Rep. Trey Gowdy urges Senate to be "fair to the witness" during Kavanaugh, Ford hearings

Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy from South Carolina says that he expects his colleagues in the Senate to be "fair" to both Judge Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, his accuser. Both are expected to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week into allegations that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted Ford when they were high school students. 

Gowdy, who has presided over his fair share of high-profile and politically charged hearings as chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said members on both sides of the aisle have an interest in being perceived as fair. 

"You have got to be fair to the witness. You have got to give the witness an opportunity to fully answer the question. You need to eschew these five-minute increments that we so often use in Congress. Five minutes is not long enough for anyone to appropriately question either Dr. Ford or Judge Kavanaugh. I am confident that Sen. Grassley, Chairman Grassley, will run this in a respectful way," said Gowdy. 

He added, "Regardless of whether you're a Republican or Democrat, expect these witnesses to be treated fairly. And I'm confident that they will be."

As Democrats continue to push for an extensive FBI investigation into the allegations against Kavanaugh before a vote on his nomination to the Supreme Court, Gowdy said that he's unsure what Democrats expect the bureau to do. 

"I'm a big fan of the FBI ... but they don't investigate sex assault cases. There are very, very few federal sex assault cases," Gowdy said. "There's no crime scene to process, there are no forensics to evaluate."

But Gowdy added, "What the FBI could do is go interview Dr. Ford and interview Judge Kavanaugh. But they've already interviewed Judge Kavanaugh. And even if they did interview Dr. Ford, she still has to testify."

Gowdy said the bureau could help in "identifying other witnesses that may have knowledge," but said agents are "not human polygraphs, so they can't tell us who's telling the truth."

The congressman said that while he has a personal bias in favor of believing sexual assault victims as a former prosecutor, he wants people to have "realistic expectations" of any possible hearings. 

"I am used to the beyond a reasonable doubt [burden of proof]. That is an incredibly high burden, but it ought to be if you're going to take away someone's freedom. It also ought to be a high burden when you are going to impact someone's reputation," Gowdy said. "And make no mistake, both Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh will live with the consequences of this for the remainder of their lives. But as it relates to Judge Kavanaugh, when you have been accused of something that is a crime — it's an incredibly serious crime, it is a crime that goes to the heart of your character — I think the American people expect there to be a high evidentiary burden."

  • Emily Tillett

    Emily Tillett is a politics reporter and video editor for CBS News Digital