Congress returns to Washington ahead of midterm elections

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Congress returns to Washington this week for the final legislative sprint before the midterm elections. Lawmakers are trying to avoid a government shutdown and will review explosive sexual assault claims against President Trump’s second Supreme Court nominee.

With government funding set to run out on Sept. 30, the House will take up the Senate-passed spending bill that includes hundreds of billions of funding for the military and the Labor and Health and Human Services Departments.

The measure would also fund remaining agencies through Dec. 7, putting off debate over funding for the Department of Homeland Security -- and the president's border wall -- until after the midterm elections in November. Trump wants $5 billion in wall funding for 2019, while Democrats have only agreed to $1.6 billion.

While he signed a package of spending bills funding government agencies into law last week, Trump also criticized Republican leaders over Twitter, urging them to "finally get tough” in spending negotiations.

Trump’s public venting over wall funding has raised the specter of another partial government shutdown, though Republican leaders have privately urged him not to hold up spending bills ahead of the midterms.

The House will also take up a bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration, which includes $1.68 billion in funding for Hurricane Florence recovery efforts.

Over the weekend, congressional officials and lawyers for the woman who claimed Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her decades ago reached an agreement for her to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

Ahead of the committee’s planned vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination, Christine Blasey Ford came forward and accused Kavanaugh of assaulting her at a party in 1982, when they both attended high school in suburban Washington, D.C.

Committee members are still working out the final details but have decided not to invite or compel other witnesses requested by Ford’s legal team, including Mark Judge, a friend of Kavanaugh’s who Ford says witnessed the assault.

In a statement to the committee, Judge denied the allegations, saying that he had no knowledge of the party or improper conduct by Kavanaugh. Two other alleged witnesses have shared similar statements with the committee.

Democrats say they plan to ask Kavanaugh about the drinking culture at his exclusive private high school.

“There have been a lot of things said about the alcohol that was consumed by the judge as well as by others in his school,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said in an appearance on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” “That has to be part of any relevant questioning.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said in an interview on “Fox News Sunday” that he wants to hear Ford’s account but suggested he was unlikely to change his mind on Kavanaugh’s nomination.

“Unless there's something more, no, I'm not going to ruin Judge Kavanaugh's life over this, but she should come forward. She should have her say. She will be respectfully treated,” he said.

It’s unclear when the committee and Senate could vote to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination and confirm him, and whether that would take place before the midterm elections, given that Congress is expected to be out of session next month.

Lawmakers also expressed interest in investigating reports that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein suggested that then-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe wear a wire to record the president in a meeting. Rosenstein also allegedly tried to could convince Cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.

In an interview with CBS News on Sunday, House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., inferred that lawmakers will seek memos written by McCabe on his conversations with Rosenstein.

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Michelle Obama calls out 'nastiness of our politics' during campaign-style voting rally

Twitter/@MichelleObama(LAS VEGAS) -- Former first lady Michelle Obama said she hoped to get Nevada residents "fired up" on Sunday as she headlined her first rally for When We All Vote, the nonprofit voting initiative she launched over the summer.

More than 2,000 people crammed into the gymnasium of Chaparral High School in Las Vegas where Obama, along with several high-profile singers and actors, spoke on Sunday evening and reminded Nevada residents why their votes matter.

"When you don’t vote, that’s exactly what you’re doing -- you’re letting other people make decisions for you," Obama said. “We get the leaders we vote for. We get the policies we vote for. And when we don't vote, that's when we wind up with government of, by and for other people.

“While some folks are frustrated and tuned out and staying home on Election Day, trust me, other folks are showing up. Democracy continues with or without you,” she added.

Obama also voiced her personal frustrations with the current political climate and called out “the nastiness of our politics.”

“Believe me, I am frustrated, too,” she said. “I am sick of all the chaos and the nastiness of our politics. It’s exhausting and, frankly, it’s depressing. I understand wanting to shut it all out.”

The event marked the beginning of When We All Vote’s "Week of Action," a multi-day effort to boost voter registration in major cities ahead of Election Day in November. Obama, the organization’s co-chair, is scheduled to headline a second rally in Miami on Friday.

The organization is nonpartisan, according to its website, and Obama signaled that she wanted everyone to vote, regardless of political affiliation.

“They’re finding all kinds of ways to keep you at home, hoping that when you hear about all those things, you’ll just give up,” she said. “Don’t let anybody intimidate you from being a part of this process.”

