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Friday
Sep212018

Christine Blasey Ford 'prepared to testify next week,' her lawyer tells senators

Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Lawyers for Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who has alleged Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were both teenagers, told the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday that she "would be prepared to testify next week."

Thursday evening, the White House released a letter from Kavanaugh saying, "I will be there" on Monday, the day on which both were originally invited to testify.

The move by Ford, first reported by the New York Times, signaled a possible break in the high-stakes stalemate over whether she would tell senators her side of the story.

In the text of an email, Ford's lawyer Debra Katz said, "she wishes to testify, provided that we can agree on terms that are fair and which ensure her safety," noting that Ford has received death threats.

It wasn't clear whether Ford was willing to testify in public, in private or in some other form.

The letter from Ford's legal team also said it is "not possible" for Ford to testify at Monday's scheduled hearing, as Republicans want, saying "the Committee's insistence that it occur then is arbitrary in any event."

The letter also made clear that Ford's "strong preference continues to be for the Senate Judiciary Committee to allow for a full investigation prior to her testimony."

An aide to Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, confirmed the email's contents, and the email was later also obtained by ABC News.

The aide said, "We are happy to hear from her," adding the committee would work with Ford's lawyers.

In the letter from Kavanaugh to Grassley, he also said, "I look forward to the opportunity to testify before the Committee. I also appreciate the time that Committee staff took to interview me on Monday, September 17. During that interview, I twice requested a Committee hearing for the following day, Tuesday, September 18. I continue to want a hearing as soon as possible, so that I can clear my name," he said.

"Since the moment I first heard this allegation, I have categorically and unequivocally denied it. I remain committed to defending my integrity," Kavanaugh said.

Also Thursday, Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, joined by all other Judiciary Committee Democrats, sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray, asking for the agency to immediately investigate "alleged death threats" against Ford, "the hacking of her email and the harassment and intimidation" they said she has faced "since being forced into the spotlight late last week."

"Americans are closely watching," their letter reads. "We strongly believe that how Dr. Blasey Ford is treated in this moment reflects upon how seriously our Nation treats credible claims of sexual assault, and whether we have learned from past mistakes."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Sep202018

Judiciary Committee Republicans have maintained open line of communication with Ford lawyers

Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Emails between Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley’s staff and the legal team of Brett Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford, obtained by ABC News, show that Republican staffers reached out the day after Ford’s identity was made public and offered to have her testify later that same week or the following Monday at an upcoming hearing on the Supreme Court nominee.

On Thursday afternoon, Ford’s lawyers told the committee in an email that she would be open to testifying next week as long as terms are met that are “fair and ensure her safety.”

That email was the latest in a four-day-long chain of correspondence between her legal team and Republican committee staff, according to documents obtained by ABC News.

The emails do not indicate any responses from Ford's legal team prior to Tuesday evening. It was not immediately clear whether there was additional correspondence beyond the emails ABC obtained, and Ford's lawyers did not respond to request for comment about the email outreach.

The professional tone of the correspondence is markedly different from the heated rhetoric being employed by members of both parties on the Judiciary Committee, who have accused one another of mishandling Ford’s allegations.

The names in the emails have been redacted to protect privacy.

Committee Republicans first reached out to her legal team Monday afternoon after a Washington Post article naming Ford as the woman accusing Kavanaugh of sexual assault was published the day before.

“The Chairman’s staff would like to schedule a phone call tomorrow at a time convenient for you and your client. The standard practice of the Committee is to follow-up on any allegations with a phone call to relevant parties. The call will allow our staff to obtain additional information regarding the events described in Professor Ford’s letter to the Ranking Member and the September 16, 2018, Washington Post article,” a GOP committee staffer wrote.

The staffer also said committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein’s staff would be invited to participate in the call. The staffer provided an email and direct phone line at which they could be reached.

After receiving an out-of-office message from Katz, the staffers then forwarded the message to the firm's office manager minutes later, at 3:53 p.m., to ensure it was received.

Republican staff on the committee also interviewed Kavanaugh over the phone Monday, and “made contact” with other alleged witnesses including Mark Judge, who Ford said was in the room during the alleged assault. Judge responded through his lawyer, saying he had “no memory” of the alleged incident. Judge is the author of the book "Wasted: Tales of a Gen X Drunk," a memoir which details incidents of heavy drinking as a teen and young adult.

