Cruz, Cornyn spar with Feinstein at Kavanaugh hearing over leak of Ford letter

Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., denied Thursday that her office leaked Christine Blasey Ford's letter accusing Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault to the media earlier this month.

"I don't believe my staff would leak it," Feinstein said in response to a question from Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas. "I have not asked that question directly."

After a pause, apparently to consult with her staff, Feinstein told Cornyn: "The answer is no."

"Well, somebody leaked it if it wasn't you," Cornyn answered.

"Well, I'm telling you I did not," said Feinstein, who added: "It's my understanding that [Ford's] story was leaked before the letter became public and she testified that she had spoken to her friends about it, and it's most likely that that's how this story leaked ... But it did not leak from us, I assure you that."

The exchange between Feinstein and Cornyn followed a statement by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who accused Feinstein and the committee's Democrats of putting Kavanaugh through a "profoundly unfair process."

"This committee could have investigated those claims in a confidential way that respected Dr. Ford’s privacy," Cruz said. "The only people that could have released that letter were either the ranking member and her staff or [Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., who forwarded Ford's letter to Feinstein.]"

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The existence of Ford's letter to Feinstein alleging that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her was first reported by the website The Intercept on Sept. 12. At the time, Feinstein stated that Ford had "strongly requested confidentiality ... and I have honored that decision."

Intercept reporter Ryan Grim, who broke the story of Ford's letter, tweeted: "Feinstein's staff did not leak the letter to The Intercept.

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"Nor did she or her staff leak the existence of the letter to The Intercept," Grim added. "After our story, she turned it over to the FBI, which placed it in his background file, which meant that it became widely available and soon after it was leaked to CNN."

Ford went public with her allegation in a Washington Post article published Sept. 16. The Post reported that the letter had been read to its reporter, though it was unclear by whom.

Following the hearing, Feinstein issued a statement defending her actions.

"Dr. Blasey Ford asked that her information be kept confidential, and it was," she said. "I only referred her letter to the FBI after it was leaked and reporters were knocking on her door. I don’t know who leaked the information, but it wasn’t my office."