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Trump Challenges Woman Accusing Kavanaugh Amid Negotiations For Her Testimony

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

And NPR's Scott Detrow joins me now to walk through where things stand with the Kavanaugh nomination and the latest on whether or not Ford will testify at a Senate hearing next week. Hey, Scott.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Hey there.

KELLY: Hey. So it has been a long day for you, but I'm thinking of for Ford's lawyers and for the Senate Judiciary Committee. They have been negotiating all day on whether, when, how this testimony might unfold. Where do things stand?

DETROW: Well, at the moment, Chuck Grassley is playing hardball. He said he's giving her representatives until 10 o'clock Eastern to agree on terms to testify next week and insisted there's...

KELLY: So that's just short of two hours she's got.

DETROW: That's right. And he says if there's no agreement by then, he's going to move forward and hold a committee vote Monday on Kavanaugh's nomination. Grassley is clearly frustrated. Negotiations have been going on the last few days, and this is actually the third deadline that's been set today - 10 a.m., 5 p.m., now 10 p.m. Eastern.

KELLY: And what are the sticking points - because Ford has said she wants to testify.

DETROW: Yeah. Grassley's latest statement lays out a lot of the negotiations. The hearing was initially scheduled for Monday. Ford's lawyer said that is too soon, and Grassley has agreed to delay the hearing until Wednesday. He says that Ford also had some concerns about how many cameras would be in the committee room, that she did not want to be in the room as the same time as Kavanaugh.

Grassley says the committee is OK with all of that, but he says there are other requests that are, as he puts it, unreasonable. And that includes wanting Kavanaugh to go first. He says it makes sense for Kavanaugh to have a chance to respond to allegations. Ford's lawyers also want additional witnesses to be called. He says no. And one last demand from Ford is that she does not want the committee to be able to question her through outside lawyers instead of the senators asking the questions.

KELLY: I mean, the traditional norm at a Senate hearing would be for senators to be asking the questions. So do we know quite what the back-and-forth on this dispute is over?

DETROW: Yeah, this is interesting because it shows just how worried Senate Republicans are about the politics of this. They know that every senator on the committee on the Republican side is a man. They know how bad it would look for a bunch of men to sit there criticizing or questioning the testimony of a woman who says she was sexually assaulted. Grassley says the committee wants female staff lawyers to ask the question.

And I think it's fair to say this is a case where Ford's lawyers' demands line up with what Democrats on the committee want to see because Democrats really think if Grassley or Orrin Hatch or Ted Cruz or others are cross-examining Ford, it would look very bad for Republicans. I should point out that NPR has repeatedly tried to reach out to Ford's lawyers today, and we have not heard anything back.

KELLY: So lots of considerations about the politics but also the optics...

DETROW: Yes.

KELLY: ...Of this - and just to be clear, in terms of what Republicans have on the line here about the possibility of going ahead with a vote on Monday without hearing from her, is that something they really want to do?

DETROW: That would be pretty risky as well. Republicans will say that they gave her every opportunity to tell her side of the story. Democrats respond. This is a pretty arbitrary deadline. Why not wait two weeks? Why do you have to do it within a week? Ranking member Dianne Feinstein just put out a statement saying, bullying a survivor of attempted rape in order to confirm a nominee is an extreme abuse of power.

One thing that's worth flagging, though, is that as the week has gone on, Republicans have gone from saying Ford deserves to be heard to saying, well, we should maybe move forward with a vote and increasingly sounding very confident they'll confirm Kavanaugh no matter what. Today you had Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promising in a speech that Kavanaugh will be appointed to the court. So that really doesn't sound like someone who's leaving much room for hearing what Ford has to say if she does testify.

KELLY: And real quick, Scott, do we know what the Democratic strategy is going forward?

DETROW: Unclear. All week, Democrats have stuck to saying the FBI needs to investigate this first. It's pretty clear that's not going to happen. And beyond that, Democrats haven't really figured out the best first step forward to strategize about this or figure out a game plan.

KELLY: All righty. Thank you, Scott.

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