In the emails to Ford’s legal team, the majority staff said they invited Democrats to participate in all phone interviews but that Democrats declined, citing the need for the FBI to first conduct its investigation.

In response to a request for comment, a Democratic aide rejected the notion that the Republican emails to Ford's lawyers were adequate.

“Republicans announced the hearing and then sent an email to Dr. Ford’s lawyers inviting her to testify—that’s not consultation or working in good faith," the aide said in an emailed statement.

Since Ford’s name became public, Democrats and Republicans on and off the Judiciary Committee have traded barbs. On Wednesday, Sen. Mazie Hirono, a Hawaii Democrat, said Grassley’s assertions that committee Republicans had done everything to contact Ford’s legal team was “bull----.”

The rhetoric has been equally heated on the Republican side. On Tuesday, Sen. Lindsey Graham said the Democrats' handling of the Ford accusations has been “a drive-by shooting when it comes to Kavanaugh.”

As the shots were fired in public, committee staff and Ford’s lawyers privately continued their relatively mundane correspondence, lamenting the occasional missed missive. Some of their dialogue did play out almost simultaneously in public, however, via media disclosures.

Grassley’s staff emailed Katz about 6 p.m. Monday that Grassley intended to re-open the confirmation hearing and invite both her and Kavanaugh to testify, about the same time the committee made that announcement publicly.

The following day, after the Judiciary staffer had not heard back from Ford lawyer, Debra Katz, they emailed again, noting that they had also tried to call her twice. They reiterated their invitation for her to testify on Monday, and that “we can have this session open or closed to the public depending on what Dr. Ford prefers.”

Several hours later, Judiciary wrote again to Katz, attaching a formal letter from Grassley inviting Ford to testify.

Then, at 7:57 p.m., Katz’s colleague Lisa Banks responded with a letter saying that “an FBI investigation of the incident should be the first step in addressing [Ford’s] allegations.”

About 8 p.m., the letter was obtained by and reported on by multiple news outlets, including ABC News.

That letter prompted Grassley to respond with a request to hear from Ford by 10 a.m. Friday.

Grassley staffers first sent a formal request on Wednesday morning and resent it that afternoon, correcting a typo. Banks responded soon after, noting that it was Yom Kippur and that the legal team would likely not respond again until the following day.

When Banks had not heard back for several hours, she had her assistant resend the email because “our outgoing emails were not working today.”

“Completely understand,” the Judiciary staffer responded. “Thanks for following up.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Sep202018

Michael Cohen spoke to Mueller team for hours; asked about Russia, possible collusion, pardon: Sources

Yana Paskova/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, has participated over the last month in multiple interview sessions lasting for hours with investigators from the office of special counsel, Robert Mueller, sources tell ABC News.

The special counsel’s questioning of Cohen, one of the president’s closest associates over the past decade, has focused primarily on all aspects of Trump's dealings with Russia -- including financial and business dealings and the investigation into alleged collusion with Russia by the Trump campaign and its surrogates to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, sources familiar with the matter tell ABC News.

Investigators were also interested in knowing, the sources say, whether Trump or any of his associates discussed the possibility of a pardon with Cohen.

Over the 16 months that Mueller has been investigating -- the president has repeatedly bashed the investigation as a partisan witch hunt, insisting there has been no collusion and no obstruction of justice.

The interviews with Cohen took place in Washington, D.C., and New York City. They were also attended in part by prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York.

Cohen’s participation in the meetings has been voluntary -- without any guarantee of leniency from prosecutors, according to several people familiar with the situation.

ABC News has also learned that Cohen is also cooperating with a separate probe by New York state authorities into the inner workings of the Trump family charity and the Trump Organization, where Cohen served as an executive vice president and special counsel to Trump for 10 years.

The news of Cohen’s dealings with federal and state investigators comes close on the heels of another potentially perilous legal development for the president: the guilty pleas last week from Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, who struck a deal with Mueller’s prosecutors in exchange for his cooperation.

As the Manafort deal was taking shape -- Mueller’s team had already been talking to Cohen.

And given Cohen’s prolonged time spent in proximity to Trump, his family and the inner-workings of the Trump Organization, some insiders consider his cooperation with authorities to be one of most serious potential legal threats to confront the president.

