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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The overarching message from Republicans Wednesday to Christine Blasey Ford: Show up or we’re heading to a vote.

“She said she wanted to appear but if she changes her mind and refuses to appear, there's not much we can do,” the number two Republican in the Senate, John Cornyn of Texas, said of the California professor who alleges Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they both were in high school.

“We can't force her to do that," Cornyn said. "And so nothing really else would remain of the investigation and background of the judge and we would vote on the nomination.”

In a letter to Ford's lawyers on Wednesday, Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley repeated his invitation to Ford to be heard by senators, in public or in private. Her lawyers said Tuesday Ford wanted the FBI to investigate her allegation before any talk of testifying, echoing what Senate Democrats have argued.

Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, one of the first Republicans to call for Ford to testify, agrees with Cornyn on Monday as a deadline.

“Republicans extended a hand in good faith. If we don’t hear from both sides on Monday, let’s vote,” Corker tweeted.

The handful of Republicans most vocal about their reservations seem to be growing increasingly frustrated.

Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, a Republican who said it is important for Ford to be heard, tweeted his exhortation to her.

“When Dr. Ford came forward, I said that her voice should be heard and asked the Judiciary Committee to delay its vote on Judge Kavanaugh. It did so. I now implore Dr. Ford to accept the invitation for Monday, in a public or private setting. The committee should hear her voice.”

Some Democrats reacted sharply to the Republican position. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York said: " I think saying you either testify on Monday or not be heard, I think is fairly outrageous."

"There needs to be some element of an impartial investigation with that information going to the committee members before we have a public spectacle," Democratic Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama said.

“We’re not going to cancel any hearing until the last minute,” Grassley told ABC News. “I don’t know what the last minute is. But until the last minute in hopes that she’ll take us up.”

Grassley stressed that the committee has offered to hear from Ford in an open or closed hearing, or to have committee staff interview her in public or in private.

“We’ve gone beyond what we did the first day of just having the open hearing she asked for. Because we've heard she may not want to come into that environment so we offered one more closed session or two ways of doing it by transcript,” he said.

Asked if he finds the allegations credible, Grassley, exasperated, said “That’s why we’re having a hearing,” as the elevator door closed.

Asked if he feels he has enough information to cast a vote, Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana, noted, “We’ve had a full confirmation hearing,” adding “I really hope Dr. Ford changes her mind and decides to attend.”

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Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump says he wants to hear from the accuser of his Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh but said it's hard for him to "imagine that anything happened," referring to the sexual assault allegation brought by professor Christine Blasey Ford.

"If she shows up and makes a credible showing, that will be very interesting and we'll have to make a decision," President Trump said. "But I can only say this, he is such an outstanding man. Very hard for me to imagine that anything happened."

Asked directly by ABC News' Jonathan Karl if Ford's allegation is disqualifying for Kavanaugh if true, the president didn't directly answer, except to say he needs to hear her story first.

"I would really want to see her. I would want to see what she has to say," he said.

The president again brushed off the idea of asking the FBI to reopen its background check into Kavanaugh, something he has the power to order, saying "it would seem the FBI doesn't do that" and deferring to senators to handle the process from this point forward.

Through her attorney, Ford has said she is willing to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee but first wants the FBI to investigate the matter to help ensure all the facts have been vetted.

"A full investigation by law enforcement officials will ensure that the crucial facts and witnesses in this matter are assessed in a non-partisan manner and that the Committee is fully informed before conducting any hearing or making any decisions," her attorneys wrote in a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, reported first on CNN and obtained by ABC News.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley on Wednesday reiterated his invitation for Ford to talk to senators "in whatever format she deems appropriate," and a GOP committee staffer said Republicans had offered to send staff to California to interview her in person.

In a letter to Ford's attorney's, Grassley said, “I sincerely hope that Dr. Ford will accept my invitation to do so, either privately or publicly, on Monday. In the meantime, my staff would still welcome the opportunity to speak with Dr. Ford at a time and place convenient to her."

Grassley gave them until 10 a.m. Friday to respond if Ford is going to talk to the committee on Monday.

He also responded to her legal team's call, on Ford's behalf, that there be an FBI investigation before there's talk of her testifying.

“The FBI does not make a credibility assessment of any information it receives with respect to a nominee. Nor is it tasked with investigating a matter simply because the Committee deems it important," his letter said.

"The Constitution assigns the Senate, and only the Senate, with the task of advising the President on his nominee and consenting to the nomination if the circumstances merit. We have no power to commandeer an Executive Branch agency into conducting our due diligence. The job of assessing and investigating a nominee’s qualifications in order to decide whether to consent to the nomination is ours, and ours alone,” Grassley said.

A key Republican, Maine Sen. Susan Collins, on Wednesday appeared to support Grassley's view that Ford should talk to the committee in some form on Monday and that the hearing should go forward.

"Since we know that Dr. Ford had already secured the services of an attorney and presumably knows what she wants to say and there's a week -- more than a week -- between when she made the allegations and the date of the hearing, which was slated for next Monday, I just don't understand why the hearing shouldn't go forth," Collins told Maine radio station WVOM.

"I don't think she can reject all those options because otherwise there are these very serious allegations hanging over the head of a nominee who has emphatically denied them, and that's just not a good way for us to end," Collins said.

The president said the Senate has already given a lot of extra time to the process due to the late-breaking allegation and questioned the motives of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, for not bringing forward a letter detailing the allegation, which she has had for months, sooner.

"Why didn't Senator Feinstein bring this up at her meeting with judge Kavanaugh?" he said. "Why did they wait until everything was finished and then bring it up? That doesn't look good."

The president expressed sympathy for his Supreme Court pick, saying "it's a very unfair thing what's going on" and calling Kavanaugh "an extraordinary man."

"This is a very tough thing for him and his family and we want to get it over with but at the same time we want to give tremendous amounts of time. If she shows up, that would be wonderful. If she doesn't show up, that would be unfortunate," he said.

Kavanaugh has been personally "shaken" by the accusations against him, according to an official closely familiar with the nomination process, but remains "resolute" and "unflinching" in his categorical denials, the official said.

Asked how Kavanaugh might hold up during a possible interrogation in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee next Monday, this official said he's going to be "very, very believable."

Unlike the past two days, Kavanaugh has not come to the White House on Wednesday, according to the official.

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., who Ford reached out to initially over the summer, describes her as a “gentle, honest person who may change people’s minds.”

