This story contains allegations of sexual assault and may upset some readers.
Former minister Linda Reynolds denies trying to intervene in the criminal trial of the man accused of raping her former colleague Brittany Higgins.
Ms Higgins claims she was raped by former Liberal Party staffer Bruce Lerman in Senator Reynolds’ office just weeks before the 2019 federal election was called.
In the ACT Supreme Court, Mr Lerman pleaded not guilty to having sex without consent.
During her testimony at the trial on Monday, it emerged that Senator Reynolds had tried to access transcripts of Ms Higgins’ testimony because she was curious about what was said.
However, she was told that the request was “inappropriate” and she did not receive the minutes.
Prosecutor Shane Drumgold asked the senator why she told Mr Lerman’s defense team about possible questioning two hours after Ms Higgins began her evidence.
Mr Drumgold accused her of trying to set up the cross-examination of Ms Higgins because she was politically involved in the outcome of the case, two allegations she denied.
It was also revealed that Senator Reynolds’ partner sat in court throughout the proceedings, but she denied he had given her any details of the case.
Senator Reynolds said she knew few details about the alleged rape of Ms Higgins in 2019 and did not consider the former staffer a Liberal Party liability.
The court previously heard Ms Higgins did not make a police complaint because during a meeting with Senator Reynolds a week after the alleged attack the conversation turned to the impact it could have on the Liberal Party.
When Mr. Drumgold told Senator Reynolds that her dominant concern at that meeting was the upcoming election, she vehemently denied it.
“I categorically and categorically deny that allegation,” she said.
Senator Reynolds told the court she knew few details about the night of the alleged attack, other than the security breach of her ministerial number.
She said Ms Higgins apologized and was embarrassed by the breach.
When Ms Higgins became agitated, revealing details about waking up the next morning and getting dressed, Senator Reynolds said she recommended she speak to the police.
She told the court she suggested Ms Higgins speak to someone more qualified.
Earlier, Liberal senator Michaelia Cash denied the former government covered up the alleged rape of Ms Higgins, agreeing it would have been political suicide.
Senator Cash also said she was unaware of the rape allegation until 2021.
The court previously heard how Ms Higgins, who served as Senator Cash between 2019 and 2021, had spoken to her several times about the alleged assault.
But appearing by video link on Monday, Senator Cash said that while she had been told there had been a security breach at the ministry’s office, she had not been told about the alleged sexual abuse.
She said Ms. Higgins reported that she and Lerman went to Senator Reynolds’ office after a night of drinking and she fell asleep there.
Senator Cash said she did not recall speaking to Senator Reynolds about the breach.
Asked by Mr Drumgold whether the alleged attack between ministerial staff would be “politically embarrassing”, Senator Cash said “absolutely not”.
She said she didn’t understand the political connection, but the assault charge should be investigated.
When Mr Whybrow suggested the government’s attempt to cover up the sexual assault allegation would be “political suicide”, Senator Cash agreed.
Senator Cash said that when she learned of the alleged attack in 2021, she told Ms Higgins she would be supported “every step of the way”.
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