Ford says the Supreme Court nominee sexually assaulted and attempted to rape her at a house party in the early 1980s. Two other women have come forward with additional sexual misconduct claims against Kavanaugh. He has denied the allegations.
At times, Ford’s voice broke as she described her assault and the fear she had of coming forward. But she also held her own, as she was questioned by the Democrats and Arizona-based prosecutor Rachel Mitchell, who confronted her on behalf of the Republicans in the committee.
Kavanaugh, on the other hand, aggressively defended himself from the allegations against him. On occasion, he raised his voice at the Democratic senators questioning him. Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and John Cornyn were the first GOP officials to speak Thursday, eventually replacing Mitchell in the line of questioning. None of the Republicans in the committee — all men — questioned Ford.
After the hearing ended, President Donald Trump tweeted: “Judge Kavanaugh showed America exactly why I nominated him. His testimony was powerful, honest, and riveting. Democrats’ search and destroy strategy is disgraceful and this process has been a total sham and effort to delay, obstruct, and resist. The Senate must vote!”
The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination on Friday at 9:30 a.m. ET. Depending on the result, then the full Senate will proceed with the confirmation vote.
Ahead, the key takeaways of this historic hearing.
In her testimony, Dr. Ford said one of the most striking details she remembers is the “uproarious laughter” between Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge having fun at her expense while they allegedly assaulted her. She recalls hoping that Judge — who she remembers being in the room, alternatively egging on Kavanaugh and being ambivelant — would come to her aid. “A couple of times I made eye contact with Mark and thought he might help me,” she said. “But he did not.”
When asked by Senator Klobuchar what about the night she would “never forget,” Ford responded: “The stairwell. The living room. The bedroom. The bed on the right side of the room … the bathroom in close proximity. The laughter. The uproarious laughter. And the multiple attempts to escape. And the final ability to do so.”
Ford has a master’s degree Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University, a PhD in Educational Psychology from the University of Southern California, and a master’s degree in Epidemiology from Stanford University School of Medicine. She is a published scholar. During her testimony, she used her expertise to put the details of her assault into context.
About Kavanaugh and Judge’s “uproarious laughter,” she said: “Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter. The uproarious laughter between the two and their having fun at my expense… I was, you know, underneath one of them while the two laughed”
When asked if there were other factors that could have contributed to the anxiety she experienced she responded the “etiology of anxiety and PTSD is multifactorial” — adding that she may have had a “biological predisposition” to these symptoms.
There was a significant difference in how the Republican and Democratic men in the committee treated Dr. Ford.
All the Republicans in the Senate Judiciary Committee are men. Because of the bad optics, reminiscent of the Anita Hill testimony, most of them were yielding their time to prosecutor Rachel Mitchell. But at the same time, this structure precluded them from being kind and compassionate towards Dr. Ford as every Democratic man in the committee was able to be.
For example, Sen. Richard Blumenthal from Connecticut told Dr. Ford “I believe you” and added that, regardless of what happens after her testimony, her coming forward is a “profound public service” that has inspired survivors to speak up.
Throughout Dr. Ford’s testimony, it became increasingly clear that the Senate Judiciary Committee should hear from Kavanaugh’s classmate and friend Mark Judge. Ford sustains that he was present in the room when Kavanaugh sexually assaulted and attempted to rape her.
Despite being the only witness who could clear Kavanaugh’s name, Judge chose not to testify Thursday. “I did not ask to be involved in this matter, nor did anyone ask me to be involved,” he told the Senate Judiciary Committee, adding, “I have no more information to offer to the committee, and I do not wish to speak publicly regarding the incidents described in Dr. Ford’s letter.”
Kavanaugh got forceful in his testimony.
Kavanaugh’s testimony was petulant and angry, a stark contrast to that of Dr. Ford who was apologetic and even attempted moments of levity. Kavanaugh’s opening statement lasted just over 40 minutes. By comparison Dr. Ford’s was about 20 to 25 minutes long.
He wouldn’t answer whether he would like a FBI investigation to clear his name.
Kavanaugh refused to answer every time Democratic lawmakers asked him whether he would ask the Trump White House to order the FBI to re-open his background check and investigate the claims.
“I’m going to ask you one last time,” Sen. Kamala Harris of California told Kavanaugh. “Are you willing to ask the White House to conduct an investigation by the FBI?”
She added: “Say yes or no and we can move on.” Kavanaugh deflected and Harris took it as a no.
Kavanaugh tearfully and angrily, noted all the women who have come to his defense. He mentioned the letter sent by 65 women who knew him in high school.
Kavanaugh repeatedly referred to the number of female friends he has, mentioning the parties he attended with them which were on his calendars that he has given to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
He touted his record of hiring female law clerks. The Yale Law professor, Amy Chua, known as Tiger Mom reportedly instructed female law students to exude a “model-like” femininity if they wanted a highly coveted clerkship with Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
One of the 65 women who signed a letter in defense of Judge Brett Kavanaugh right after he was accused of sexual assault was the butt of a cruel joke on his 1983 yearbook page, where he used her name and implied she was promiscuous. Reports say the name of Renate Schroeder Dolphin, then a student at a Catholic girls’ school, appeared more than a dozen times in the yearbook, including a group photo of football players, including Kavanaugh, under the description “Renate Alumni. ”
Kavanaugh says the “Renate Alumni” message was “intended to show affection, and that she was one of us,” but “the media” made it about sex.
He said his 10-year-old daughter Liza told his wife Ashley that “We should pray for the woman” referring to Dr. Ford. He also mentioned coaching his daughter’s basketball team.
Sen. Kamala Harris of California asked Kavanaugh: “Do you agree that it is possible for men to both be friends with some women … and treat other women badly?” He agreed with Harris’ sentiment, but then deflected and talked about the women who have defended him.
In his opening statement, Kavanaugh tried to say the claims against him were a political conspiracy dating back to the 2016 presidential election and “revenge on behalf of the Clintons.”
But Sen. Cory Booker reminded the body that Dr. Ford brought up the allegations against Kavanaugh when she was speaking to her therapist in 2012 and 2013, and that they are not simply conjured up of the eve of the confirmation vote.
“She is not a political pawn. She is not orchestrating. She is not part of the Clinton’s efforts,” Booker said. “She is a woman who came here with corroborating evidence to tell her truth.”
Sen. Harris also made the point that Justice Neil Gorsuch — who has a remarkably similar pedigree to that of Kavanaugh and was nominated by Trump last year — never faced any sexual misconduct claims and was successfully confirmed to the bench. This would disprove Kavanaugh’s conspiracy theory that the claims against him are a political sham.
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