Eshoo told ABC News' Karl on the "Powerhouse Politics" podcast that she met with Ford face-to-face over the July Fourth holiday and discussed her story.

“My constituent is not a creature of Washington, D.C.," Eshoo said. "That's not who she is.”

Eshoo said she thinks Ford is aware of the personal risks of coming forward.

“She is I believe a very honest person. And what was so apparent to me was how this the effect it had on her in her in her adult life," Eshoo said. "That's why I think she has courage she's demonstrated an enormous amount of courage to come forward to tell her full story to the American people.”

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Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Music Modernization Act, which would substantially change the way musicians are compensated for their work played on streaming services, passed a major milestone in the Senate this week.

The Senate approved the bipartisan bill unanimously on Tuesday, following House passage of a similar bill in April. The measures must now be reconciled before the legislation is sent to President Trump for his expected signature.

“I’m so pleased we’re one step closer to historic reform for our badly outdated music laws,” Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican and one of the bill's sponsors, said in a statement. “The Music Modernization Act provides a solution, and it does so in a way that brings together competing sides of the music industry and both sides of the political spectrum. As a songwriter myself, I know firsthand how inefficient the current music marketplace is. The MMA will help all the songwriters and other music creators who make music such a rich, vibrant, and essential part of American culture.”

The Senate legislation, which bears the same name as the House bill, combines the Allocation for Music Producers Act, which provides royalties for music producers; the CLASSICS Act, which provides royalties for songs created before 1972 from digital streaming services; and a watered down Fair Play, Fair Pay Act, which does not include the provision that broadcast radio should pay for songs.

"The passage of the Music Modernization Act by the Senate is a historic moment for the tens of thousands of music creators across the nation," said Neil Portnow, president and CEO of the Recording Academy. "Since first proposing the music industry unite around a common bill in 2014, our members have lobbied in Washington and all 50 states to achieve this vision. When creators raise their voices for fairness, they make great progress."

SiriusXM, one of the bill's biggest opponents, compromised after some last-minute negotiations.

Sirius XM said it has been paying artists for years and the major reason it opposed the bill was that terrestrial radio doesn't compensate artists for music they released before or after 1972, and it said that was unfair.

Paying artists for their pre-1972 music played on streaming services and now terrestrial radio is a major component of the bill.

"SiriusXM, joined with Azoff Music Management, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), and the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA), to announce an agreement on the Music Modernization Act," a statement released by SiriusXM said.

The changes build upon existing language to confirm in law that artists will receive 50 percent of performance royalties from SiriusXM for pre-1972 sound recordings, and confirm that the existing sound recording royalty rate for satellite radio will remain in place unchanged until 2027, an additional five-year period.

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Subscribe To This Feed -- Samantha Guerry, a former classmate of Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault when they were both in high school in suburban Maryland decades ago, said it’s “just not possible” that her friend is mistaken on his identity.

“I find that very, well frankly it makes me angry,” Guerry said on ABC News’ “The Briefing Room.”

“It's really a way of dismissing her and suggesting that her memory isn't clear," Guerry said. "I think that when you have someone's hand over your mouth and you think that you might die by accident you know who you're dealing with."

Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch told CNN on Monday he believed Ford must be "mistaken" and that Kavanaugh told the senator he wasn't at the party.

“Senator Hatch spoke to Judge Kavanaugh earlier, and Judge Kavanaugh continued to categorically deny Dr. Ford’s allegations. He told Senator Hatch he was not at a party like the one she describes, and that Dr. Ford, who acknowledged to the Washington Post that she 'did not remember some key details of the incident' may be mistaking him for someone else,” Hatch's spokesman Matt Whitlock said in a statement to ABC News.

Guerry, who has not recently spoken with Ford, also sought on Wednesday to offer a different picture of the woman who was a girlhood friend saying that she is "strong" and "is holding up as well as can be expected given the circumstances."

"It's been personal. It's family," Guerry said of the increased scrutiny on Ford since the sexual assault allegation became public.

“I think what everyone needs to remember that what she asked for is confidentiality. She didn't ask to be a political football in this,” Guerry said of Ford.

Ford initially reached out confidentially to her congresswoman in California, Democratic Rep. Anna Eshoo, but now that the allegation and her name have been made public, Guerry said her friend now has to face a difficult conversation "in such a tremendous public forum and at such a tremendously important time for our country."

This week Guerry joined more than 900 alumnae of the Holton-Arms School — a private school for girls in Bethesda, Maryland — in signing an open letter, voicing their support for Ford.

The letter, which was also signed by Hollywood actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus who graduated from the school in 1979, was signed by women who graduated between 1962 and 2018.

"We believe Dr. Blasey Ford and are grateful that she came forward to tell her story," the letter reads. "It demands a thorough and independent investigation before the Senate can reasonably vote on Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to a lifetime seat on the nation's highest court. Dr. Blasey Ford's experience is all too consistent with stories we heard and lived while attending Holton. Many of us are survivors ourselves."

Ford is open to testifying to lawmakers, but not before the FBI investigates the matter, one of her lawyers, Lisa Banks, said Tuesday night. Democrats have echoed calls for the FBI to investigate the matter before any hearing takes place.

Kavanaugh has repeatedly denied the allegation. Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee invited Ford and Kavanaugh to a hearing on Monday and said on Wednesday that they offered her the option to testify privately or publicly.

President Donald Trump has said while he wants to hear from Ford, it's hard for him to "imagine that anything happened," referring to the sexual assault allegation brought by Ford.

Guerry said she knew Kavanaugh because she dated one of his friends and that the guys were a "tight-knit group."

"They partied as much as you would expect teenaged boys to party," she said adding that the level of partying wasn't unique to the Washington D.C. private school scene.

This is a developing story. Please refresh for details.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald thanked first responders in a Twitter video where he described Florence as “tough” one of the “wettest” hurricanes ever.

"This is a tough hurricane," he said. "One of the wettest we've ever seen from the standpoint of water."

He added: "Florence has been a nasty one. A big one like that area certainly has never seen before.”

The storm has claimed at least 37 lives.

Posted to the president's Twitter account Tuesday afternoon, a day before he was scheduled to visit North Carolina for a briefing on the hurricane, the video also includes the president’s appreciate of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. military, Coast Guard and law enforcement.

The president's latest description of the natural disaster comes after harsh criticism from San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz and others regarding his characterization of response efforts in Puerto Rico during and after Hurricane Maria last year.

