WASHINGTON－US Republicans are warning that time is running out for Brett Kavanaugh's accuser to tell Congress about her claim he sexually assaulted her when both were teenagers, even as President Donald Trump called the woman's allegation hard to believe in one of the GOP's sharpest attacks on her credibility.
With Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination dangling in the balance, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said his panel still planned a Monday morning hearing that Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford were invited to attend.
Trump on Wednesday stepped up his defense of Kavanaugh, saying it was hard to imagine him committing a sexual assault and that it would be unfortunate if his accuser did not testify before the Senate.
Republican Senator Chuck Grassley wrote to Ford's attorneys on Wednesday that the panel was giving the California psychology professor until 10 am on Friday to submit a biography and prepared statement "if she intends to testify" on Monday.
It remained unclear, though, whether Ford would attend or if the hearing would occur without her as a drama that has riveted Washington since emerging a week ago was injected with a fresh burst of election-season suspense.
After initially saying through a lawyer on Monday that she was willing to appear, Ford has since said she first wants a full FBI investigation of her accusation. Trump and Senate Republicans have been emphatic that an FBI renewal of its background checks on Kavanaugh won't happen, saying an investigation by committee staff－which Democrats are boycotting－is sufficient.
Ford's demand has been fully backed by Democrats.
Lisa Banks, a Ford attorney, wrote that Grassley's plan to call just two witnesses, Kavanaugh and Ford, "is not a fair or good faith investigation" and said "multiple witnesses" she did not name should be included.
"The rush to a hearing is unnecessary, and contrary to the Committee discovering the truth," Banks wrote.
The standoff left both parties gambling over which of their approaches would appeal to voters in November's elections, which will determine House and Senate control.
Republican leaders trying to keep GOP senators behind Kavanaugh are offering Ford a chance to describe her allegation, either in a hearing room before television cameras or in private. Republicans have largely stood by Kavanaugh's denials.
Democrats are casting Republicans as strong-arming a wronged woman, their eyes on a #MeToo movement that has caught fire and exploded the careers of dozens of male titans.