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Why Dianne Feinstein waited to take the Brett Kavanaugh allegations to the FBI

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who has come under sharp scrutiny for her handling of the sex...

Posted: Sep 18, 2018 2:01 PM
Updated: Sep 18, 2018 2:01 PM

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who has come under sharp scrutiny for her handling of the sexual assault accusations against Brett Kavanaugh, said Monday that she had privately held on to a letter detailing the allegations because the accuser had asked her to keep them confidential.

But it was a news report last week that ultimately forced her hand, even as she struggled to explain the chain of events in brief interviews on Monday.

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"She had asked to remain confidential," Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said on her way to Senate votes.

Feinstein waited until late last week to provide the letter to the FBI -- only after a news report surfaced detailing the existence of the letter. Feinstein, aides said, wanted to protect the identity of the accuser, Christine Blasey Ford. An attorney for Ford said she did not want to subject herself to the "very brutal" confirmation process -- but agreed to do so and reveal herself publicly to The Washington Post after the report surfaced.

That initial report, in the Intercept, caught committee Democrats by surprise, who had been kept in the dark about the letter Feinstein received July 30, according to several Democratic sources. In what sources describe as a tense meeting last Wednesday night after the report was published, Democrats on the committee were given a copy of the letter and they urged Feinstein to take the matter to the FBI. An unredacted copy of the confidential letter was then provided to the FBI.

A Feinstein spokesman told CNN the letter was provided to the FBI after leaks to the media about the matter had reached a "fever pitch," and the spokesman denied that the leaks came from the senator's office. Feinstein aides would not say whether she had conferred with Ford or her attorney before sending the letter to the FBI, and neither would Feinstein, who said Monday that she could not recall when the letter had been sent to the authorities and "would have to check the records."

She also said she could not recall whether she had contact with the accuser after receiving her letter.

Ford, a university professor, alleged that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her during a party while the two were in high school in the 1980s, a charge the federal judge has furiously denied. Ford initially broached the topic with her congresswoman, Democratic Rep. Anna Eshoo of California, who said Monday on CNN's "Erin Burnett OutFront" that the two met for an hour and a half in July. During that meeting, Ford asked for complete confidentiality.

Eshoo said Ford later gave her a copy of the letter, which was hand-delivered to Feinstein's office on July 30.

President Donald Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and other top Republicans have sharply criticized Feinstein's handling of the letter and refusal to ask Kavanaugh about the controversy during public and private sessions over the last several weeks. They say she waited strategically until the eleventh hour rather than doing so earlier in the vetting process.

Ford's attorney Debra Katz said Monday on CNN's "New Day" that she and Feinstein's office "were in touch" since they sent the July letter.

"She spoke to the senator very soon after the letter was sent, which was July 30. At that point, Dr. Blasey retained counsel and then communication went between staff and Dr. Blasey's counsel," Katz said.

Katz said her client "was not wanting to inject herself into this. Because who would want to incur this kind of really highly politicized attack game that she now finds herself in? She was fine with that decision, but that decision was taken away from her after the hearings when her allegations were essentially leaked."

Republicans, however, pushed back sharply, questioning Feinstein's decision not to raise the matter confidentially as the nomination was being considered.

"One thing I will say is that, as I understand it, Judge Kavanaugh spent quite a bit of time with Sen. Feinstein, and it wasn't even brought up at that meeting," Trump said Monday. "And she had this information. So you would have thought, certainly, that she would have brought it up at the meeting, not wait until everything is finished and then have to start a process all over again."

Senate Democrats, publicly, defended her handling of a very delicate situation.

"That's a tough spot to be in," said Democratic Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama. "That's a tough spot to be in."

Privately, some Democrats believed that holding on to the letter gave Republicans fodder to accuse the Democrats of playing dirty tricks.

Now, the decision by Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa to hold a public hearing about the accusations next Monday will almost certainly determine whether Kavanaugh gets his seat on the court, something that would shift the court further to the right.

"If you believe the charges are true, then you vote no," said Sen. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican .

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 256827

Reported Deaths: 5638
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17257180
Hinds16331322
Harrison13567194
Rankin10804212
Jackson10453184
Lee8864141
Madison8314164
Jones6434112
Forrest6009120
Lauderdale5902186
Lowndes5405116
Lafayette499193
Lamar488565
Washington4803124
Bolivar3997109
Oktibbeha395381
Panola372379
Pontotoc367853
Monroe3558105
Warren354898
Union345960
Marshall344066
Neshoba3396152
Pearl River3301100
Leflore3041107
Lincoln298085
Sunflower286671
Hancock274459
Tate273162
Alcorn265453
Itawamba263759
Pike263778
Scott248046
Yazoo247056
Prentiss246552
Tippah243050
Copiah242749
Coahoma241054
Simpson236467
Leake231765
Grenada219471
Covington214672
Marion213073
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Wayne202932
Winston201666
George199839
Attala194259
Newton193444
Tishomingo189361
Chickasaw185044
Jasper172736
Holmes168767
Clay159833
Stone144721
Tallahatchie141934
Clarke139862
Calhoun136521
Smith121424
Yalobusha117834
Walthall112336
Noxubee110822
Greene110429
Montgomery109834
Carroll104821
Lawrence102917
Perry102631
Amite98426
Webster92824
Tunica87321
Claiborne86625
Jefferson Davis85326
Humphreys83124
Benton82023
Kemper77620
Quitman6968
Franklin66715
Choctaw60913
Wilkinson58725
Jefferson54919
Sharkey43117
Issaquena1596
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 426543

Reported Deaths: 6126
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson62752920
Mobile30551554
Madison27303186
Tuscaloosa20835267
Montgomery19192305
Shelby18693114
Baldwin16513183
Lee12603101
Morgan12321113
Etowah11805168
Calhoun11206200
Marshall10236107
Houston8681148
Cullman8094105
Limestone807474
Elmore7923101
DeKalb771597
Lauderdale763183
St. Clair7599120
Talladega6224108
Walker5930174
Jackson583741
Colbert535473
Blount532083
Autauga522755
Coffee446256
Dale399781
Franklin368148
Chilton337865
Russell335910
Covington330168
Escambia321342
Dallas305196
Chambers288669
Clarke283133
Tallapoosa2630107
Pike251329
Marion247350
Lawrence245247
Winston229035
Bibb217047
Geneva203335
Marengo200829
Pickens196931
Hale177442
Barbour173836
Fayette171226
Butler170758
Cherokee160930
Henry155021
Monroe147317
Randolph141535
Washington138326
Clay127045
Crenshaw120244
Cleburne118423
Lamar118419
Macon116835
Lowndes111535
Wilcox103621
Bullock99728
Perry98219
Conecuh95120
Sumter89526
Greene76223
Coosa60515
Choctaw51524
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