"I think Puerto Rico was incredibly successful. Puerto Rico was actually our toughest one of all because it is an island," the president said last Tuesday. "I actually think it is one of the best jobs that's ever been done with respect to what this is all about."

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello recently announced the revised official death toll of 2,975 from the hurricane last year after the government commissioned an independent study.

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Trump on Tuesday launched a fresh attack at Jeff Sessions, his beleaguered attorney general, saying in an interview that he "doesn't have an attorney general."

Trump made the remark in an interview with The Hill. According to the news organization, the president repeatedly expressed his "disappointment" with Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia collusion investigation.

Asked whether he'll fire Sessions, Trump replied, "We'll see what happens."

"A lot of people have asked me to do that," he continued. "And I guess I study history, and I say I just want to leave things alone, but it was very unfair what he did."

Trump said his unhappiness with Sessions extends beyond the Russia investigation.

"I’m not happy at the border, I’m not happy with numerous things, not just this," he said. "I’m so sad over Jeff Sessions because he came to me. He was the first senator that endorsed me. And he wanted to be attorney general, and I didn’t see it."

Trump also referred to Sessions as "mixed up and confused" in the interview and claimed that Sessions' former Senate colleagues were "not nice" to him.

 The Department of Justice declined to comment.

Trump's attacks on Sessions are well documented.

Over the Labor Day weekend, Trump took swipes at Sessions over the indictments of Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., and Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif.

"Two long running, Obama era, investigations of two very popular Republican Congressmen were brought to a well publicized charge, just ahead of the Mid-Terms, by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department. Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job Jeff......" Trump said in a tweet.

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Marla Aufmuth/Getty Images for Texas Conference for Women(WASHINGTON) -- Nearly three decades after Anita Hill testified about her own sexual harassment allegations against now-Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, she says the Senate Judiciary Committee should "push the pause button" on high court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

"My advice is to push the pause button on this hearing, get the information together, bring in the experts and put together a hearing that is fair, that is impartial, that is not biased by politics or by myth and bring this information to the American public," she said.

Hill said whether Christine Blasey Ford testifies is not about whether conditions are ideal, but if they are even reasonable.

"We're talking about whether the conditions are actually tenable, whether or not it is going to be anything more than just a sham proceeding so that the senators can say we gave her a chance to talk and then move on to doing exactly what they were intending to do before she came forward," she said.

Shortly before his confirmation, Hill accused Thomas of making unwanted advances and lewd remarks when they worked at the Education Department and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the 1980s, which he denied.

Hill's 1991 Senate testimony occurred five days after her allegations went public, said at the time she felt the public hearing was meant to deter her from going forward with her testimony 27 years ago. Hill said she sees the same sentiment in how Republican Senators are approaching Ford’s allegation against Kavanaugh but that six days is not enough time for Senators to inform themselves on the situation and consult experts.

"It occurs to me that two things are going on, that either they don't take this seriously, that they aren't concerned about this complaint as many Americans are, or that they just want to get it over. I'm not sure which is in play," she said, adding, "Maybe they're not concerned or maybe they just don't know how to handle this kind of a situation."

Speaking exclusively on "Good Morning America" on Wednesday, Hill told ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos that she backs Ford’s request for an FBI investigation into her allegation that an intoxicated Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a high school party 36 years ago, which he has vehemently denied.

“Absolutely, it's the right move,” Hill said of Ford’s request. “The hearing questions need to have a frame and the investigation is the best frame for that. A neutral investigation, that can pull together the facts, create a record, so that the senators can draw on the information they receive to develop their question.”

If the purpose of the hearing is to get to the truth, an investigation is unavoidable, Hill said, though cautioning senators to proceed with the U.S. public in mind.

"The American public really is expecting something more," she told GMA."The American public wants to know about what happened and they want to know that the Senate takes this seriously."

She did not offer direct advice to Ford but said she should be taking advice from her attorney. Hill urged the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold off on going forward with the hearing and take time to put together a fair, impartial hearing.

Hill is a professor of political science and women's, gender and sexuality studies at Brandeis University. She also wrote an opinion piece for The New York Times this week. She wrote that there is no way for the committee to re-do the 1991 hearings, but there is an opportunity to do things better this time around.

She wrote that the lack of process for vetting sexual harassment allegations against a Supreme Court nominee shows that the Judiciary Committee hasn't learned anything from the Thomas hearings or the #MeToo movement.

"To do better, the 2018 Senate Judiciary Committee must demonstrate a clear understanding that sexual violence is a social reality to which elected representatives must respond," she wrote, adding that a hearing should be guided by experts familiar with sexual violence to ensure proceedings are fair and neutral.

She also wrote in the column that Kavanaugh has the "burden of persuasion" in this situation because he is the one seeking a lifetime appointment to the country's highest court.

"It is an honor and a privilege to be nominated and to serve. It is not an entitlement and so a person coming into that position on the supreme court for a lifetime really has to have the full confidence of the American public. We need to be able to believe in the integrity of our courts, and that means believing in the integrity of the individuals who are on it," she said when asked about that comment on GMA.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Here's what you need to about FISA warrants, some of the most closely held secrets in the U.S. government.

What is FISA

FISA, which stands for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, is the law that governs how the U.S. government can collect foreign intelligence using its considerable surveillance capabilities.

To conduct foreign intelligence surveillance, the FBI must submit a FISA warrant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) and obtain approval. The FISC is made up of 11 federal judges who work on a rotating basis in a secure area of the Justice Department and can authorize applications for these secret surveillance warrants.

How does the process work?

The FISA process differs from ordinary criminal wiretap warrants in that the underlying reason for the surveillance does not have to involve a criminal violation. For a FISA warrant to be approved, the FISC must find there is probable cause that the subject of the surveillance is an agent of a foreign power.

What happened with the FBI FISA application?

In October of 2016, the FBI did just that with regards to Carter Page, an energy consultant and former foreign policy adviser to the Trump presidential campaign. In a partially declassified FISA application, the FBI stated it believed Page was “an agent of a foreign power” and “the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian Government.”

FISA warrants have limitations and expire after 90 days unless they are renewal. A new FISA application must be submitted to the FISC for approval for every renewal.

At the urging of Republicans in Congress, President Trump authorized the declassification of the Carter Page FISA application and its three subsequent renewals.

A redacted version of those applications, numbering more than 400 pages, was released last July.

What happens now?

Now that President Trump has ordered the declassification of other previously redacted parts of the Carter Page FISA application, what happens now?

