Senator Chuck Grassley in his Washington, D.C. office. (file photo)

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says he’s only focused on Thursday’s hearing that will feature U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and the first woman who accuses him of sexual assault.

Grassley, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, says there is no immediate plan to hold a hearing that features Deborah Ramirez, the second woman who made a similar accusation against Kavanaugh on Sunday night. “Within ten minutes of the New Yorker story, my staff did email Ramirez’ counsel,” Grassley says. “We’re still waiting for that counsel to tell us the allegations and provide us evidence.”

Ramirez claims Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a party when the two were at Yale together. Grassley says he doesn’t yet have enough information about Ramirez or her allegations to determine if she, too, should be subject of a committee hearing. “It is not a federal crime to lie to reporters but if they’re going to talk to us and offer any sort of statements, it is a federal crime to lie to the senate investigators,” Grassley says. “We’ll see how serious they are in following through.” The first woman to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual assault is Christine Blasey Ford, who made her claims public in The Washington Post. Kavanaugh denies any misconduct.

Grassley says the new claims from Ramirez, published in The New Yorker, may not have as much legitimacy. “The New York Times said they couldn’t run the story the same way the New Yorker ran it because they couldn’t find anybody to corroborate,” Grassley says. “Corroboration is very important.” Grassley says Ford “deserves to be heard” and she’ll have that opportunity on Thursday morning, though it’s still not known who will be questioning Ford in front of the Judiciary Committee.

“We have decided who will be doing that but for the safety of the person, we haven’t announced the name yet,” Grassley says. “I can tell you this. We have hired an experienced sex crime prosecutor to serve as the investigative staff counsel for the hearing.” During a conference call this (Tuesday) morning with Iowa reporters, Grassley was asked if he will call off the confirmation vote on Kavanaugh if he finds Ford’s story to be believable.

I guess the simple answer to your question is, I can’t answer it because we’re taking one step at a time,” Grassley says. “If, after the hearing, we’re ready to vote, we will vote and if we aren’t ready, we won’t vote.”

Protesters are calling on Grassley to cancel the confirmation process. There were demonstrations Monday at Grassley’s offices in Des Moines and Davenport. Opponents of Kavanaugh say they want a thorough investigation, with one saying “there’s no reason to rush a lifetime appointment.”