“Both of these guys want to be loved and they both want loyalty,” says a person close to both President Trump and Cohen, who asked not to be named in order to speak freely. “Cohen’s disavowal of Trump has triggered a series of events that turned once very good friends into permanent enemies. The consequences for both will be ugly.”

President Trump and his lawyers have lately been harshly critical of Cohen ever since he made clear earlier this year, in an exclusive interview with ABC News, that he was willing to cooperate with prosecutors, even if that placed the president in legal or political jeopardy. The former Trump loyalist said in the interview he rejected Trump’s claims that the Mueller investigation was a “witch hunt” orchestrated by his political enemies.

Cohen vowed to put “family and country first.”

Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s current personal attorney, who in May called Cohen “an honest, honorable lawyer,” has more recently claimed that Cohen is fabricating stories about Trump in order to protect himself.

“There’s nobody that I know that knows him that hasn’t warned me that if his back is up against the wall, he’ll lie like crazy, because he’s lied all his life,” Giuliani told CNN in July.

Last month in New York, Cohen pleaded guilty to eight felonies, including bank fraud, tax evasion and two campaign finance violations in connection with alleged hush money payments to women who have claimed affairs with Trump. Mueller’s team had referred the investigation of those crimes to federal prosecutors in New York, which led subsequently to coordinated raids of Cohen’s law office and residences in April.

At a plea hearing in August, Cohen told a federal judge that he had arranged for the payments to two women “in coordination with, and at the direction of a candidate for federal office," referring to then-candidate Trump, and added that he participated in the transactions with the principal purpose of influencing the election.

Those statements, under oath, were an about-face from Cohen’s public comments about his role in the deals with Karen McDougal and Stephanie Clifford, aka Stormy Daniels. Cohen had previously insisted that he’d paid Clifford with his own money, on his own initiative and without the knowledge of Trump.

The president has long denied the allegations of the affairs with McDougal and Clifford and has claimed he did not know in advance about the deals Cohen secured. On the day of Cohen’s court appearance, the president openly mocked him on Twitter.

“If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don’t retain the services of Michael Cohen!” the president wrote.

Since entering his guilty pleas last month -- Cohen has also been in contact with the New York Attorney General’s office, according to multiple people close to the matter.

In June, the acting New York Attorney General, Barbara Underwood, filed a civil lawsuit accusing Trump's charitable foundation and its directors of having "operated in persistent violation of state and federal law governing New York State charities" for more than a decade by paying off legal bills with charitable funds, promoting Trump hotels, and purchasing personal items.

The lawsuit names Trump, his sons Don Jr. and Eric, and his daughter, Ivanka, as defendants.

A representative of the Trump Foundation called the lawsuit, “politics at its very worst.”

Underwood’s office has not ruled out launching a state criminal investigation into the foundation if evidence warrants it. And she has also asked the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Election Commission to look into the charity’s operations.

A spokesperson for the acting New York Attorney General’s office declined to comment for this report.

In a prior public statement from the office, the spokesperson Amy Spitalnick said: “We cannot comment on potential or ongoing investigations. As our lawsuit against the Trump Foundation illustrates, we will hold Donald Trump and his associates accountable for violations of state law, and will seek a criminal referral from the appropriate state agency as necessary.”

Cohen’s relationship with Trump dates to the mid-2000’s after Cohen, who owned condominiums in multiple Trump buildings in New York, took Trump’s side in a legal dispute with the condo board at Trump World Tower on Manhattan’s East Side. He joined the Trump Organization in 2007.

Cohen’s dealings at the Trump family business cover a broad sweep of its global empire -– including several projects that have caught the attention of federal investigators. Cohen played an integral role in early discussions about a possible Trump Tower in Moscow -- negotiations that were going on during the early months of the 2016 presidential campaign.

That deal never reached fruition.

Cohen has confirmed he attended a lunch meeting with a Ukrainian politician one week after Trump took office, where the two men discussed the potential for Cohen to share a Ukraine peace proposal with his contacts at the White House.

And Cohen’s name appeared repeatedly in the now infamous dossier of unverified allegations, which included salacious claims about Trump, prepared by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele. The agent, who was hired by an opposition research firm that was paid initially by Republicans and later by Democrats, alleged Cohen’s involvement in attempting to covering up contacts between Russian operatives and members of Trump campaign.

Cohen has fiercely denied the claims. In January, he tweeted: “Enough is enough of the #fake #RussianDossier.”

