Kavanaugh accuser’s lawyers, senators negotiate terms for possible testimony

Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, is willing to testify before lawmakers as early as next week, her lawyers say, so long as certain terms are met that are “fair and ensure her safety.”

In a call between Ford’s attorneys and the Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley’s staff Thursday night to discuss terms for a potential hearing, a source familiar with the conversations tells ABC News Ford’s attorney requested that she be allowed to testify first and that Kavanaugh not be present in the room at the time.

The White House is expected to object to the idea that Kavanaugh testifying first, with a senior administration official saying Kavanaugh should go second to ensure he’s in a position to respond to Ford’s accusation.

Ford has alleged that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her decades ago when they were high school students in suburban Maryland. Kavanaugh has denied the claim.

The two parties discussed the possibility of setting a hearing for next Thursday, though the day has not been finalized.

Ford’s legal team also asked that there be no time limit on Ford’s opening statement and raised the prospect of a subpoena for Mark Judge, who Ford claims witnessed the assault, and other potential witnesses.

An administration official, responding to that suggestion, prompted demands that others testify as well, including her therapist and the notes her therapist took.

Another possible point of contention is whether outside expert attorneys will be allowed to conduct the questioning of Ford during the hearing. That’s an idea of which the White House is supportive; but Ford’s attorneys have expressed opposition to the idea of anyone other than lawmakers questioning their client, raising concern that the testimony could take on too much of a trial-like atmosphere, according to the source.

The all-male, Republican members of the committee, concerned about “poor optics”, have proposed having a female outside counsel question Ford.

Emails obtained by ABC News between Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley’s staff and Ford’s legal team show that Republican staffers reached out the day after Ford’s identity was made public and offered to have her testify later that same week or the following Monday at an upcoming hearing on the Supreme Court nominee.

The emails do not indicate any responses from Ford’s legal team prior to Tuesday evening. It was not immediately clear whether there was additional correspondence beyond the emails ABC obtained, and Ford’s lawyers did not respond to request for comment about the email outreach.

The tone of the correspondence is markedly different from the heated rhetoric being employed by members of both parties on the Judiciary Committee, who have accused one another of mishandling Ford’s allegations.

Since Ford’s name became public, Democrats and Republicans on and off the Judiciary Committee have traded barbs. On Wednesday, Sen. Mazie Hirono, a Hawaii Democrat, said Grassley’s assertions that committee Republicans had done everything to contact Ford’s legal team was “bull—-.”

The rhetoric has been equally heated on the Republican side. On Tuesday, Sen. Lindsey Graham said the Democrats’ handling of the Ford accusations has been “a drive-by shooting when it comes to Kavanaugh.”

As the shots were fired in public, committee staff and Ford’s lawyers privately continued their relatively mundane correspondence, lamenting the occasional missed missive.

ABC News’ Jordyn Phelps contributed to this report.

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