Obama drew loud rounds of applause whenever she mentioned her husband, former President Barack Obama, who hit the campaign trail over the summer to support Democrats.

Democrats would need to win at least 24 seats to gain a majority in the House, where at least 41 Republicans are planning to retire, resign or run for another office, according to an analysis by ABC News.

Control of one chamber on Capitol Hill would give Democrats the power to block the Republican agenda and use their majority power in the respective congressional oversight committee to launch investigations into the White House.

Other speakers at the rally included actresses Kelly McCreary and Lana Parrilla of ABC's "Once Upon a Time," Carolyn Swords, of the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces, and comedian Keegan-Michael Key.

Obama and the organization thanked the attendees for "bringing the energy" in a post-rally tweet on Sunday and asked them to get their loved ones to vote.

"Thank you, Las Vegas! Now let’s get working to help our family and friends get registered to vote," Obama tweeted.

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Roger Stone sought contact with WikiLeaks' Julian Assange, email suggests

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) --  As the special counsel’s office appears to be focusing in on President Donald Trump’s longtime political ally Roger Stone, an email recently obtained by ABC News suggests Stone sought contact with WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange during what may have been a critical moment in the 2016 campaign.

The email is one of at least two between Stone and Jerome Corsi, a political commentator and self-proclaimed conspiracy theorist, that refer to London-based conservative author Ted Malloch, according to people familiar with the emails.

The July 31, 2016, email appears to be an explicit attempt by Stone to connect with Assange using Corsi and Malloch as intermediaries. ABC News was not able to independently verify the email’s authenticity, though Stone confirmed to ABC News that he sent it and two separate sources confirmed its existence.

“Malloch should see Assange,” Stone wrote to Corsi.

Earlier this year, Malloch, 65, an American academic and conservative author, spent almost an hour interviewing with investigators on Mueller's team. Malloch wrote in a recently published book that investigators were interested in discussing his ties to Stone, Corsi and WikiLeaks.

Stone told ABC News the message “proves I had no advance knowledge of contents of WikiLeaks’ DNC material, and like every politico and journalist in America, I wanted to know what the content matter was.”

The email was sent just nine days after WikiLeaks made public the first batch of stolen Democratic Party documents allegedly obtained by hacker Guccifer 2.0, later identified as Russian state hackers. It appears to bolster the assertion that Stone, a prominent Trump ally, was attempting to communicate with Assange about the politically explosive leaks.

Stone proposed contact with Assange on a day Trump was facing withering criticism for challenging Gold Star parents of United States Army Captain Humayun Khan, who was killed in 2004 during the Iraq War. Khan’s parents spoke out against him at the Democratic National Convention.

Some Democrats have alleged Stone gave cues to WikiLeaks to publish stolen documents at key moments when the Trump campaign needed to distract attention from bad news for the candidate. The first release of emails stolen from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, for instance, came just hours after The Washington Post posted footage from Access Hollywood that was damaging to Trump’s bid.

Stone has denied those claims.

“Corsi either never passed the suggestion on, or Malloch ignored it — but I think it is the latter,” Stone told ABC News. “The key is Malloch never contacts or sees Assange and never gets anything from him.”

In interviews earlier this year, both Stone and Malloch were emphatic that they did not work together to pass messages to Assange.

“There has been some inference in the media that Ted was somehow a go-between between me, WikiLeaks and Julian Assange,” Stone told ABC News in May. “This is false.”

When asked about the email — and whether he carried out the suggested tasks outlined by Stone — Malloch told ABC News on Sunday: “I was not involved in any of these matters. I have never tried to reach Assange or visited that embassy.”

Corsi was also interviewed at length by Mueller’s team in recent days. Last week, he appeared before the grand jury convened by the special counsel in a Washington, D.C., courthouse. He declined through his attorney to comment to ABC.

The email contains two more directives from Stone to Corsi to pass on to Malloch.

Stone suggested that Malloch find a British woman who had leveled accusations against former President Bill Clinton. (Stone authored a book in 2016, “Clinton’s War On Women.”) Stone also suggested Corsi ask Malloch to find Sen. Bernie Sanders’ brother “who called Bill a Rapist [sic]” and “turn him for Trump.”

Stone, a longtime political agitator who was an early supporter of Trump’s political campaign, has been under increasing scrutiny from the special counsel investigation in part because of statements he made in August 2016. Political opponents allege Stone knew that WikiLeaks was going to leak damaging information on former secretary of state and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton before it was released. Stone also confirmed he briefly communicated with Guccifer 2.0, the unnamed hacker who has taken credit for breaking into Democratic National Committee email servers.