Since entering his guilty pleas last month, friends of Cohen say that he has felt isolated. He is unemployable, facing an avalanche of debt and the possibility of spending several years in federal prison.

With a net worth at one time of several million dollars, Cohen recently launched an online GoFundMe fundraising effort to help pay his mounting legal fees.

He is scheduled to be sentenced in New York federal court on December 12.

A spokesman for Office of the special counsel declined to comment on this story. An attorney for Cohen could not immediately be reached.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Sep202018

Female senators speak out about Republican 'bullying' of Kavanaugh accuser

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Several female lawmakers spoke out on Thursday about what they see as the rushed confirmation process for Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh in the wake of a sexual assault allegation.

Joined by supporters of Christine Blasey Ford, who has said the nominee assaulted her during a party decades ago when they were both in high school in suburban Maryland, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. slammed Republicans for "bullying" the college professor.

"She's not asking for extraordinary measures, she's asking for basic fairness," she said.

The lawmakers touted a letter of support they said was signed by more than 1,000 Holton-Arms School alumnae, a nearby all-girls private institution in Bethesda, Maryland.

"We believe Dr. Blasey Ford and so grateful to her for coming forward and sharing her story," said Sarah Burgess, from the class of 2005, who stood flanked by fellow alumnae and lawmakers.

"As we say in the letter, her experience is consistent with experiences that we have heard and lived and many of us are survivors ourselves," she said. "We are sharing this letter so it can be officially added to the record and they can consider it as they make this very important decision. Dr. Blasey Ford has shown she beyond credible. Sexual assault needs to be taken seriously and there is no way that you can vote on this before we have a thorough and independent investigation. Once again, most of all, we are so grateful to Dr. Blasey Ford and we hope she knows that we stand with her. We are so thankful that she is helping us move towards a world where women can be free of sexual assault and violence. Thank you."

Graduates of Holton-Arms who have shown support include Hollywood actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus who graduated from the school in 1979.

Earlier Thursday, another Holton-Arms alumna Virginia Hume, the daughter of FOX News journalist Brit Hume, expressed support for Kavanaugh on social media. She was one of 65 women to sign a White House released letter previously in support of the Supreme Court nominee.

Twelve members of Ford's family have also penned an open letter of support for her, which Bridget Mendler posted on Twitter on Thursday with a plea for the public to "Please remember her humanity."

And a GoFundMe campaign aimed at covering Ford's security costs has raised more than $200,000 purportedly toward that goal. Ford's lawyers, in a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley, wrote that she has faced threats and has been forced to leave her home.

"She has been the target of vicious harassment and even death threats. As a result of these kinds of threats, her family was forced to relocate out of their home. Her email has been hacked, and she has been impersonated online," her attorneys wrote.

The public show of support comes on the heels of ongoing and forth between Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee over whether and when Ford should testify.

Ford and Democrats have said that her testimony should come after the White House directs the FBI to look further into her allegation.

Ford attorney Lisa Banks sent out a statement on Wednesday evening saying "the Committee's stated plan to move forward with a hearing that has only two witnesses is not a fair or good faith investigation; there are multiple witnesses whose names have appeared publicly and should be included in any proceeding. The rush to a hearing is unnecessary and contrary to the Committee discovering the truth."

Republicans have said that the committee hearing will proceed on Monday as planned and that she should notify them by 10 a.m. on Friday if she plans to attend.

“She said she wanted to appear but if she changes her mind and refuses to appear, there's not much we can do,” the number two Republican in the Senate, John Cornyn of Texas, said of the California professor who alleges Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they both were in high school.

“We can't force her to do that," Cornyn said Wednesday. "And so nothing really else would remain of the investigation and background of the judge and we would vote on the nomination.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Sep202018

Michael Cohen reviewer put in charge of NY church sex abuse cases

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The archbishop of New York has appointed retired judge Barbara Jones to be an independent reviewer of sexual abuse cases. Most recently, Jones reviewed documents in the Michael Cohen case.

Archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan conceded in a press conference Thursday that the "summer of hell" had laid bare the scope of abuse and inaction of bishops across the country, leaving Catholics "bewildered, frustrated and angry."

Earlier this month, New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood issued subpoenas to every Catholic diocese in the state as part of an investigation into how the church reviewed and possibly covered up allegations of sexual abuse of minors. Local district attorneys would potentially prosecute any alleged crimes.

