Sen. Grassley: We Will Investigate Kavanaugh Allegations

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, says the allegations of sexual misconduct/assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh "deserve to be heard" and investigated.

That came in a statement Monday (Sept. 17) three days before the planned Sept. 20 vote on Kavanaugh's nomination and a day after his accuser, Palo Alto University professor Christine Blasey Ford, revealed her identity and agreed to talk with the committee about the incident--she says an inebriated Kavanaugh, as a high school student, tried to grope her over her clothing.

Related: Judge Kavanaugh Willing to Talk with Judiciary About Allegations

The charge had initially been anonymous, but Hill Democrats had referred it to the FBI for investigation.

In a lengthy statement, Grassley did not say he would delay the hearing--though that appears increasingly likely--but he did say he would "hear her out in an appropriate, precedented and respectful manner."

President Donald Trump later in the day Monday (Sept. 17) signaled there could indeed be a delay in order to vet the allegations..

He said in a press conference that he wished the Democrats could have produced the information sooner, but that "we want to go through the process." He pointed out that Kavanaugh had met with Feinstein, who he said had not brought up the allegations.

The President said if it took a little delay to go through the process, "then it takes a little delay," but continued to endorse Kavanaugh as a great nominee and judge.

What Grassley did not think was appropriate was that ranking Judiciary Committee member Dianne Feinsten (D-Calif.) had waited until just before the hearing to make the allegations known and refer them to the FBI.

He said that would traditionally entail "phone calls with at least Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford." He said he had tried to schedule those in consultation with Feinstein's office. "I asked Senator Feinstein’s office yesterday to join me in scheduling these follow-ups. Thus far, they have refused. But as a necessary step in evaluating these claims, I’ll continue working to set them up."

Democrats would almost certainly want that follow-up with Ford to come in an open hearing, which would take longer to schedule and allow for the public to be witness--the Dems have been pushing to delay Kavanaugh's vote until after the midterm election.

“Unfortunately, committee Republicans have only known this person's identity from news reports for less than 24 hours," said Grassley, "and known about her allegations for less than a week. Senator Feinstein, on the other hand, has had this information for many weeks and deprived her colleagues of the information necessary to do our jobs. The Minority withheld even the anonymous allegations for six weeks, only to later decide that they were serious enough to investigate on the eve of the committee vote, after the vetting process had been completed. It’s deeply disturbing that the existence of these allegations were leaked in a way that seemed to preclude Dr. Ford’s confidentiality.

Still, he said, "we are working diligently to get to the bottom of these claims.”

Kavanaugh is currently a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the court of principal jurisdiction over appeals of FCC and other federal agency decisions. Kavanaugh is on the record being against the FCC's 2015 Open Internet order, adopted under then Democratic chair Tom Wheeler.

Net neutrality could come before the high court from either an existing ISP challenge to the 2015 rules, which the high court has already been asked to weigh in on, or a challenge to the FCC's decision last last year under Republican chair Ajit Pai to eliminate those rules and roll back the 2015 order's reclassficiation of ISPs under Title II common carrier authority. 

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.