A fourth witness has come forward to refute accusations against Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh, constituting a unanimous denial by all of those said to be present during an alleged 1982 sexual assault, other than the accuser herself.
The latest denial, issued on Sept. 22 by the lawyer for Leland Keyser—one of the four witnesses named by accuser Christine Ford—comes days before Ford is expected to offer her account to the Senate Judiciary Committee at a Sept. 27 hearing.
Keyser’s denial could be viewed as the most powerful since she is reportedly Ford’s lifelong friend, something Ford’s lawyers haven’t disputed.
Staffers for Republicans on the committee reached out to Keyser as part of their investigation into Ford’s claims.
“Simply put, Ms. Keyser does not know Mr. Kavanaugh and she has no recollection of ever being at a party or gathering where he was present, with, or without, Dr. Ford,” Howard Walsh, an attorney for Keyser, wrote.
In a July 30 letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the ranking Democrat on the committee, Ford alleged that she and four other people, including Kavanaugh, were present in a Maryland-area home at the time of the alleged assault. Only Kavanaugh is identified in a partially redacted version of the letter that was leaked to the press.
Feinstein sat on the letter for weeks, choosing to disclose its existence only after the hearings and days before the committee was set to recommend Kavanaugh for a full Senate vote.
Ford identified one other witness, Mark Judge, in a Sept. 16 Washington Post article where she first told her story. The Judiciary Committee pinned down the identities of the other witness, including Patrick Smyth, in the course of its investigation.
Smyth, Keyser, and Judge have denied Ford’s allegation in letters to the committee under the penalty of felony perjury. Kavanaugh denied the allegation in person under oath before the committee. Ford remains the only witness to not have provided a statement to the committee.
“These official letters from the 4 named by Dr. Ford—denying any knowledge of what Dr. Ford has alleged—serve the same purpose as sworn testimony,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), a member of the judiciary committee, wrote on Twitter on Sept. 23. “We remain hopeful we’ll hear sworn testimony from the 5th, Dr. Ford herself.”
The denial from the fourth witness became public shortly after staffers for Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) reached a tentative agreement with Ford’s lawyers on a date, time, and a set of conditions for Ford’s testimony. Grassley had granted Ford five deadline extensions before both parties agreed on a hearing.
According to Hatch, Ford’s lawyers sent a “long list” of conditions for her testimony. Grassley agreed to several items, including postponing the hearing by three days, ensuring Ford’s safety, and not having Kavanaugh in the same room during her testimony.
Grassley rejected other conditions, including that Kavanaugh testifies first.
“Judge Kavanaugh would be forced [to] answer about a Washington Post article detailing allegations, not the words of his accuser. An obvious nonstarter,” Hatch wrote on Twitter.
Ford’s lawyers also asked the committee to subpoena other witnesses. Grassley had rejected that demand in a letter, writing that one witness can’t compel the committee to subpoena other witnesses. Grassley also said that Ford’s lawyers were attempting to dictate how the committee conducts its hearings.
Two conditions are still in dispute, according to Hatch. Ford’s lawyers continue to demand additional witnesses to be called to testify and have taken issue with the committee retaining its own counsel.
“If they continue to contest those two things there won’t be a hearing,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told “Fox News Sunday.” “We’re not going to turn the hearing over to her lawyers.”
Grassley has repeatedly castigated Feinstein for waiting to disclose the letter at a politically opportune moment.
In a letter to Ford’s lawyers, the committee wrote that Feinstein’s move was unfair to both Ford and Kavanaugh.
Ford wanted to remain anonymous when she wrote to Feinstein, but was reportedly forced to come forward after the existence of the letter was leaked to the press. In addition to sidelining Ford’s request for anonymity, Feinstein’s delay was also unfair to Kavanaugh, the committee staff wrote. Kavanaugh could have addressed the accusation during weeks of rigorous vetting by the committee, including three days of public hearings.
“Senator Feinstein also could have referred these allegations anonymously and confidentially to the FBI when she was made aware of them,” committee staff wrote. “That would have protected her anonymity, as Dr. Ford requested.”
“These actions were profoundly unfair to both parties,” the letter continued. “Judge Kavanaugh has unequivocally denied Dr. Ford’s allegations. He should have been given the opportunity to say so directly to Senator Feinstein had he been made aware of serious allegations against him.”
President Donald Trump nominated Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court seat of Justice Anthony Kennedy, who retired on July 31.