Dolan asked Jones to study the archdiocese and how it deals with accusations of abuse. She has been promised complete access to records, personnel and to Dolan himself.

"I have been assured that I and my team at Bracewell will have complete independence and unfettered access to all information, documents and personnel," Jones said during Thursday's press conference. "The cardinal has told me to leave no stone unturned."

The archdiocese has "robust infrastructure" to handle abuse cases, Jones said, adding that it’s now her job to determine whether that infrastructure is effective and sufficient.

Jones is a former federal judge and former federal prosecutor now in private practice. In April, she was appointed by Judge Kimba Wood to be an independent referee in determining which materials seized in the FBI’s raid of President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen's properties are subject to attorney-client privilege.

She was appointed to the federal bench by President Bill Clinton in 1995 and served 16 years in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. She was the judge who oversaw the accounting fraud trial of former WorldCom chief Bernie Ebbers.

Prior to her nomination she was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York, where she prosecuted mobsters. In her private work, she presided over the arbitration of Ray Rice, the NFL running back who was suspended after a video emerged of a physical altercation with his wife. She ultimately overturned Rice’s indefinite suspension.

Jones' appointment comes after an announcement by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Wednesday that establishes a hotline, monitored by a third party, to field complaints of abuse of minors and harassment of adults.

The attorney general’s office in New Jersey also previously announced the formation of a task force to investigate Roman Catholic dioceses in that state, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said.

The investigations follow a grand jury report in neighboring Pennsylvania, which alleged more than 1,000 victims of clergy sexual abuse over seven decades.

Following the announcement of the subpoenas in New York earlier this month, the archdiocese of New York said in a statement that the attorney general "will find the Archdiocese of New York, and the other seven dioceses in the state, ready and eager to work together with her in the investigation."

"Since 2002, the archdiocese has shared with its 10 District Attorneys all information they have sought concerning allegations of sexual abuse of minors, and has established excellent working relationships with each of them," the statement continued. "Not only do we provide any information they seek, they also notify us as well when they learn of an allegation of abuse, so that, even if they cannot bring criminal charges, we might investigate and remove from ministry any cleric who has a credible and substantiated allegation of abuse. We look forward to receiving the subpoena, and working with the Attorney General."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Sep202018

Google warns senators and staff of foreign phishing attempts

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Google has been alerting U.S. senators and aides in the past year of hacking attempts by foreign governments targeting their personal email accounts.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., sent a letter to Senate leaders Wednesday noting the attacks and warning that Senate security staff have declined to help.

"My office has also discovered that at least one major technology company has informed a number of Senators and Senate staff members that their personal email accounts were targeted by foreign government hackers," Wyden wrote in the letter.

Google is the technology giant that has provided the warnings, the company confirmed to ABC News, declining to comment further.

The warnings have come over the course of the past year, according to a Senate aide.

The pace and frequency of the phishing attempts are unclear, as is their specific origin.

Russian-government hackers successfully pilfered information in 2016 from the Democratic National Committee, Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee via phishing attempts, according to U.S. intelligence agencies and an indictment of Russian nationals by special counsel Robert Mueller.

The emails often contain malicious links or ask for passwords and login information that are then stolen.

The stolen information was later used in an information campaign designed to damage Clinton and help elect President Donald Trump, intelligence officials concluded publicly.

Ongoing foreign hacking attempts on U.S. targets are not new --intelligence officials have alluded to them and U.S. government computers have been targeted in traditional hacking attempts over the past decade -- but Wyden's letter and Google's confirmation add a few details to the picture of foreign political interference: that personal email accounts continue to be targeted in phishing campaigns, seemingly designed to steal sensitive or personal information; that lawmakers themselves have been targeted; and that Google has been warning them as the attempts have unfolded.

Google provides warnings when foreign-government hackers target personal accounts.

"In order to secure some of the details of our detection, we often send a batch of warnings to groups of at-risk users at the same time, and not necessarily in real-time,” Google said in a 2017 blog post.

“Additionally, we never indicate which government-backed attackers we think are responsible for the attempts; different users may be targeted by different attackers.”

Tech firms have taken a more active role in combating foreign political influence, as Facebook and Microsoft each revealed foreign-interference attempts in August. Several campaigns have reported attempted hacks this election cycle but, by and large, campaigns and parties have appeared reluctant to share details on specific threats.

