Collins says 'it's not fair' for Kavanaugh accuser not to testify

Senator seen as key vote on the nomination

By MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine)

(CNN) - A key Republican senator pushed back Wednesday on calls by Brett Kavanaugh's accuser to allow for an FBI investigation before a hearing next week, the latest indication that Republicans may be closing in on the votes to confirm President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee if Christine Blasey Ford declines to testify.

"I think it's not fair for Judge Kavanaugh for her not to come forward and testify," Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a crucial swing vote, told local radio station WVOM.

The comments by Collins, who as one of the more moderate Republican senators is seen as a key vote on the nomination, are the latest sign that if Ford declines to testify, it could help Kavanaugh's chances at winning confirmation to the Supreme Court. Already, key Republicans like Sens. Bob Corker and Jeff Flake -- who had been on-the-fence after the new allegations of sexual misconduct from Kavanaugh's high school days in the 1980s -- are saying they're prepared to move ahead with the nomination if she won't testify before the committee.

Collins called on Ford to testify Monday, either in public (her preference) or in a private setting by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Asked about Ford's request to allow the FBI to investigate Ford's allegations first, Collins said that would "it seems to me, that this reverses the normal order of things."

"Usually the FBI does not pursue allegations against a nominee that occurred when the nominee was a minor," Collins, who is not a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told the radio show. "It seems to me what we should be doing is bringing these two individuals before the committee. ... If we need additional help from the FBI, then the committee can ask for it."

Collins has proposed a hearing where the opposing counsels for Kavanaugh and Ford question the witnesses, and she said the Senate Judiciary Committee members "certainly have not rejected our suggestions."

Last week, news surrounding a private letter from Ford that had been sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee's top Democrat, Dianne Feinstein of California, raised potential questions about Kavanaugh's nomination. Feinstein later announced she had given the letter to the FBI. On Sunday, The Washington Post published a story that detailed Ford's personal account of an incident that Ford said took place at a party when she and Kavanaugh were both in high school, more than 35 years ago.

Kavanaugh has denied the incident and as well as being at the party in question.

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