After an extraordinary, tense and day-long Senate Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday the delved into accusations that US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford 35 years ago at a teenage beer party in Maryland, it appears that Kavanaugh will be approved by the GOP-controlled committee today, setting the stage for a full floor vote next week in the US Senate. The Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on the judge’s nomination later today.
On Thursday, Ford emotionally testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Hearing, saying that she was ‘terrified’ when Brett Kavanaugh allegedly sexually assaulted her at the party in the 1980s. She said the strongest memory of that night was when Kavanaugh and his friend laughed at her. Ford also noted that she was 15 at the time and Kavanaugh was 17. She said that she thought he was going to rape her.
Ford gave her testimony first, and the president’s Supreme Court nominee spoke later that day. Kavanaugh countered in his hour-long opening statement that he had never committed sexual assault against Ford or against anyone. He alleged that the whole two-week effort by Democrats has been a political hit intended to destroy his reputation that he spend decades building. The judge, who was part of the Kenneth Starr team that investigated President Clinton, also said the opposition to him was revenge for the Clintons.
Kavanaugh made forceful arguments regarding his innocence. He argued that he had been the subject of many criminal and FBI checks going back 20 years, and nothing had ever been turned up about the alleged sexual assault. He also gave a detailed explanation of his daily calendar that he has kept going back to the early 1980s. The judge argued that his calendar from the time in question strongly suggests he was not at the party that Ford was talking about.
GOP senators vigorously defended the judge’s character and his participation in the process for confirmation. Sen. Lindsey Graham was the most virulent defender of Kavanaugh on the Senate committee. He gave a long, impassioned defense of the judge after the hearing was over. Graham said that everything he knows about the judge says that the alleged assault never happened. Both Graham and Kavanaugh did not deny that Ford may have been sexually assaulted at some point, but both men said Kavanaugh had nothing to do with it.
The hearing on Thursday included rapid and jarring jumps between the woman’s memory as it was tested by Arizona sex crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell. Republican senator hired her to ask questions for them. Democrats also questioned the witness that attempted to establish that Ford was certain that it was the SCOTUS nominee who attacked her.
When Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) asked if there was a possibility that she had made a mistake in identifying Kavanaugh, Ford said it was not possible. Inside the chamber, Mitchell was the representative of the 11 male Republicans on the committee. This put a female face on the questions asked of Ford that attempted to show inconsistencies in the record.
Outside the Senate hearing, some Republicans were casting doubt on her story. According to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), it is very suspicious how all of the testimony came out in the last few weeks. All of the contacts with the media, hiring an attorney to take a polygraph test of the witness made it more suspicious, he said.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) told a Hill reporter that it was too early to comment if the witness was credible. Hatch also said that she was an attractive and pleasing witness.
Questioning by the Prosecutor
As Mitchell questioned Ford, she used the word correction several times when going through several clarifications of the witness’s comments and letters about the alleged sexual assault. Ford answered the questions politely and apologized a few times for conflicts, such as when she said that she had not spoken to other party attendees where she claims that Kavanaugh assaulted her. And then she followed up that she had spoken again to an attendee who was at the party that night.
At one point in the hours-long hearing, Mitchell spent 10 minutes questioning her about her alleged fear of flying. She also combed through Ford’s work and personal travel, such as yearly trips to the East Coast to visit her family, and vacations in Costa Rica and Hawaii. Ford said it was easier to fly when she was looking forward to going on a vacation.
Mitchell asked Ford before and after a break for lunch who paid for the polygraph test that she took before she made her allegations public. After the break, her attorney said that her attorneys paid for the test.
The questions were not unlike what a witness could see in a criminal trial, but the optics of the hearing were unusual for a Senate gathering. In a moment that showed how much the male senators did not want to ask her questions, Ford looked at Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and asked if she could answer him directly.
Vivid Descriptions of Sexual Assault
Ford started the Senate hearing by describing the night that she alleges the judge assaulted her when the two were at a party in Maryland decades ago. She claims she was shoved into a bedroom where Kavanaugh ran his hands over her body and ground into her. She said that she was sure he was going to rape her. Ford says that she tried to shout for help, but the young man put his hand over her mouth. She noted that that is what scared her the most and had the most effect on her life. Ford said it was difficult to breathe, and she thought he was going to kill her.
Ford said that she did not tell her parents about the event because she did not want them to know she was at a party with alcohol. Also, Kavanaugh did not actually rape her, so she did not have any direct evidence other than her word. She told the committee that she talked about the specific details of the alleged sexual assault in May 2012 during a counseling session with her husband.
Until July 2018, Ford had never named the SCOTUS pick as her attacker other than during therapy sessions. She said that seeing his name on a list of candidates for the US Supreme Court made her feel like it was her duty to talk about what happened.
If the GOP is able to confirm Kavanaugh in a full Senate vote next week, it assures a decisive 5-4 conservative majority on the highest court in the land, probably for many years to come.