According to sources familiar with the process, the intelligence community will conduct an equities review. That means all the intelligence agencies that contributed to the relevant portions of the FISA applications that have been ordered to be declassified will have the opportunity to make recommendations for redactions.

Those recommendations will be compiled by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and will be presented to the White House.

The President of the United States is the declassifier-in-chief. He has the final say on whether to accept the recommendation of the intelligence community or ignore it.

It is worth noting, this FISA has previously gone through the declassification process and the pages the president has ordered declassified were previously withheld after that review.

What is the deadline? When will all of this work be completed? It’s not clear. As the ODNI said in a statement, Monday, they are working “expeditiously” with interagency partners to conduct the review. A source familiar with the process say they are working quickly but are not wed to any particular timeline.

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U.S. House of Representatives(WASHINGTON) -- Rep. Anna Eshoo, the California Democrat who was first approached by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser over the summer, describes Christine Blasey Ford as a “gentle, honest person who may change people’s minds.”

Eshoo told ABC News' "Powerhouse Politics" podcast host Jonathan Karl that she met with the college professor for almost two hours face-to-face over the July Fourth holiday when she wanted to share her story.

“My constituent is not a creature of Washington, D.C.," Eshoo said. "That's not who she is.”

Eshoo, who said Ford discreetly called her district office, recounted how she wanted to make sure the alleged victim felt comfortable, and that her privacy would be respected. “I think that, you know, her soft-spoken nature but the power of her story, and her honesty and her intelligence will certainly be on display," Eshoo said of possible public testimony by Ford.

“She is I believe a very honest person. And what was so apparent to me was how this the effect it had on her in her in her adult life," Eshoo said. "That's why I think she has courage she's demonstrated an enormous amount of courage to come forward to tell her full story to the American people.”

The Democratic congresswoman said she believes Ford understands the risks of coming forward.

“She certainly waived her privacy and the consequences to herself and her family, and she's demonstrated her willingness to risk these factors to present the truth. This is a terrifying experience to move from living in the neighborhood of going to work every day.

Eshoo continued, saying “She really is your next door neighbor a professor that lives next door. You know she's involved in her in her children's lives from you know all their sports undertakings in that. And there will be in my view they'll be the American people will see a real contrast between the two given where they come from.”
Eshoo says that once Ford relayed her story, she decided Eshoo should move the revelations forward. “I subsequently shared with her that a letter should be written to Senator Diane Feinstein. She represents her as well.”

The California congresswoman said she wants to make sure there is no rush to judgment. “I believe that my constituents should be received in that hearing room with the utmost respect -- number one -- and with a presumption of honesty.”

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Holton Arms School Yearbook(WASHINGTON) -- The woman who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault when both of them were in high school will not testify before the FBI investigates the matter, one of her lawyers, Lisa Banks, said Tuesday night.

In a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, reported first on CNN and obtained by ABC News, lawyers for professor Christine Blasey Ford, said "a full investigation by law enforcement officials will ensure that the crucial facts and witnesses in this matter are assessed in a non-partisan manner, and that the Committee is fully informed before conducting any hearing or making any decisions."

Grassley had invited both Ford and Kavanaugh to testify before the committee on Monday.

“There's no reason to have a public hearing Monday. This is being rushed through. It's too important. It's not a game. This is a serious situation,” Banks said on CNN.

The letter to Grassley says, "As you know, earlier this summer, Dr. Ford sought to tell her story, in confidence, so that lawmakers would have a fuller understanding of Brett Kavanaugh’s character and history. Only after the details of her experience were leaked did Dr. Ford make the reluctant decision to come forward publicly."

"In the 36 hours since her name became public, Dr. Ford has received a stunning amount of support from her community and from fellow citizens across our country. At the same time, however, her worst fears have materialized. She has been the target of vicious harassment and even death threats. As a result of these kind of threats, her family was forced to relocate out of their home. Her email has been hacked, and she has been impersonated online," the letter continues.

"While Dr. Ford’s life was being turned upside down, you and your staff scheduled a public hearing for her to testify at the same table as Judge Kavanaugh in front of two dozen U.S. Senators on national television to relive this traumatic and harrowing incident. The hearing was scheduled for six short days from today and would include interrogation by Senators who appear to have made up their minds that she is “mistaken” and “mixed up.” While no sexual assault survivor should be subjected to such an ordeal, Dr. Ford wants to cooperate with the Committee and with law enforcement officials," the letter says.

"As the Judiciary Committee has recognized and done before, an FBI investigation of the incident should be the first step in addressing her allegations," the letter continues. "A full investigation by law enforcement officials will ensure that the crucial facts and witnesses in this matter are assessed in a non-partisan manner, and that the Committee is fully informed before conducting any hearing or making any decisions."

The letter ends with the lawyers saying, "We would welcome the opportunity to talk with you and Ranking Member Feinstein to discuss reasonable steps as to how Dr. Ford can cooperate while also taking care of her own health and security."

ABC has reached out to Grassley for comment. The White House had no immediate response.

Shortly after the letter was revealed, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, released a statement saying, “The decision to come forward or not come forward has always been Christine Blasey Ford’s, and that includes her participation in a hearing."

"I agree with her 100 percent that the rushed process to hold a hearing on Monday has been unfair and is reminiscent of the treatment of Anita Hill, Feinstein continued. "I also agree that we need the facts before senators—not staff or lawyers—speak to witnesses."

“We should honor Dr. Blasey Ford’s wishes and delay this hearing. A proper investigation must be completed, witnesses interviewed, evidence reviewed and all sides spoken to. Only then should the chairman set a hearing date."

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Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Back in 1991, when Anita Hill came forward with allegations of sexual harassment against then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, it was an all-male Senate Judiciary Committee that grilled her as the nation watched.

On Tuesday, reporters asked Sen. Mazie Hirono, one of only four women on the current Senate Judiciary Committee, if having women on it now will shape the way the recent allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is handled.

The Democrat from Hawaii sighed, and then laughed.

"Of course it helps that there are women on that committee, but you know what?"

"Guess who's perpetuating all of these kinds of actions? It's the men in this country, and I just want to say to the men in this country: Just shut up and step up. Do the right thing, for a change," Hirono said.

She said she expected the men on the committee, who are the majority of the 21 members, to do the same.

