Tierney Sneed contributed reporting.
The all-male contingent of Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans have hired an outside attorney, a woman, to ask questions at Thursday’s hearing with Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault, Politico first reported Tuesday.
Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has not revealed the lawyer’s name. “I guess we’re just being cautious,” he told Politico.
Grassley told TPM: “The attorney is a staff counsel, hired just like all the other lawyers we hired for the Supreme Court, and we have done it because we want to depoliticize the whole process, like the Democrats politicized the Anita Hill thing.”
“The whole purpose is to create an environment, where it’s what Dr. Ford has asked for, [that] it be professional and not be a circus,” he added.
An unnamed Democratic staffer told HuffPost: “Democratic senators feel capable of asking their own questions.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a member of the committee, confirmed Tuesday that rather than ask questions himself on Thursday, “I’m going to let the professional person do it.”
Graham justified the unusual choice by saying there were too many senators on the panel to allow any one the time necessary to perform sufficient questioning, and said he viewed the hearing as a legal proceeding.
“I’m very comfortable [with] the idea of calling an outside counsel and giving them the time they need to ask questions,” he told reporters, adding: “If you’re going to nominate to the Supreme Court, right, why don’t you use some of the concepts they’ll be talking about?”
“I’m not big into my feelings,” he continued. “I don’t believe you have to believe a woman because they said it. I do believe a lot of women get abused who never say anything.”
On Sunday, Ford’s attorneys told Grassley they still didn’t know whether senators “or staff attorneys” would be asking questions Thursday. In a letter responding, Grassley said questions of “which witnesses to call, how many witnesses to call, in what order to call them, and who will question them” were “non-negotiable.”
Also on Sunday, Graham said of bringing in “our own counsel” to do the questioning: “I thought it would be really smart to have somebody come in that knows what the hell they’re doing, to ask the questions, to be respectful.”
He’s also said, referring to the allegations, “I’m not going to ruin Judge Kavanaugh’s life over this” and that “coaching witnesses or reporting thinly-sourced stories” were part of a coordinated strategy against Kavanaugh’s nomination.