Garcetti confirmation vote likely delayed another month due to expanded GOP probe


WASHINGTON, CA - MARCH 04: Senate Judiciary Ranking Member Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) speaks at the start of the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on Capitol Hill on March 04, 2013 in Washington, DC. Judge Jackson was picked by President Biden to be the first Black woman in United States history to serve on the nation's highest court to succeed Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer who is retiring. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) speaks at a Senate hearing early this month. (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times)

A key Senate Republican said it will be at least another month before he finishes an investigation into whether Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was aware at the time of a top aide’s alleged sexual harassment of others in the mayor’s office, likely further delaying any Senate action on Garcetti’s nomination to be ambassador to India.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said he would continue the work at least through the Senate’s next recess, which is due to end April 25.

“I don’t have a definite date when we’re going to get done, but I know it won’t be until after we get back after the recess,” Grassley said in a brief interview in the Capitol.

Grassley’s inquiry is the latest delay in Garcetti’s nomination process, raising new questions on Capitol Hill about when or whether he will be confirmed. Grassley put a hold on Garcetti’s nomination earlier this month, saying information he’s received from a whistleblower needs to be investigated.

President Biden nominated Garcetti to the post eight months ago.

Garcetti has said under oath and before Congress that he didn’t know about the allegations against his aide, Rick Jacobs, and if he had, he would have done something about it. Jacobs has denied the allegations.

A Democratic senator on Tuesday said she, too, would like more information on Garcetti’s denial.

“I understand that he testified he didn’t know anything about it. I’d just like to get further corroboration on that situation,” said Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), who since 2018 has been asking every judicial nominee about whether they have ever been accused of sexual assault or harassment. “I’m still gathering information. I’m not prepared to tell you one way or the other today,” she said when discussing whether she has any concerns about the nomination.

Grassley declined to characterize any conclusions his investigation might draw. He said last week he would extend the probe after hearing from additional whistleblowers and obtaining the final copy of a report summarizing a city-funded investigation.

The report, which probed a Los Angeles police officer’s allegations against Jacobs, cleared the mayor, but critics say it also left out information that would have bolstered the officer’s claims.

Grassley said he must expand the investigation because the city report had an «extremely narrow scope,» and did not cover allegations that Jacobs sexually harassed Garcetti’s senior staff and made racist comments to staff in front of Garcetti.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, questioned how much time Grassley was taking on the report.

“This nominee has been hanging out there a long time,” Menendez said. “All of a sudden, we have an investigation. You know, I wonder whether it is because there’s something to actually be pursued? Or is it just, you know, the process of delay.”

He insisted his committee did a “thorough vetting” of Garcetti, as it does for every nominee. “Now, if somebody comes forth after we do our vetting and says something, we certainly will consider it if it’s brought to our attention,” he said.

Some of the Senate’s strongest advocates against sexual harassment have been silent on the issue.

“You should talk to Foreign Relations about it,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who helped lead the 2018 fight to reform how sexual harassment claims against lawmakers are handled in Congress.

“I will look into it and I’ll let you know,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who has fought against sexual misconduct in the military, when asked if she was familiar with the nomination.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), who questioned Garcetti on the topic during his December confirmation hearing, said she was «satisfied» with his statement that he didn’t know about Jacobs’ behavior.

At the hearing, Garcetti said, “I want to say unequivocally that I never witnessed, nor was it brought to my attention, the behavior that’s been alleged, and I also want to assure you if it had been, I would have immediately taken action to stop that.»

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who is among the Republicans most likely to support a Democratic nominee, said she “absolutely” planned to look into the allegations before any potential floor vote.

“I have read press accounts that there’re issues involving some allegations of sexual abuse, but I didn’t know anything beyond that,” she said.

Naomi Seligman, a former Garcetti spokesperson, filed a complaint with the Justice Department last month demanding that Garcetti be prosecuted for perjury for denying that he knew about Jacobs’ alleged misconduct. She has been in touch with 20 senators’ offices to speak out against his confirmation.

«We are encouraged by our meetings on both sides of the aisle,» she said. «It is heartening to see so many Senate offices treat this issue with the seriousness it deserves.»

Democrats control the Senate, 50-50, with the tiebreaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris. If Garcetti can retain the support of all 50 Democrats, he can win confirmation without any Republican votes.

Times staff writer Dakota Smith in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.



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