On Friday, ABC News reported that Corsi became the 11th associate of Stone’s to be contacted by the special counsel.

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2nd woman accuses Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct: Report

Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A former Yale University classmate of Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, alleges that he sexually assaulted her 35 years ago at a party, according to The New Yorker.

Deborah Ramirez, 53, told The New Yorker Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a dorm room party and "thrust his penis in her face," causing her to "touch it without her consent as she pushed him away." Ramirez said both she and Kavanaugh, then 18, had been drinking.

Kavanaugh flatly denied the alleged incident in a statement.

"This alleged event from 35 years ago did not happen," he said. "The people who knew me then know that this did not happen, and have said so. This is a smear, plain and simple. I look forward to testifying on Thursday about the truth, and defending my good name -- and the reputation for character and integrity I have spent a lifetime building -- against these last-minute allegations."

White House spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement that the president still supported Kavanaugh.

“This 35-year-old, uncorroborated claim is the latest in a coordinated smear campaign by the Democrats designed to tear down a good man,” Kupec said. “This claim is denied by all who were said to be present and is wholly inconsistent with what many women and men who knew Judge Kavanaugh at the time in college say. The White House stands firmly behind Judge Kavanaugh.”

President Donald Trump had at least one conversation Sunday with an associate about the new allegation of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh published by The New Yorker just before the story posted publicly, according to a source familiar with the situation.

The president is still standing by Kavanaugh, said the source, who would speak only on condition of anonymity to discuss a private conversation.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., on Sunday sent a letter to Sen. Charles Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, asking to immediately postpone Kavanaugh's nomination.

"Today, Deborah Ramirez came forward with serious allegations of sexual misconduct by Judge Kavanaugh," she wrote. "The New Yorker article recounting her experience states that there are witnesses who can corroborate her claims and who challenge Mr. Judge’s account. An investigation needs to be conducted as part of Judge Kavanaugh’s background investigation by career professionals at the FBI –- not partisan staff of the Committee. We need a fair, independent process that will gather all the facts, interview all the relevant witnesses, and ensure the Committee receives a full and impartial report. Should the White House continue to refuse to direct the FBI to do its job, the Committee must subpoena all relevant witnesses."

Grassley responded to Ramirez's claims on Sunday night, saying, "Of course, we will attempt to evaluate these new claims," but not before saying Democrats continue to make the nomination process a "political takedown."

"Yet again, Senate Democrats actively withheld information from the rest of the Committee only to drop information at politically opportune moments," Grassley said in a statement. "It increasingly appears that they are more interested in a political takedown than pursuing allegations through a bipartisan and professional investigative process."

The senator said the committee did not learn of the allegations until The New Yorker report.

"The committee’s majority staff learned the allegations made by Deborah Ramirez about Judge Kavanaugh from this evening’s New Yorker report," he said. "Neither she nor her legal representative have contacted the chairman’s office. The article reports that Democratic staff were aware of these allegations, but they never informed Republican staff."

Kavanaugh is also facing allegations of sexual misconduct from Christine Blasey Ford, who claims the judge assaulted her when they were teenagers. Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee will hear testimony from Kavanaugh as well as Ford on Thursday. Kavanaugh has denied Ford's accusations.

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'I've never heard' President Trump's Cabinet members discuss removing him from office: Nikki Haley

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said she has never heard anyone in President Donald Trump's Cabinet talk about the possibility of trying to remove him from office by means of the 25th Amendment.

Haley was responding to a question from ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on “This Week” Sunday in light of recent reports that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein suggested last year that he could recruit Cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment.

Rosenstein flatly denied the allegation, saying, "Any suggestion that I have ever advocated for the removal of the President is absolutely false.”

The 25th Amendment to the Constitution outlines a process by which the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet can declare a president “unable to discharge powers and duties of the office.”

Stephanopoulos asked Haley if she had “ever been part of any discussion on pursuing the 25th Amendment."

Haley responded, “I've never heard it. I don't think that's a reality at all among all of the Cabinet members. I've just never heard that. That’s absurd.”

"I’m telling you I'm [at the White House] almost every other week," she added. "And I can tell you never has anyone talked about the 25th Amendment. Never has anyone even questioned the president's mental stability.”