Wyden wrote that the office of the Senate Sergeant at Arms, the chief security officer for the U.S. Senate, had declined to offer assistance, as the targeted accounts were personal ones, not official Senate email accounts and not within the office's taxpayer-funded mandate to protect official U.S. government accounts.

"The November election grows even closer, Russia continues its attacks on our democracy, and the Senate simply does not have the luxury of further delays," Wyden wrote, adding that he is introducing legislation to address the issue.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Sep192018

GOP senators to Ford: Show up Monday or we vote on Kavanaugh

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The overarching message from Republicans Wednesday to Christine Blasey Ford: Show up or we’re heading to a vote.

“She said she wanted to appear but if she changes her mind and refuses to appear, there's not much we can do,” the number two Republican in the Senate, John Cornyn of Texas, said of the California professor who alleges Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they both were in high school.

“We can't force her to do that," Cornyn said. "And so nothing really else would remain of the investigation and background of the judge and we would vote on the nomination.”

In a letter to Ford's lawyers on Wednesday, Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley repeated his invitation to Ford to be heard by senators, in public or in private. Her lawyers said Tuesday Ford wanted the FBI to investigate her allegation before any talk of testifying, echoing what Senate Democrats have argued.

Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, one of the first Republicans to call for Ford to testify, agrees with Cornyn on Monday as a deadline.

“Republicans extended a hand in good faith. If we don’t hear from both sides on Monday, let’s vote,” Corker tweeted.

The handful of Republicans most vocal about their reservations seem to be growing increasingly frustrated.

Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, a Republican who said it is important for Ford to be heard, tweeted his exhortation to her.

“When Dr. Ford came forward, I said that her voice should be heard and asked the Judiciary Committee to delay its vote on Judge Kavanaugh. It did so. I now implore Dr. Ford to accept the invitation for Monday, in a public or private setting. The committee should hear her voice.”

Some Democrats reacted sharply to the Republican position. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York said: " I think saying you either testify on Monday or not be heard, I think is fairly outrageous."

"There needs to be some element of an impartial investigation with that information going to the committee members before we have a public spectacle," Democratic Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama said.

“We’re not going to cancel any hearing until the last minute,” Grassley told ABC News. “I don’t know what the last minute is. But until the last minute in hopes that she’ll take us up.”

Grassley stressed that the committee has offered to hear from Ford in an open or closed hearing, or to have committee staff interview her in public or in private.

“We’ve gone beyond what we did the first day of just having the open hearing she asked for. Because we've heard she may not want to come into that environment so we offered one more closed session or two ways of doing it by transcript,” he said.

Asked if he finds the allegations credible, Grassley, exasperated, said “That’s why we’re having a hearing,” as the elevator door closed.

Asked if he feels he has enough information to cast a vote, Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana, noted, “We’ve had a full confirmation hearing,” adding “I really hope Dr. Ford changes her mind and decides to attend.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Sep192018

Trump says hard for him to imagine Christine Blasey Ford's allegation against Brett Kavanaugh is true

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump says he wants to hear from the accuser of his Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh but said it's hard for him to "imagine that anything happened," referring to the sexual assault allegation brought by professor Christine Blasey Ford.

"If she shows up and makes a credible showing, that will be very interesting and we'll have to make a decision," President Trump said. "But I can only say this, he is such an outstanding man. Very hard for me to imagine that anything happened."

Asked directly by ABC News' Jonathan Karl if Ford's allegation is disqualifying for Kavanaugh if true, the president didn't directly answer, except to say he needs to hear her story first.

"I would really want to see her. I would want to see what she has to say," he said.

The president again brushed off the idea of asking the FBI to reopen its background check into Kavanaugh, something he has the power to order, saying "it would seem the FBI doesn't do that" and deferring to senators to handle the process from this point forward.

Through her attorney, Ford has said she is willing to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee but first wants the FBI to investigate the matter to help ensure all the facts have been vetted.

"A full investigation by law enforcement officials will ensure that the crucial facts and witnesses in this matter are assessed in a non-partisan manner and that the Committee is fully informed before conducting any hearing or making any decisions," her attorneys wrote in a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, reported first on CNN and obtained by ABC News.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley on Wednesday reiterated his invitation for Ford to talk to senators "in whatever format she deems appropriate," and a GOP committee staffer said Republicans had offered to send staff to California to interview her in person.