On Sunday, Christine Blasey Ford, a professor at Palo Alto University, told the Washington Post that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a party when they were teenagers. She'd told a congresswoman earlier in his confirmation process about the experience, and the information was passed along to ranking member Sen. Diane Feinstein, who didn't make the letter from Ford public because Ford asked that she remain anonymous, Feinstein said in a statement last week.

In the Washington Post article published Sunday, Ford claimed a drunken Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed at a house party when she was 15 years old. Kavanaugh, who she described as laughing with another friend in the room, tried to remove her clothes and covered her mouth when she tried to scream, Ford told the Washington Post.

The Senate Judiciary Committee plans to hold a public hearing on Monday to hear from both Kavanaugh and Ford, but whether they will -- or whether the hearing goes forward -- is uncertain.

Kavanaugh has repeatedly denied the allegations.

“I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time," he said in his first statement on Friday. Senate Republicans followed Kavanaugh's denial by releasing a letter from 65 women who say they knew Kavanaugh in high school and attested that "he has behaved honorably and treated women with respect."

"Brett attended Georgetown Prep, an all-boys high school in Rockville, Maryland. He was an outstanding student and athlete with a wide circle of friends. Almost all of us attended all-girls high schools in the area," the letter reads. "Brett has stood out for his friendship, character, and integrity. In particular, he has always treated women with decency and respect."

The White House stood by Kavanaugh but didn't go on the attack against his accuser. "As the story notes, we are standing with Judge Kavanaugh’s denial," White House spokesperson Raj Shah told ABC News in response to Kavanaugh's accuser coming forward to the Washington Post.

Though Democrats and Republicans on the committee have both said they believe Ford deserves to be heard, they're at odds over the way to do so.

Some Democrats argue that the Kavanaugh allegation should be investigated by the FBI and then resubmitted as part of his background check file for committee review before any testimony from Ford and Kavanaugh.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- President Donald Trump and his allies have long insisted that what he calls the “fake dirty dossier” was wholly “responsible for starting the totally and discredited witch hunt” by special counsel Robert Mueller.

But, beginning in July 2016, that so-called “dossier” actually sat for several weeks inside an organized crime unit at the FBI’s New York field office, even as counterintelligence agents in Washington, D.C. – unaware of the new allegations – were already investigating Russian efforts to hijack American democracy.

Trump doubled down on his “dossier” accusation this week, ordering the Justice Department and U.S. intelligence community to release a bigger slice of the classified information used to investigate one of his advisers, New York business consultant Carter Page, insisting again Tuesday that “what will be disclosed is that there was no basis” for the surveillance.

Despite what Trump and like-minded politicians have said, sources told ABC News the “dossier” was plainly not the initial basis for the federal investigation.

The following account, relayed to ABC News by several sources familiar with the federal probe, reflects how the FBI’s investigation into contacts between Russian operatives and Trump’s campaign team, including Page, was well underway in the summer of 2016 by the time a former British spy handed the FBI a packet of startling and salacious allegations tied to Trump.

In fact, the FBI already had an open counterintelligence case on Page when he became a volunteer on Trump’s foreign policy team in January 2016, according to sources familiar with the matter.

By then, Trump had publicly claimed to have “a good instinct” about Russian’s ruthless president, Vladimir Putin, had praised how Putin was “running his country,” and had compared the Kremlin’s assassinations of dissidents to the “plenty of killing” that happens inside the United States.

Trump’s refusal to criticize Putin – even in private – “mystified” then-FBI Director James Comey, he later recalled to ABC News.

And three years earlier, when the FBI in 2013 was tracking two Russian spies in New York, agents secretly recorded one of the spies saying he wanted to “recruit” Page “as an intelligence source.” Page had previously lived in Moscow for three years.

Page was never charged with any crimes and says he cooperated with that previous investigation, but sources told ABC News his file, like many counterintelligence files, was never closed.

So, two months after Page started advising Trump’s campaign, the FBI paid him a visit in New York, asking about contacts with Russian intelligence, according to a government document.

“An act of war?”

At the time, in the spring of 2016, the U.S. intelligence community had no clue the Russian government was about to launch one of its most sophisticated and effective operations ever against the United States. Russian hackers stole hundreds of thousands of emails from Democratic institutions, and a global battalion of bots armed with “fake news” was deployed across social media.

“Under what circumstances is a hack considered an act of war?” a reporter asked the State Department spokesman on June 14, 2016, the day the Democratic National Committee revealed its systems had been breached. The government spokesman declined to answer.

Three weeks later, Carter Page showed up in Moscow. He was giving the commencement address at the New Economic School, tied to some of the Kremlin’s top officials, and the event was being broadcast live online.

“I am particularly grateful for my relationship with the faculty and staff at the New Economic School,” he said at the start of his remarks, insisting he was there “as a private citizen.”

The date was July 7, 2016. Page’s name wouldn’t first appear in the “dossier” for another two weeks.

The “dossier,” in fact, was not one single document but a series of 17 separate reports, compiled over six months by former British spy Christopher Steele.

Steele was working for someone he knew well in Washington, Glenn Simpson, whose firm, Fusion GPS, was hired by the DNC to conduct opposition research on Trump.

By mid-July 2016, Steele wanted to flag his findings to the U.S. government. He reached out to two old friends: Bruce Ohr, a senior Justice Department official whose wife worked for Fusion GPS and who, like him, closely tracked organized crime, and Jonathan Winer, an aide to then-Secretary of State John Kerry who has since spoken publicly about his contact with Steele.

It’s unclear if Ohr relayed Steele’s reporting to anyone at the time – no public evidence suggests Ohr passed it on then. But the State Department’s response to Steele was blunt: If you’re so concerned, take it to the FBI.

So that’s what Steele did.

The "dossier" goes to the FBI, but to "the wrong person"

In July 2016, Steele already had a long-term contact in the FBI, and he had a reputation for digging up solid, verifiable information, sources told ABC News.

He had been a reliable U.S. government informant, providing the State Department alone with nearly 120 documents about Russian efforts overseas with no connection to Trump.

A few years earlier, Steele helped an FBI agent in Rome piece together a massive web of corruption within international soccer. The case against FIFA made international headlines.

Trying to take advantage of that relationship in July 2016, Steele sent the FBI agent in Rome the opposition research on Trump he generated working for Fusion GPS.

The Rome-based agent then forwarded the reports to an agent he worked with in the FBI’s New York field office – an agent with expertise in criminal organizations and organized crime, not counterintelligence, sources told ABC News.

That was “the wrong person” to send the reports to, according to one source briefed on the Russia probe.