Haley also looked ahead to the United Nations General Assembly meeting this week in New York, at which Trump will speak.

Haley said Trump will talk about U.S. “success stories," including “the fact that we have almost defeated ISIS; the fact that we’re looking at North Korea, who’s now at the table talking;" and "the movement of the embassy in Jerusalem, or if you look at Syria and the progress that’s starting to be made there."

Stephanopoulos asked the U.N. ambassador about U.S. efforts toward getting North Korea to end its nuclear program.

The leaders of North and South Korea appear to both want the U.S. to take certain actions, such as officially declaring an end to the Korean War.

“The two Korean leaders... [seem] to be now demanding reciprocal steps of some kind from the United States,” Stephanopoulos said. “Is the United States prepared to do anything more now based on what we've seen from North Korea?”

“George, make no mistake, the reason they came to the table is because those sanctions are suffocating them and they want out,” Haley said. “And so we're not going to do anything to loosen those sanctions until we make sure that there is no more threat from North Korea.”

As to whether Trump might meet again with North Korean Chairman Kim Jong Un, Haley said she thinks Secretary of State Mike Pompeo "needs to have a couple more conversations" with North Korea first.

Trump is scheduled to chair a meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday on the topic of Iran and the broader issue of nuclear nonproliferation. In remarks Sept. 20 previewing the U.N. meeting, Haley joked that this would be “the most-watched Security Council meeting ever.”

Stephanopoulos asked on "This Week" about the possibility of Trump meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

If the president's summit with Kim "seemed to bear fruit with North Korea, why not meet with the Iranian president?” Stephanopoulos asked.

Haley said Trump isn't opposed to meeting with Rouhani. “The Iranian president hasn't asked. If he asked, I think the president would strongly consider it,” she said.

But she added that Rouhani "has to stop all of his bad behavior before the president’s going to think he’s serious about wanting to talk.”

On NBC's “Meet the Press” Sunday morning, Pompeo said that the possibility of a meeting between Trump and Rouhani at the United Nations session isn’t off the table.

“He’s happy to talk with folks at any time,” Pompeo said. “The president’s been pretty clear about that.”

Haley said that "a big part" of Trump’s message at the U.N. will be changes to the U.S. policy on foreign aid.=

“We’re looking at aid and we’re no longer going to give money to countries that say they hate America or work against us," Haley said. "We’re going to start really taking care of our -- the countries that have the same values as us, and we’re going to build on those relationships.”

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Kavanaugh accuser, Senate panel have yet to agree on who will question her at Thursday hearing 

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The California professor who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault has reached an agreement with the Senate Judiciary Committee on some details of her upcoming testimony, but not on who will question her.

Christine Blasey Ford's attorneys issued a statement Sunday after achieving what they described as "important progress on our call this morning with Senate Judiciary Committee staff members."

The hearing will be open and will start at 10 a.m. Thursday.

"Despite actual threats to her safety and her life, Dr. Ford believes it is important for senators to hear directly from her about the sexual assault committed against her," Ford's lawyers Debra Katz, Lisa Banks, and Michael Bromwich said in their joint statement.

Kavanaugh, 53, has strongly denied Ford's accusation, calling it "a completely false allegation."

A source familiar with the conversation between Ford's legal team and committee staffers told ABC News that although Ford's lawyers want Kavanaugh to testify before her they accepted the committee leadership's position that the Supreme Court nominee will be heard after her.

Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, a Republican senator from Iowa, "will do everything in his power to provide a safe, comfortable, and dignified forum for Dr. Ford to testify," reads a letter sent to Ford's attorneys from Grassley's committee lawyer.

Among the issues still outstanding is who will ask Ford questions and whether it will be senators or staff attorneys, her lawyers said in their statement. Having legal staff -- likely women -- question Ford could avoid the optics of Republican committee members, who are all male, questioning her.

"We were told no decision has been made on this important issue, even though various senators have been dismissive of her account and should have to shoulder their responsibility to ask her questions," Ford's lawyers said.

The committee has decided not to subpoena other witnesses whom Ford's legal team wanted to testify, including Mark Judge, who Ford says witnessed the assault, according to Ford's attorneys. They said the panel "refused to invite other witnesses who are essential for a fair hearing that arrives at the truth about the sexual assault."

The letter to the Grassley's committee lawyer says, "As with any witness who comes before the Senate, the Senate Judiciary Committee cannot hand over its constitutional duties to attorneys from outside witnesses. The Committee determines which witnesses to call, how many witnesses to call, in what order to call them and who will question them. These are non-negotiable."

