The California psychology professor who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault is reportedly receiving death threats, as Donald Trump says he will make a decision on his nominee based on her testimony.
The professor, 51-year-old Christine Blasey Ford, has accused Mr Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her at a party when they were both in high school. Mr Kavanugh has categorically denied the allegations.
In the days since Ms Blasey Ford’s name was made public, her attorneys said, her “worst fears have materialised”.
“She has been the target of vicious harassment and even death threats,” attorneys Debra Katz and Lisa Banks wrote in a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee chair Chuck Grassley.
“As a result of these kind of threats, her family was forced to relocate out of their home,” they added. “Her email has been hacked and she has been impersonated online.”
The attorneys asked for an FBI investigation of Ms Blasey Ford’s allegations before she was called to testify publicly in front of the Senate committee. Mr Grassley had previously scheduled a televised hearing on the allegations for Monday.
President Trump said on Wednesday that it would be “wonderful” if the professor appeared in front of the committee.
“Look, if she shows up and makes a credible showing, that will be very interesting and we’ll have to make a decision,” he told reporters outside the White House.
But Ms Blasey Ford’s attorneys pushed back on the Monday deadline, saying the accuser’s life was “being turned upside down”, and chiding Mr Grassley for suggesting she relive a “traumatic and harrowing incident” at the same table as Mr Kavanaugh.
Democrats quickly spoke out in support of the professor’s wishes, saying the hearing should be delayed until a full investigation could be completed.
“That this brave woman is receiving death threats and has been forced to flee with her family is appalling and heartbreaking,” Senator Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the judiciary committee, said in a statement. “This abuse must stop. We’re better than this.”
But Republicans were reluctant to delay the hearing, which could push a vote on Mr Kavanaugh’s confirmation until after the contentious midterm elections. Some pointed to a statement from the Justice Department that noted Ms Blasey Ford’s allegation does not concern a federal crime, and that the FBI “does not make any judgement about the credibility or significance of any allegation”.
Mr Grassley said on Tuesday that the hearing should proceed, regardless of whether or not Ms Blasey Ford decided to testify.
“The invitation for Monday still stands. Dr Ford’s testimony would reflect her personal knowledge and memory of events,” the chairman said. “Nothing the FBI or any other investigator does would have any bearing on what Dr Ford tells the committee, so there is no reason for any further delay.”
Meanwhile, in Ms Blasey Ford’s hometown of Palo Alto, a group of local mothers had gathered together to support their friend. Kirsten Leimroth, whose daughters are part of the same junior lifeguard programme as Ms Blasey Ford’s two sons, said it was “preposterous” to think the professor had invented the allegations for political reasons.
“There’s absolutely no way it’s made up. She can’t even go home,” Ms Leimroth told the Mercury News. “She had to have her kids stay somewhere else. She had to shut down all social media. Why would she do that?”