Steele’s research sat for weeks in the FBI’s New York field office, hundreds of miles away from the agents in Washington scrutinizing ties between Trump’s associates and the Russian government, sources said.

“It took a long period of time for the New York field office to see it and realize what it was,” another source told ABC News, referring to the "dossier.”

An account of the FBI investigation released in February by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee reflected the delay.

“Steele's reporting did not reach the counterintelligence team investigating Russia at FBI headquarters until mid-September 2016, more than seven weeks after the FBI opened its investigation, because the probe's existence was so closely held within the FBI,” the memo by House Democrats said.

“By then, the FBI had already opened sub-inquiries into [multiple] individuals linked to the Trump campaign,” including Carter Page,” the memo noted.

In particular, the FBI was also already taking a close look at Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort.

Manafort had spent years working pro-Russia projects in Ukraine, and the FBI actually interviewed him in 2013 and 2014 about those business dealings overseas. Then in September 2016, the Justice Department’s National Security Division sent Manafort a letter notifying him that he was in their crosshairs once again.

But what really prompted alarm within the FBI in the summer of 2016 was a tip from an Australian diplomat: Before the DNC hack ever became public, a low-level campaign staffer, George Papadopoulos, told him that the Kremlin had collected “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, namely thousands of emails.

The "dossier" reaches Washington -- and the news media

In mid-September 2016, Peter Strzok, the now former FBI agent who was helping to lead the Russia probe, received an “initial batch” of Steele’s reports.

“The first time I am aware of the FBI having that information – the first time I saw it – was in mid-September,” he recently told lawmakers under oath.

In the days afterward, Comey himself was briefed on Steele’s findings, according to Comey’s public statements.

Steele, meanwhile, was meeting with reporters in Washington, looking to share with them some of what he had already given to the FBI. Steele did not show them copies of his reports, but he shared “indications” of “possible coordination of members of Trump’s campaign team and Russian government officials,” as Steele would later describe it in British court filings.

Within days, news outlets started publishing what Steele told them. And lawmakers on Capitol Hill then pressed Comey on the reports during a hearing on Sept. 28, 2016.

Comey wouldn’t answer specific questions, saying it would require him to confirm or deny the existence of an investigation. But he offered this: “We are doing an awful lot of work through our counterintelligence investigators to understand just what mischief is Russia up to in connection with our election.”

It’s unclear if at that time the FBI was already drafting the application it would file with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to secretly monitor Page’s communications. Two sources, however, said it takes “weeks” to put an application like that together.

On Oct. 21, 2016, the FBI and Justice Department formally filed their application with the court. It was more than 50 pages long.

Based on a heavily redacted version since released by the FBI, five pages covered “Page’s connections” to Russian intelligence services, at least five pages summarized news reports about Page’s suspected connections to Russia, and as many as six pages covered information provided by Steele.

In particular, the application detailed Steele’s allegations that Page met with two of Putin’s closest associates while in Moscow two months earlier. Page has denied ever meeting them, and no evidence has publicly surfaced to support that portion of Steele’s reporting.

However, Page would later acknowledge that while in Moscow, he sent an email to Trump campaign staffers saying he had “a private conversation” with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich who “expressed strong support for Mr. Trump and a desire to work together” on “current international problems.”

Nevertheless, with the presidential election less than three weeks away, the FBI didn’t take any overt steps to move its investigation along.

As Comey later explained to internal investigators, he believed in a “take no action” rule so close to an election.

“[We] avoid taking any action that could have some impact, even if unknown, on an election, whether that’s a dogcatcher election or President of the United States,” he told the investigators.

Ohr becomes Steele's conduit

While the FBI was holding off on taking any public steps in its investigation, Steele was becoming increasingly anxious about Trump in the late fall of 2016.

He even told Ohr he was “desperate that Donald Trump not get elected,” as Ohr later recalled in notes.

But Steele lost his direct line to the FBI in the final days of October 2016, after the FBI realized he was talking to the press about his findings and his secret relationship with the U.S. government.

A week before the presidential election, the FBI suspended its relationship with Steele and told him “not to operate to obtain any intelligence whatsoever on behalf of the FBI,” according to FBI records since released.

Steele, however, was sharing his findings with Ohr, who became an avenue for the FBI to continue receiving the information that Steele was gathering.

In fact, according to congressional documents, in the month after Trump won the presidency, Ohr met twice with officials from the FBI, including FBI attorney Lisa Page and Strzok, the senior agent working the Russia probe who privately expressed his own misgivings about Trump.

Ohr notified other senior colleagues in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division about his contacts with Steele, but he did not notify his superiors in the deputy attorney general’s office, whom he reported to as associate deputy attorney general, sources with knowledge of the matter told ABC News.

In a private interview with lawmakers, Ohr said he didn’t inform his bosses because he was simply relaying information from a trusted source and didn’t believe he had to do so, according to one source familiar with Ohr’s congressional testimony.

By Thanksgiving 2016, it still “was not clear to us whether anyone at a high level of government was aware of the information that Chris had gathered and provided to the FBI,” Simpson later told congressional investigators.

So Steele and Simpson decided they would give Steele’s reports to Ohr – someone “higher up,” as Simpson described Ohr.

On Dec. 10, 2016, Simpson met Ohr at a coffee shop in Washington and handed Ohr at least one thumb drive. Ohr did not look at the contents of the thumb drive, though he suspected it might relate to Steele’s work on Trump, Ohr later told congressional investigators, according to a source familiar with the testimony.

The day before, the late Sen. John McCain hand-delivered his own copy of Steele’s reporting to Comey, according to sources familiar with the exchanges.

Separately, Ohr passed his newly-obtained material to the FBI.

“[Our FBI colleague] met with Bruce and got more stuff today,” Strzok told Lisa Page in a text message on Dec. 20, 2016.

“Yeah, lots to read, but it all stressed me out too much,” the FBI attorney responded.

Three weeks later, on Jan. 9, 2017, Steele’s reports became public when Buzzfeed published them online.

The FBI investigation heats up

“Hey let me know when you can talk,” Strzok texted Lisa Page on Jan. 10, 2017. “We’re discussing whether, now that this is out, we use it as a pretext to go interview some people.”

The cat was out of the bag, and the public release of Steele’s reports gave the FBI a basis for taking more overt action.

Three days after first texting Lisa Page about it, Strzok started contacting people that the FBI identified as sources for Steele’s reports.