The letter says Grassley has also postponed the committee's vote on Kavanaugh's nomination, which had been scheduled for Monday.

Ford has not spoken to committee investigators yet, Grassley's staff said. The committee has contacted six people, including four -- Kavanaugh among them -- who say a sexual assault did not happen.

The fifth person, Christina Miranda King, who is Ford's friend, has refused to cooperate with investigators; Miranda initially posted on social media that she had first-hand knowledge that an attack occurred before recanting her claim.

Grassley has said committee leaders have been reasonable in negotiating with Ford's lawyers.

Prior to the two sides reaching agreement on an open hearing, Grassley said on Twitter that Ford could speak to the committee in any format she liked.

The committee leadership and Ford's lawyers have also agreed that her attorneys can be seated at the table with her during her testimony, according to the source. And a security detail has been assigned to protect her.

Ford, 51, a psychology professor, claims Kavanaugh assaulted her at a house party in Montgomery County, Maryland, around 1982 when he was a 17-year-old student at Georgetown Prep in North Bethesda, Maryland, and she was attending all-girl Holton Arms School in Bethesda.

In an interview with The Washington Post, published a week ago, Ford claimed that Kavanaugh and another male teen, whom she identified as Mark Judge -- both "stumbling drunk" -- cornered her in a bedroom and Kavanaugh pinned her on her back on a bed.

She said Judge watched as Kavanaugh groped her over her clothes and attempted to remove her clothes and the one-piece bathing suit she was wearing underneath, according to the Post. Ford said that when she tried to scream, Kavanaugh put his hand over her mouth. She said she managed to escape when Judge piled on top of them, sending the three tumbling.

President Trump weighed in last week, questioning why Ford or her parents had not gone to authorities when the alleged assault happened 36 years ago.

He has also continued to praise Kavanaugh, calling him "a fine man, with an impeccable reputation, who is under assault by radical left wing politicians who don't want to know the answers, they just want to destroy and delay."

Kavanaugh issued a statement saying, "I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation."

"I did not do this back in high school or at any time," he said.

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Top Democrat Sen. Dick Durbin says Ford 'deserves a fair hearing'

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee said the woman accusing Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault is "a credible witness" who has been subject to death threats since coming forward with her allegation.

“I think Dr. Ford has come forward understanding what she was going to face,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said of Christine Blasey Ford to ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on This Week Sunday. “I think it really speaks to her credibility at this moment. What in the hell did she have to gain by doing this?”

“At this point, she's faced death threats. Her family has been moved out of their home. They're worried about the safety of their children. They're worried about security at the hearing,” the Illinois senator said. “You know, when you take a look at this in honest terms, I believe that not only Judge Kavanaugh, but certainly Dr. Ford deserves a fair hearing.”

Ford's lawyers and the Republican leadership of the Judiciary Committee reached a tentative agreement Saturday evening for her and Kavanaugh to testify Thursday about her allegation, multiple sources familiar with the talks told ABC News. On This Week, Durbin said it could be either Wednesday or Thursday, adding, “At least that what I heard in a conference call last night.”

Ford alleges that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were both teenagers in the Maryland suburbs in the 1980s.

Kavanaugh has strongly denied the accusation as a "completely false allegation."

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Tentative deal for Kavanaugh, accuser to testify on Thursday

Holton Arms School Yearbook(WASHINGTON) -- A tentative deal was struck Saturday evening for both Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused him of sexual assault, to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, two sources close to the talks confirmed to ABC News.

The deal came after considerable wrangling over the dates and conditions of the testimony — after several deadlines set by the committee chairman, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, came and went.

Ford agreed at Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. deadline to testify but her attorney sought other conditions, including that no outside counsel be allowed to question Ford — a reference to the possibility that GOP members might hiring legal staff — likely women — to question Ford to prevent on the optics of an all-male GOP panel questioning her.

After several days of brinkmanship on both sides, Ford's lawyers wrote in an email Saturday afternoon that she "accepts the committee's request to provide her firsthand knowledge of Brett Kavanaugh's sexual misconduct next week."

The email went on to criticize the committee for its proposed conditions as set forward Friday -- including a plan to hold a confirmation vote on Kavanaugh on Monday if an agreement on Ford's testimony wasn't reached -- which Ford's lawyers said "are fundamentally inconsistent with the committee’s promise of a fair, impartial investigation into her allegations."