In a letter to Ford's attorney's, Grassley said, “I sincerely hope that Dr. Ford will accept my invitation to do so, either privately or publicly, on Monday. In the meantime, my staff would still welcome the opportunity to speak with Dr. Ford at a time and place convenient to her."

Grassley gave them until 10 a.m. Friday to respond if Ford is going to talk to the committee on Monday.

He also responded to her legal team's call, on Ford's behalf, that there be an FBI investigation before there's talk of her testifying.

“The FBI does not make a credibility assessment of any information it receives with respect to a nominee. Nor is it tasked with investigating a matter simply because the Committee deems it important," his letter said.

"The Constitution assigns the Senate, and only the Senate, with the task of advising the President on his nominee and consenting to the nomination if the circumstances merit. We have no power to commandeer an Executive Branch agency into conducting our due diligence. The job of assessing and investigating a nominee’s qualifications in order to decide whether to consent to the nomination is ours, and ours alone,” Grassley said.

A key Republican, Maine Sen. Susan Collins, on Wednesday appeared to support Grassley's view that Ford should talk to the committee in some form on Monday and that the hearing should go forward.

"Since we know that Dr. Ford had already secured the services of an attorney and presumably knows what she wants to say and there's a week -- more than a week -- between when she made the allegations and the date of the hearing, which was slated for next Monday, I just don't understand why the hearing shouldn't go forth," Collins told Maine radio station WVOM.

"I don't think she can reject all those options because otherwise there are these very serious allegations hanging over the head of a nominee who has emphatically denied them, and that's just not a good way for us to end," Collins said.

The president said the Senate has already given a lot of extra time to the process due to the late-breaking allegation and questioned the motives of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, for not bringing forward a letter detailing the allegation, which she has had for months, sooner.

"Why didn't Senator Feinstein bring this up at her meeting with judge Kavanaugh?" he said. "Why did they wait until everything was finished and then bring it up? That doesn't look good."

The president expressed sympathy for his Supreme Court pick, saying "it's a very unfair thing what's going on" and calling Kavanaugh "an extraordinary man."

"This is a very tough thing for him and his family and we want to get it over with but at the same time we want to give tremendous amounts of time. If she shows up, that would be wonderful. If she doesn't show up, that would be unfortunate," he said.

Kavanaugh has been personally "shaken" by the accusations against him, according to an official closely familiar with the nomination process, but remains "resolute" and "unflinching" in his categorical denials, the official said.

Asked how Kavanaugh might hold up during a possible interrogation in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee next Monday, this official said he's going to be "very, very believable."

Unlike the past two days, Kavanaugh has not come to the White House on Wednesday, according to the official.

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., who Ford reached out to initially over the summer, describes her as a “gentle, honest person who may change people’s minds.”

Eshoo told ABC News' Karl on the "Powerhouse Politics" podcast that she met with Ford face-to-face over the July Fourth holiday and discussed her story.

“My constituent is not a creature of Washington, D.C.," Eshoo said. "That's not who she is.”

Eshoo said she thinks Ford is aware of the personal risks of coming forward.

“She is I believe a very honest person. And what was so apparent to me was how this the effect it had on her in her in her adult life," Eshoo said. "That's why I think she has courage she's demonstrated an enormous amount of courage to come forward to tell her full story to the American people.”

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Wednesday
Sep192018

Senate passes measure requiring streaming services to pay artists for pre-1972 music 

Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Music Modernization Act, which would substantially change the way musicians are compensated for their work played on streaming services, passed a major milestone in the Senate this week.

The Senate approved the bipartisan bill unanimously on Tuesday, following House passage of a similar bill in April. The measures must now be reconciled before the legislation is sent to President Trump for his expected signature.

“I’m so pleased we’re one step closer to historic reform for our badly outdated music laws,” Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican and one of the bill's sponsors, said in a statement. “The Music Modernization Act provides a solution, and it does so in a way that brings together competing sides of the music industry and both sides of the political spectrum. As a songwriter myself, I know firsthand how inefficient the current music marketplace is. The MMA will help all the songwriters and other music creators who make music such a rich, vibrant, and essential part of American culture.”

The Senate legislation, which bears the same name as the House bill, combines the Allocation for Music Producers Act, which provides royalties for music producers; the CLASSICS Act, which provides royalties for songs created before 1972 from digital streaming services; and a watered down Fair Play, Fair Pay Act, which does not include the provision that broadcast radio should pay for songs.

