WASHINGTON — The woman who has accused President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee of sexual assault has so far failed to respond to requests from the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify at an extraordinary public hearing on Monday, raising doubts about whether she plans to attend — and whether the session would go on without her.
Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, who leads the Senate Judiciary Committee, told the radio host Hugh Hewitt on Tuesday that he had sent several requests to lawyers for the accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, to testify along with Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh. But Mr. Grassley said that he had not gotten a reply, “so it kind of raises the question: Do they want to come to the public hearing or not?”
President Trump also weighed in. “Judge Kavanaugh is anxious to do it,” he told reporters at the White House. “I don’t know about the other party.”
The mysterious silence from Dr. Blasey and her lawyers was another turn in a drama that has gripped the Capitol since Thursday, when the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee revealed that she had referred the sexual assault allegations to federal investigators. Dr. Blasey, a research psychologist in Northern California, has accused the judge of sexually assaulting her more than 30 years ago, when both were teenagers, a charge that Judge Kavanaugh has categorically denied.
Dr. Blasey, thrust suddenly into a spotlight that she never sought, has been inundated with vulgar email and social media messages, and even death threats, according to a person close to her, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a private matter. “From what I’ve heard you have 6 months to live, you disgusting slime,” one message said.
Dr. Blasey, who has two teenagers, has moved out of her house, is arranging for private security for herself and her family, and is effectively in hiding, the person said. But Dr. Blasey has also been buoyed by a flood of supportive messages from friends and strangers.
“Ninety percent of people think she’s a hero and are extremely supportive of her, and 10 percent want her to die immediately,” the person said, adding, “Her worst fears are coming true.”
Lawyers for Dr. Blasey — who uses that surname professionally, though news accounts have also referred to her by her married name, Ford — did not respond to repeated requests for comment about the upcoming hearing. Both Dr. Blasey and Judge Kavanaugh had said on Monday morning that they were willing to come before the committee.
Democrats and Republicans, meanwhile, are clashing over the scope and shape of the hearings. Mr. Grassley said Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Blasey would be the only witnesses, prompting pushback from top Democrats, who are demanding an F.B.I. investigation to search for additional witnesses or evidence, and to avoid the specter of a “he said, she said” debate that will not get at the truth.
One possible witness is a friend of Judge Kavanaugh’s, Mark Judge, who Dr. Blasey said was in the room with Judge Kavanaugh when the assault occurred. Mr. Judge had told the Judiciary Committee that he does remember the episode and has nothing more to say, seemingly foreclosing the possibility of an additional witness interview, at least for now.
“We have two diametrically opposed stories,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said on the Senate floor. “My view: Professor Ford is telling the truth. But if you don’t want the hearing to be just a ‘he said, she said’ affair, an independent investigation, a background check by the F.B.I., is essential.”
Mr. Trump on Tuesday rejected F.B.I. involvement “because they don’t want to be involved.”
Monday’s hearing, which Mr. Grassley scheduled under pressure from fellow Republicans who said they wanted to hear from Dr. Blasey, promises to become a riveting public spectacle — and one with potentially grave implications for Judge Kavanaugh, who until last week was considered to be on a glide path to confirmation.
Dr. Blasey’s allegations, unfolding against the backdrop of the #MeToo movement, are inevitably evoking comparisons to 1991 confirmation hearings of Justice Clarence Thomas, who was accused of sexual harassment by the law professor Anita F. Hill.
The sight of Professor Hill being grilled on national television by an all-white, all-male Judiciary Committee enraged women across the nation, contributing to the so-called Year of the Woman in 1992, which led scores of women to run for public office. Republicans are clearly mindful of this, and do not want a repeat of the Hill-Thomas scenario.
Three male members of the Judiciary Committee in 1991 — Mr. Grassley; Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah; and Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont — remain on the panel today. And while there are four women now — Senators Dianne Feinstein of California, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and Kamala Harris of California — all are Democrats.
Professor Hill, in an opinion piece published Tuesday in The New York Times, said the panel had not learned its lessons from 1991.
“That the Senate Judiciary Committee still lacks a protocol for vetting sexual harassment and assault claims that surface during a confirmation hearing suggests that the committee has learned little from the Thomas hearing, much less the more recent #MeToo movement,” she wrote, adding that the committee needs to have a “well thought out” process for Judge Kavanaugh’s and Dr. Blasey’s testimony.
“The details of what that process would look like should be guided by experts who have devoted their careers to understanding sexual violence,” she said. “The job of the Senate Judiciary Committee is to serve as fact-finders, to better serve the American public, and the weight of the government should not be used to destroy the lives of witnesses who are called to testify.”
Speaking on the Senate floor, Mr. Schumer invoked the Hill-Thomas hearings as he accused Republicans of moving to paper over Dr. Blasey’s allegations with a rushed, perfunctory session.
“We must not repeat the mistakes of the Anita Hill hearings,” he said. “They were rushed, and they were a debacle.”
Republicans acknowledge that they must handle Dr. Blasey’s accusations delicately. A clearly frustrated Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, sought to project confidence from the floor of the Senate on Tuesday morning, saying that the accusation “stands at odds with every other piece of the overwhelmingly positive testimony we’ve received about Judge Kavanaugh’s character.”
But Republicans are eager to avoid the spectacle of a bank of white male Republicans interrogating an educated woman who has said she is the victim of assault. That could mean allowing a single sexual violence expert to handle the questioning rather than the senators themselves.
Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine and a critical swing vote on the Kavanaugh nomination, offered her own proposal: She said lawyers for Dr. Blasey should question Judge Kavanaugh, while lawyers for Judge Kavanaugh should question Dr. Blasey.
“I believe that would elicit the most information,” she told reporters.
Rather than attack Dr. Ford’s credibility directly, top Senate Republicans continued on Tuesday to savage Judiciary Committee Democrats and, in particular, Ms. Feinstein, who knew of Dr. Blasey’s allegations since July but kept them secret until last week at Dr. Blasey’s request. Republicans insinuated the late revelation was a cynical and calculated leak to derail the nomination at the last minute.
“We should not have gotten to this point in this manner at this time,” Mr. McConnell said. “That this process has played out with so little order and so little sensitivity lies solely at the feet of Senate Democrats, who saw political advantage in leaking this to the press instead of vetting it through proper channels.”