"We are disappointed with the leaks and the bullying that have tainted the process. We are hopeful that we can reach agreement on details," the lawyers, Debra S. Katz and Lisa Banks, wrote in Saturday's email, ending with a request to set a time Saturday afternoon "to continue our negotiations."  

Before Saturday evening’s tentative deal, a senior White House official told ABC News they did not see the letter as any kind of agreement to testify.

"Our view is that until there's an agreement there's not an agreement. Judge Kavanaugh agreed to testify and was made available for interviews," the official said on the condition of anonymity.

The official said the letter could be "latest delay tactic that they've been attempting," and added that it's a way to continue negotiating.

"Let's see how the committee proceeds, but I don't see this as an agreement," the official said.

Before the deal was struck, the White House released a statement Saturday evening saying it appeared the sides were "no closer to a fair hearing."

“Brett Kavanaugh has been clear from the beginning—he categorically and unequivocally denies this allegation and is eager to testify publicly to defend his integrity and clear his good name," the statement said. "On Monday, Brett Kavanaugh met with Committee counsels to answer questions subject to criminal penalties and offered to testify publicly Tuesday morning.

"Since then, we have heard about different dates, conditions, and ever changing schedules, but today we appear no closer to a fair hearing. But one thing has remained consistent: Brett Kavanaugh remains ready, willing and eager to testify as soon as possible.”

Meanwhile, after the deadline had passed, attorney Michael Bromwich -- who formerly held positions as a former federal prosecutor, inspector general for the Department of Justice, and director for President Obama's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management -- tweeted that had joined Ford's legal team.

"I'm honored to joining Debra Katz and Lisa Banks in representing Dr. Ford," he said.

Grassley had tweeted Friday night that he had given another extension to Ford “to decide if she wants to proceed with the statement she made last week to testify to the Senate,” a reference to Ford's account to The Washington Post on Sunday of the alleged assault by Kavanaugh when the two were teens in the Maryland suburbs in the 1980s.

Kavanaugh has categorically denied the allegations and said he stands ready to testify whenever called.

The Republican committee chairman also tweeted Friday that he had granted Ford "five extensions" in setting terms for her testimony and he apologized to Kavanaugh, saying he's not normally so indecisive.

Katz sent a letter Friday accusing Grassley of setting "aggressive and artificial deadlines" on the negotiations.

"The imposition of aggressive and artificial deadlines regarding the date and conditions of any hearing has created tremendous and unwarranted anxiety and stress on Dr. Ford," Katz wrote. "Your cavalier treatment of a sexual assault survivor who has been doing her best to cooperate with the Committee is completely inappropriate."

Prior to the extension Friday, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee also questioned why Republicans could not wait another day to get a response from Ford.

“It’s clear that Republicans are doing all they can to cement another conservative seat on the Supreme Court -- at any cost -- even pushing through a nominee with a cloud of controversy hanging over his head,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California said.

“Brett Kavanaugh could serve on the court for 40 years. What’s another 24 hours to make sure we get this right?” she said.

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Pence boasts support for embattled Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Despite the political theatre surrounding Judge Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation process, Vice President Mike Pence’s support for President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick has not wavered.

"I believe that Judge Brett Kavanaugh will soon be Justice Brett Kavanaugh and take his seat on the Supreme Court of the United States of America," he said to the crowd at the Values Voter Summit Saturday.

Invoking a similar declaration that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made from the same stage Friday — in which he said, "In the very near future, Judge Kavanaugh will be on the United States Supreme Court" — Pence electrified the crowd to their feet.

The Senate Judiciary Committee was set to vote on Kavanaugh's nomination last Thursday and send it for a full vote before the full Seate floor, but word of a letter from California professor Christine Blasey Ford detailing allegations that he drunkenly assaulted her when they were in high school brought the entire process into turmoil.

Kavanaugh has emphatically denied the allegation, and agreed to publicly testify under oath about the incident, while Republican committee members and Ford continue to engage in negotiations about the possibility of her testifying publicly or privately as early as this week. Both Republicans and Democrats say she should be heard.

Without mentioning Ford or the allegations against the embattled nominee, Pence instead underscored Kavanaugh's qualifications in his long career as a circuit court judge on the D.C. Circuit Court to serve on the nation's highest court.