“[W]e just want to talk to him quietly,” Strzok recalled telling an attorney representing one of Steele’s sources.

“It’s about the stuff in the news, isn’t it?” Strzok quoted the attorney as responding.

Indeed, it was.

The FBI, meanwhile, was starting to focus on others completely unassociated with Steele’s reporting. For the first time, agents approached two key Trump associates for interviews: then-national security adviser Michael Flynn, and George Papadopoulos, the adviser who was told early on that Russia had stolen “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.

In those interviews, later confirmed in their guilty pleas, Flynn lied about his contacts with Russian officials, and Papadopoulos lied about his own interactions with individuals tied to the Kremlin.

Those false statements in January 2017 “impeded the FBI’s ongoing investigation into the existence of any links or coordination between individuals associated with the [Trump] Campaign and Russia’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election,” Flynn and Papadopoulos would each later admit in court.

Around the same time, the FBI submitted another application to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, asking a federal judge for permission to continue monitoring Carter Page’s communications. The application noted that the FBI had suspended its relationship with Steele, but said his information was still deemed “reliable as previous reporting from [him] has been corroborated and used in criminal proceedings.”

The FBI’s latest submission was 66 pages long – nearly 16 pages longer than the initial application.

Meanwhile, FBI officials continued to meet with Ohr – speaking with him at least eight more times in the months after Trump’s inauguration, including twice after Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel in May 2017 and took over the broader investigation, according to congressional documents.

In June 2017, a month after Mueller’s appointment, the FBI filed yet another application with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to continue tracking Carter Page. The application was 77 pages long.

A fourth – and final – application was filed three months later.

Heavily-redacted versions of the applications were released in July.

Trump issues an order

On Monday, Trump ordered that more portions of the application from June 2017 be released.

It’s unclear why Trump did not order the release of sections from the other applications, but the first application in October 2016 was based on information Steele provided himself, not information provided by Ohr, according to congressional investigators and public evidence presented so far.

Trump also ordered the release of the FBI’s notes from Ohr’s meetings with the agency about what Steele was telling him. The Justice Department and Director of National Intelligence are now undertaking a review of the documents covered by Trump's order and could request redactions.

Trump’s move to release more classified information came just days after several Republican House members held a press conference calling on him to declassify the documents, with Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, saying it’s time for the FBI and Justice Department “to come clean” about “the wrongdoing that took place.”

But Democrats swiftly condemned what they called Trump’s “clear abuse of power.”

"[He] has decided to intervene in a pending law enforcement investigation by ordering the selective release of materials he believes are helpful to his defense team and thinks will advance a false narrative,” the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said in a statement on Monday.

Trump’s order came three days after Manafort – in a case with no link to Steele’s reporting – pleaded guilty to financial-related crimes and agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s office.

“President Trump’s actions … are a direct and frantic response to the dramatic events that unfolded last Friday,” the top Democrats on the House Judiciary and Oversight committees -- Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md. – said in a statement on Monday.

Having previously pleaded guilty to lying to authorities, Papadopoulos was recently sentenced to two weeks behind bars. His case also was not connected to Steele’s reporting.

Flynn, who also pleaded guilty to lying to authorities and agreed to cooperate with Mueller, is expected to be sentenced in the coming weeks – another case not tied to Steele’s reporting.

The broader federal probe, meanwhile, continues.

The FBI declined to comment for this article.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Senators on both sides of the political aisle seemed to agree Tuesday that the sexual assault allegation from Professor Christine Blasey Ford against Judge Brett Kavanaugh ought to be discussed and included as part of the body of information lawmakers will use to inform their vote on Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination.

But Republicans and Democrats also appear divided on how to proceed, with Republicans asserting that a Judiciary Committee hearing, scheduled for Monday, is the best venue, and some Democrats calling for the FBI to open and complete a full investigation before the Senate proceeds.

“We don’t know what the facts are and that’s the reason why you have an open hearing like this and you allow individuals to make up their own minds,” Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., told reporters.

Monday’s event is slated to feature two back-to-back solo interviews for both accuser and accused, with all committee members able to ask questions.

But as of Tuesday afternoon, neither Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, nor ranking member Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., had confirmed with Ford that she would attend on Monday. Feinstein accused Senate Republicans of not working hard enough to get in touch with Ford and confirm her attendance at Monday’s hearing.

“As I understand it she’s been emailed hopefully by now the majority who regretfully is not working with us on this will pick up the phone and call and talk with her, and I think that’s the appropriate thing to do,” Feinstein said.

Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., was asked if it was poor optics for an all-male panel of Judiciary Committee Republicans to be questioning Ford about her allegations (there are four women, all Democrats, also on the committee).

“We have to see if people are earnestly telling the truth or there to advance a political agenda. My guess is it will be an equal mix of both,” Tillis responded.

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., suggested he wanted more witnesses present than just Kavanaugh and Ford, although Grassley said Monday there will only be the two.

“Both parties seem to suggest that they have memories of what happened so I hope that they will do a good job of making the way that they remember the events clear for us. I think it’d also be helpful to have the eyewitness that doctor spoke about available as well,” he said, presumably referring to Kavanaugh’s high school friend Mark Judge, who Ford, according to the Washington Post, says was in the room during the alleged assault.

In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Judge said he does not remember Kavanaugh acting "in the manner Dr. Ford describes."

He added that he has "no memory of this alleged incident" and that he does not "wish to speak publicly regarding the incidents described in Dr. Ford's letter."

Asked if the allegations being true would be disqualifying, Scott responded, “Well if the allegation is proven to be true, of course.”

If Ford does not attend Monday’s hearing, at least one Senate Republican said he didn’t know why it would be necessary to hold it at all.

“This is mainly an opportunity to accommodate her. We look forward to giving her a chance to tell her story,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the Senate Republican whip, told reporters.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who has not yet announced how she will vote, said Ford deserved her day before the committee. “We have a woman that has come forward, she deserves to be heard, it's important that her voice and story is shared and determinations will be made at that point.”

Unlike Republicans, some Democrats were calling for the FBI to launch a full investigation into the matter before proceeding with additional witness testimony. On Monday, all ten Judiciary Committee Democrats signed a letter urging President Donald Trump to request a follow-up inquiry from the FBI.

During a press conference Tuesday, Trump said it was up to the bureau to reopen the case, suggesting he would not request it.

“It wouldn't bother me other than the FBI said that they really don't do that. That is not what they do,” the president said.