"The passage of the Music Modernization Act by the Senate is a historic moment for the tens of thousands of music creators across the nation," said Neil Portnow, president and CEO of the Recording Academy. "Since first proposing the music industry unite around a common bill in 2014, our members have lobbied in Washington and all 50 states to achieve this vision. When creators raise their voices for fairness, they make great progress."

SiriusXM, one of the bill's biggest opponents, compromised after some last-minute negotiations.

Sirius XM said it has been paying artists for years and the major reason it opposed the bill was that terrestrial radio doesn't compensate artists for music they released before or after 1972, and it said that was unfair.

Paying artists for their pre-1972 music played on streaming services and now terrestrial radio is a major component of the bill.

"SiriusXM, joined with Azoff Music Management, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), and the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA), to announce an agreement on the Music Modernization Act," a statement released by SiriusXM said.

The changes build upon existing language to confirm in law that artists will receive 50 percent of performance royalties from SiriusXM for pre-1972 sound recordings, and confirm that the existing sound recording royalty rate for satellite radio will remain in place unchanged until 2027, an additional five-year period.

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Wednesday
Sep192018

Christine Blasey Ford's high school classmate: Brett Kavanaugh controversy has felt 'personal'

ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) -- Samantha Guerry, a former classmate of Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault when they were both in high school in suburban Maryland decades ago, said it’s “just not possible” that her friend is mistaken on his identity.

“I find that very, well frankly it makes me angry,” Guerry said on ABC News’ “The Briefing Room.”

“It's really a way of dismissing her and suggesting that her memory isn't clear," Guerry said. "I think that when you have someone's hand over your mouth and you think that you might die by accident you know who you're dealing with."

Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch told CNN on Monday he believed Ford must be "mistaken" and that Kavanaugh told the senator he wasn't at the party.

“Senator Hatch spoke to Judge Kavanaugh earlier, and Judge Kavanaugh continued to categorically deny Dr. Ford’s allegations. He told Senator Hatch he was not at a party like the one she describes, and that Dr. Ford, who acknowledged to the Washington Post that she 'did not remember some key details of the incident' may be mistaking him for someone else,” Hatch's spokesman Matt Whitlock said in a statement to ABC News.

Guerry, who has not recently spoken with Ford, also sought on Wednesday to offer a different picture of the woman who was a girlhood friend saying that she is "strong" and "is holding up as well as can be expected given the circumstances."

"It's been personal. It's family," Guerry said of the increased scrutiny on Ford since the sexual assault allegation became public.

“I think what everyone needs to remember that what she asked for is confidentiality. She didn't ask to be a political football in this,” Guerry said of Ford.

Ford initially reached out confidentially to her congresswoman in California, Democratic Rep. Anna Eshoo, but now that the allegation and her name have been made public, Guerry said her friend now has to face a difficult conversation "in such a tremendous public forum and at such a tremendously important time for our country."

This week Guerry joined more than 900 alumnae of the Holton-Arms School — a private school for girls in Bethesda, Maryland — in signing an open letter, voicing their support for Ford.

The letter, which was also signed by Hollywood actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus who graduated from the school in 1979, was signed by women who graduated between 1962 and 2018.

"We believe Dr. Blasey Ford and are grateful that she came forward to tell her story," the letter reads. "It demands a thorough and independent investigation before the Senate can reasonably vote on Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to a lifetime seat on the nation's highest court. Dr. Blasey Ford's experience is all too consistent with stories we heard and lived while attending Holton. Many of us are survivors ourselves."

Ford is open to testifying to lawmakers, but not before the FBI investigates the matter, one of her lawyers, Lisa Banks, said Tuesday night. Democrats have echoed calls for the FBI to investigate the matter before any hearing takes place.

Kavanaugh has repeatedly denied the allegation. Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee invited Ford and Kavanaugh to a hearing on Monday and said on Wednesday that they offered her the option to testify privately or publicly.

President Donald Trump has said while he wants to hear from Ford, it's hard for him to "imagine that anything happened," referring to the sexual assault allegation brought by Ford.

Guerry said she knew Kavanaugh because she dated one of his friends and that the guys were a "tight-knit group."

"They partied as much as you would expect teenaged boys to party," she said adding that the level of partying wasn't unique to the Washington D.C. private school scene.

This is a developing story. Please refresh for details.

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