Amid a tentative agreement from Christine Blasey Ford to publicly testify later this week about her allegation of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, lawmakers expressed varied ideas about the role her accusation should have in coming hearings.
Ford's allegation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her during a high school party in the 1980s has become a major flashpoint for Kavanaugh's confirmation since she came forward publicly in a Washington Post report last week.
Though lawmakers widely agree that Ford should be allowed to present her account before the committee, some disagree on how large an implication the allegations have on Kavanaugh's potential confirmation.
Republicans urge caution
Sen. Lindsey Graham said he feels "sorry" for Ford, but the allegation is "too old for a criminal trial," and lacks the detail and documentation to condemn Kavanaugh.
"What do you expect me to do?" the South Carolina Republican asked on "Fox News Sunday". "What am I supposed to do? Go ahead and ruin this guy's life? I don't know when it happened I don't where it happened and everybody being named in regard to being there said it didn't happen."
Ford told the Post a "stumbling drunk" Kavanaugh pinned her down and groped her at a high-school party in the 1980s while his friend watched. Kavanaugh categorically denied the account.
Graham continued: "I'm just being honest, unless there's something more, no I'm not going to ruin Judge Kavanaugh's life over this. But [Ford] should come forward, she should have her say, she will be respectfully treated."
In response to Ford's delayed decision to report the assault, United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley said people shouldn't blame or "second guess" Ford.
"Accusers go through a lot of trauma," Haley said on CNN's "State of the Union" "Some handle it one way and some handle it another way. Regardless, it's not something we want to do to blame the accuser or try and second guess the accuser."
She continued: "We don't know the situation she was going through 35 years ago. We don't know the circumstances."
Haley was speaking days after President Donald Trump tweeted if the assault was "as bad as [Ford] says, charges would have been immediately filed."
"At the same time, I think the accused deserves to be heard," Haley said of Kavanaugh. "I think that's going to happen, which is great. The Senate has a huge responsibility here. They have to make sure it's fair. They have to make sure it's responsible. And they have to take the politics out."
Sen. David Perdue of Georgia said there was "absolutely no rush to judgment" in processing Ford's accusation, and he was confident Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley would "take his time" and handle coming hearings to benefit all involved.
"Well look, these are serious allegations," Perdue said on "Meet the Press". "I hope Dr. Ford can be put in a comfortable situation where she can provide the information. ... My view is that we should hear from both parties in a timely manner. ... It's time to have this hearing and get it before the American people."
Grassley granted Ford a one-day extension to decide on testifying Friday, and tweeted a series of gripes about the request, leading some to conclude the committee is not genuinely interested in Ford's story.
Ford said last week an FBI investigation should be the "first step" before she testifies, which some lawmakers rebuked on Sunday.
Rep. Trey Gowdy said an investigation would be unproductive and Ford should be heard before the committee, members of which should withhold judgment before her testimony.
"I'm really disappointed when I hear senators say they either believe or don't believe witnesses that they have never interviewed or heard from," he said.
Gowdy added the FBI would only identify other witnesses, but ultimately wouldn't be helpful, as they aren't "human polygraphs."
Democrats defend Ford
California Rep. Anna Eshoo, to whom Ford first made the "wrenching" allegations in July, said lawmakers and voters should take Ford's accusation and coming testimony seriously.
"This is an intelligent woman," Eshoo said on CBS's "Face the Nation." "This is not a woman that is confused, mixed up. This is something she has carried with her, just as many victims do. She will speak clearly, share her story, and I think the American people need to listen."
Judiciary Committee member Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii said she has doubted Kavanaugh's credibility throughout the confirmation process, and takes that into account in weighing his categorical denial.
"I put his denial in the context of everything that I know about him in terms of how he approaches his cases. His credibility is already very questionable in my mind, and in the minds of a lot of my fellow Judiciary Committee members," Hirono said on CNN's "State of the Union."
Top Senate Judiciary Committee Democrat Sen. Dick Durbin said on ABC's "This Week" that doubts about Ford's credibility were unwarranted, and her coming forward earns both her and Kavanaugh a "fair hearing."
"What in the hell did she have to gain by doing this?" Durbin asked. "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."
Durbin continued: "I believe that not only Judge Kavanaugh, but certainly Dr. Ford deserves a fair hearing."
Kavanaugh's nomination had already faced resistance from Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee and scores of protesters who have expressed concerns over his record on issues such as abortion and gun control.
A Fox News poll released Sunday found falling support for Kavanaugh, with 40% of voters supporting confirmation and 50% opposing. A poll from last month found views split at 45%/46%.