The FBI has not commented on Trump's contention that the agency does not want to get involved. According to sources familiar with the FBI's background investigation process, the allegation was passed on to the White House, but the agency would take no further action unless ordered to do so by the White House.

Democrats who do not sit on the Judiciary Committee were also joining their colleagues’ calls for the FBI to investigate before proceeding to a committee hearing.

“I believe there should be a full investigation beforehand, conducted by the FBI and then I think we should have a full hearing so that all of the relevant witnesses are in and can describe what happened,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who has said she was inspired to run for the Senate based on the 1991 Senate Judiciary Committee treated Clarence Thomas accuser Anita Hill, told reporters she had Hill’s experience in mind when considering how much time and energy should be devoted to uncovering the facts behind Ford’s allegations.

“Committee members need to have the facts, that's why they're asking for an FBI background investigation and I believe that that would produce a much better hearing. It's serious. And I hope all the members on that committee take this seriously and do this in the right way because it wasn't done in the right way with Anita Hill,” Murray said.

Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., a centrist Democrat, said the committee should slow down and allow for “a little bit more investigation” before it holds its hearing.

“I was a prosecutor, I've done these cases it takes a little time to try to sift through the facts and let whoever it is, the FBI to do some things and I think they need to let this play a little bit,” he said.

Feinstein, the top Democrat on Judiciary, would not say Tuesday afternoon whether she would participate in Monday’s hearing if the FBI does not plan to fully investigate Ford’s claims.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Locked in a tight re-election battle, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz is casting the race for a U.S. Senate race in stark terms over one of Texas' most sacred foods: barbecue.

According to the Austin-American Statesman, Cruz was referencing recent protests at one of his campaign events over the weekend by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) when he claimed that Democrats would target Texans love for barbecue if elected.

"When I got here someone told me that even PETA was protesting and giving out barbecued tofu, so I got to say, they summed up the entire election: If Texas elects a Democrat, they’re going to ban barbecue across the state of Texas," said Cruz, who is facing Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke in one of this cycle's most high-profile U.S. Senate races.

Cruz later doubled-down on his comments on Twitter, saying that if O'Rourke wins "BBQ will be illegal!"

A spokeswoman for Cruz's campaign confirmed to ABC News that Cruz's tweet was "of course" a joke.

The tongue-in-cheek comments from the Texas Senator come amid an unexpectedly competitive challenge from O'Rourke, who has raised an impressive amount of money in his bid to unseat Cruz in a reliably Republican state. Cruz has consistently attempted to paint O'Rourke as too liberal for Texas' more conservative electorate that hasn't elected a Democrat statewide since 1994.

A poll released Tuesday by Quinnipiac University showed Cruz with a nine-point advantage over O'Rourke with just 49 days to go until the November election.

A representative for O'Rourke's campaign did not respond to ABC News' request for comment on Cruz's assertion.

According to a spokesperson for PETA, the protesters gathered outside of Cruz's event, held about 90 miles outside of Austin, were handing out samples of barbecued tofu "in response to Cruz's recent comments that liberals want Texas 'to be just like California, right down to the tofu."

"Ted Cruz is cruzin' for a bruisin' because you don’t mess with Texas tofu-eaters. Texans will cross all party lines to stand in the buffet line for homegrown and tasty tofu," a spokesperson for PETA told ABC News in a statement Tuesday.

The comments the group is referring to came at a different campaign even last week, when Cruz told a gathering of supports that liberals want Texas "to be just like California, right down to the tofu and silicon and dyed hair."

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Subscribe To This Feed -- President Donald Trump on Tuesday said the allegation against his embattled Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh should go through a process.

There “there shouldn't even be a little doubt,” Trump said of the process.

“Hopefully the woman will come forward, state her case,” Trump said Tuesday. “He will state his case before representatives of the United States Senate. And then they will vote, they will look at his career, they will look at what she had to say from 36 years ago, and we will see what happens.”

And as he did earlier in the day, Trump said he didn't think the FBI should be involved, despite Democrats' insistence that, before any public hearing with the nominee and his accuser, the FBI should look into an allegation made by professor Christine Blasey Ford, 51, that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were both in high school decades ago in suburban Maryland.

Kavanaugh, who was back at the White House on Tuesday for the second day in a row, has repeatedly denied the alleged encounter ever happened.

The president said he has not personally spoken with Kavanaugh since the allegation surfaced, saying “specifically I thought it would be a good thing not to.”

Trump pointed out that Kavanaugh has had multiple background checks throughout his career and called his history "impeccable."

"I feel so badly for him that he is going through this," Trump said during a press conference on Tuesday afternoon with Polish President Andrzej Duda.

The sexual assault allegation became public after the contents of a letter Ford sent to California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, were disclosed to several media outlets.

Asked if he believes the allegation is political in nature, the president said: “I don't want to say that. Maybe I will say that in a couple of days, but not now,” Trump said earlier on Tuesday.

Trump, however, attacked Democrats for “holding” onto the allegation, saying it was “a terrible thing that took place” when the story surfaced over the weekend.

“It's a terrible thing that took place and it's frankly a terrible thing that this information was not given to us months ago when they got it,” Trump said.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pushing ahead with plans to hear testimony from Kavanaugh and Ford on Monday.

This, despite the numerous calls from Democrats to slow down the process and allow the FBI to re-open its background investigation into Kavanaugh so that they can determine the facts of what happened to Ford in high school, when she alleges Kavanaugh forced himself on her.

"She's been asking for the opportunity to be heard and she's being given the opportunity to be heard on Monday," McConnell told reporters.

"She could do it privately if she prefers or publicly if she prefers. Monday is her opportunity," he said.

Democrats have been writing to White House Counsel Don McGahn and to Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley to request the FBI re-open its investigation into Kavanaugh but to no avail.

Democrats are also crying foul over Grassley's decision to not allow other witnesses besides Kavanaugh and Ford to testify.

Grassley has said Ford has still not accepted his invitation to appear before the Judiciary Committee on Monday.

However, McConnell and GOP leadership are forging ahead with the hearing.

"There have been multiple investigations. Judge Kavanaugh has been through six investigations in the course of his lengthy public career. We want to give the accuser the opportunity to be heard and that opportunity will occur next Monday," McConnell reiterated.

"I think that gives her ample opportunity to express her point of view and Judge Kavanaugh of course has been anxious for days to discuss the matter as well," McConnell said.

This is a developing story. Please refresh for details.

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