RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
The woman accusing President Trump's Supreme Court nominee of sexual assault has now come forward. Her name is Christine Blasey Ford, and she told her story to The Washington Post. When it went public yesterday, it immediately became clear it has the potential to derail the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. At least two Republican senators have said the vote on Kavanaugh's nomination should be delayed. Democrats are calling for the FBI to investigate.
NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg is with us now. Good morning, Nina.
NINA TOTENBERG, BYLINE: Good morning.
MARTIN: I guess we should have you start by describing the incident as Brett Kavanaugh's accuser describes it. We should note to listeners some of the content will be disturbing.
TOTENBERG: The woman whose name is Blasey Ford, Christine Blasey Ford, she says that she was at a party. She was about 15 years old. He was 17. It was - they were both in high school at the same time. It was in Maryland, where he went to high school. She went upstairs to go to the bathroom, and these two boys pushed her into a room. And that Brett Kavanaugh threw her on the bed, jumped on top of her, tried to take her clothes off. And when she screamed for help, that he covered her mouth and that that totally terrified her. Finally, the other boy - and they were both drunk, she said - jumped on the bed on both of them. And they all tumbled to the ground. And she got out of the room and locked herself in a nearby bathroom. That's her account.
MARTIN: Brett Kavanaugh denies this.
TOTENBERG: Flatly. He says this absolutely never happened.
MARTIN: Although this could end up, as we noted, preventing him from taking a seat on the court. At least two Republican senators, Jeff Flake and Bob Corker, have said they need more information, the committee needs more information. How does this change the politics around his possible confirmation?
TOTENBERG: Well, first of all, the committee vote is scheduled this Thursday. It was assumed that the nominee would be approved in committee on a very close vote and then go to the floor the following week for 30 hours of debate. Well, now it doesn't look like that is very - a very easy timeline to complete because Jeff Flake, senator from - Republican senator from Arizona who is on that committee, said he's not comfortable voting on the nomination until more evidence is obtained and this is straightened out and he hears from Kavanaugh's accuser.
And that means they don't have the votes on committee. This is an 11-to-10 committee. That means at minimum there's a tie vote. And a tie vote means the nominee does not advance. Now, there are ways around that, yes, but it all takes time. The Republicans have been trying to muscle through this nomination as quickly as possible. They're terrified they might lose the control of the Senate - a long shot. But I don't think that this is - this nomination is dead or anything like it yet. But they're going to have to slow down and refer this to the FBI for investigation.
MARTIN: So there are - we don't know if this allegation is true, but there are clearly parallels to Anita Hill - those allegations against Clarence Thomas during his court confirmation hearings back in '91. You happened to have been the first reporter to break that story. Can you remind us of those allegations, how this is different?
TOTENBERG: Well, in the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill case, they were not kids in high school. They were adults. The allegations were not 35 years ago. They were just a couple of years ago, a few years prior. And she worked for him. So the circumstances were different. The Democrats were actually in control of the Senate. But they actually did send the FBI to interview Anita Hill. Then they did nothing about it.
In this case, the chairman of the committee, Chuck Grassley, has received a request to - send this to the FBI for investigation, not just to include the allegation in the file. And we'll see what's going to happen with that, but I suspect that's going to have to happen. And then they're going to have to hear from the protagonist at some point. And...
MARTIN: We should note, though, one of the woman elected to Congress in the wake of the Anita Hill affair was Dianne Feinstein, the senior Democrat on the judiciary committee. Blasey Ford initially sent the letter to Feinstein. She apparently didn't think it was worth making an issue of, though.
TOTENBERG: What she said was that she had received the information on a confidential basis. And unless Blasey Ford was willing to come forward, she would respect that confidentiality. Unfortunately, she didn't tell her colleagues on the committee, and they're pretty ticked off about that. So they're - this is all coming to the fore very late.
MARTIN: Got it. NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg.
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