, impartial, and designed to uncover the truth. This means the Committee should at a minimum hear from the FBI, the individual who administered Dr. Ford’s polygraph test, and all witnesses to the event. This includes Mark Judge, each of the individuals Republican staff have contacted, and other relevant witnesses. There is simply no reason not to hear all the facts.

            The Committee should also hear from character witnesses for Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford – it is only fair to both – as well as from outside experts who can speak to these allegations. We will submit a list of minority witnesses we would like to call in the next day.

            In the meantime, we ask that you provide all of the notes and transcripts from the outreach and interviews conducted by majority staff in connection with Dr. Ford’s allegations. We also request a copy of the news reports your staff indicated were the basis for identifying these individuals, along with any other materials or sources. Finally, please identify all of the participants in each call or interview, including any representatives from the White House or Justice Department. Senate Rules XXVI(10) and XXVII(1) require that all Members and staff are provided equal access to these materials, and we ask that you provide them today so that our preparation for next week’s hearing is not further delayed. 

Sincerely,

Dianne Feinstein
Ranking Member

Patrick J. Leahy
United States Senator

Richard J. Durbin
United States Senator

Sheldon Whitehouse
United States Senator

Amy Klobuchar
United States Senator

Christopher A. Coons
United States Senator

Richard Blumenthal
United States Senator

Mazie K. Hirono
United States Senator

Cory A. Booker
United States Senator

Kamala D. Harris
United States Senator

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