"Judge Brett Kavanuagh is a man of integrity with impeccable credentials," Pence continued. "His record and career deserves the respect of every member of the United States Senate."

From the onset, Kavanaugh's confirmation has been political brinkmanship between Democrats and Republicans, and showed visible signs of hostility during the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearings. Many Democrats, criticized for turning the public process into a show, were also criticized by attendees at the annual political conference for "grandstanding" during interviews with ABC News.

Pence panned the Democrats on the committee for their behavior throughout the process, and drew boos from the crowd everytime the vice president said the word "Democrats."  

"The way some Democrats have conducted themselves during this process is a disgrace and a disservice to the senate and the American people," he said.

"The president and I are confident that Senate Republicans will manage this confirmation properly and with the utmost respect for all concerned," Pence added.

Pence issued a call to action for the Evangelical crowd at the summit, hoping to galvanize conservative voters to the polls in November.

"Complacency is the greatest threat to our majority on Capitol Hill," he said. "We must surpass the energy of the American left. We will win if we get out the vote."

He even imitated Trump’s mannerisms, throwing his arms into the air as he said, "As the president said two nights ago in Las Vegas … You gotta get out for the midterms!"

"We made history in 2016, we’re going to make history again in 2018 when we re-elect Republican majorities in the House and Senate on Capitol Hill," he said.

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Ronald Reagan's daughter Patti Davis alleges harrowing sexual assault in op-ed supporting Kavanaugh accuser

Jon Kopaloff / Contributor / Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Ronald Reagan's daughter, Patti Davis, alleges in an op-ed that she was raped some 40 years ago and didn't speak of it for decades, defending the woman who recently came forward accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault when they were teenagers.

"I never told anyone for decades — not a friend, not a boyfriend, not a therapist, not my husband when I got married years later," Davis, a 65-year-old author, wrote in the op-ed published Friday in The Washington Post. "It doesn’t surprise me one bit that for more than 30 years, Christine Blasey Ford didn’t talk about the assault she remembers, the one she accuses Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh of committing."

Her op-ed was published just hours after President Donald Trump, for the first time, called out Kavanaugh's accuser by name and questioned her account of the alleged incident based on the fact that she didn't report it at the time, which prompted a flood of Twitter users to tell why they didn’t report sexual assaults at the time they occurred. The hashtag #WhyIDidntReport was trending Friday and by midday Saturday had over a half-million tweets worldwide.

Davis wrote in her op-ed that the incident occurred during what she thought would be a professional meeting with a prominent music industry executive, whom she doesn't name, in his office to discuss original songs she had written. Like Kavanaugh's accuser, Davis said she can't fully recall certain details of the evening, like what month it was, what she and the executive talked about and whether she declined the cocaine he offered her.

"What happened next, though, is indelible," Davis wrote. "He crossed the room. There was a dark-green carpet, but his footsteps seemed loud, hard. He was against me, on top of me — so quickly…” she went on to describe more of the alleged assault.

Christine Blasey Ford, a 51-year-old professor at Palo Alto University in California, claims she was sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh at a party in suburban Maryland when both were teens in the early 1980s.

Kavanaugh has strongly denied the accusation as a "completely false allegation."

Speaking publicly for the first time in an article published Sunday by The Washington Post, Ford said she was terrified about getting in trouble for being at a party with underage drinking, so she didn't tell anyone about the alleged incident in detail until 2012 when she was in a couples therapy session with her husband.

Trump said in a couple of tweets Friday that his Supreme Court pick is "under assault by radical left wing politicians" and that if the incident Ford alleges "was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents."

Following his tweets, the hashtag #WhyIDidntReport took off, including among some well-known actresses like Ashley Judd who have been outspoken in the #MeToo movement.

Davis in her op-ed argued that memory of trauma naturally focuses on some details while leaving out others.

"Ford has been criticized for the things she doesn’t remember, like the address where she says the assault happened, or the time of year, or whose house it was. But her memory of the attack itself is vivid and detailed. His hand over her mouth, another young man piling on, her fear that maybe she’d die there, unable to breathe," Davis wrote.

"That’s what happens: Your memory snaps photos of the details that will haunt you forever, that will change your life and live under your skin. It blacks out other parts of the story that really don’t matter much," she added.

Since Ford’s name became public a week ago, Democrats and Republicans in Congress have clashed over how to respond to her allegations. The Republican leadership of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is holding Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings, has been negotiating with Ford's attorneys over terms under which she would testify before the committee by as early as next week.

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