The woman who has accused Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers has committed to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, her lawyers said on Sunday. The lawyers said some details — including whether an outside lawyer will question her — still needed to be resolved, but that those issues would not impede holding a hearing.
The agreement, reached after an hourlong negotiating session Sunday morning between the lawyers and committee aides, is the latest step in a halting process toward a potentially explosive hearing that will pit the woman, Christine Blasey Ford, against Judge Kavanaugh, President Trump’s second nominee to the Supreme Court. On Saturday, the two sides reached a tentative agreement for Dr. Ford to appear on Thursday.
The on-again, off-again talks — with an appointment to the nation’s highest court in the balance — have consumed official Washington, and thrown confirmation proceedings for Judge Kavanaugh, who has vigorously denied Dr. Ford’s allegations, into turmoil. Until last week, Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation seemed all but assured; that is no longer the case.
A few sticking points between the two sides remain, according to people familiar with the talks. One is who will testify first, Dr. Ford or Judge Kavanaugh. Republicans have rejected the idea that the judge would appear first. But perhaps the biggest sticking point is whether senators on the Judiciary Committee will question Dr. Ford themselves, or use an outside lawyer or a committee aide, most likely a woman.
All the Republicans on the panel are men. In a midterm election season where Republicans are already struggling to connect with female voters, party leaders desperately want to avoid images of an all-male panel ganging up on a woman who says she experienced a sexual assault. There are four women on the Judiciary Committee, but all are Democrats.
Lawyers for Dr. Ford have strongly opposed having an outside questioner, arguing that it could give the hearing a prosecutorial tone. And Senate Democrats have indicated that, no matter whom Republicans choose to question Dr. Ford, when she is questioned by Democrats, senators will be doing the talking.