Ford and Kavanaugh make their cases in dramatic, wrenching testimony
WASHINGTON — “Do you swear that the testimony you are about to give to this committee will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God?”
Thursday marked one of the most dramatic and emotional days on Capitol Hill in recent memory. Senators sat silently as college professor Christine Blasey Ford relayed what she says Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge did to her at a small gathering in 1982.
“I drank one beer. Brett and Mark were visibly drunk … I was pushed from behind into a bedroom across from the bathroom. I couldn’t see who pushed me. Brett and Mark came into the bedroom and locked the door behind them,” Ford said, fighting back tears. “I was pushed onto the bed and Brett got on top of me. Brett groped me and tried to take off my clothes.
“He had a hard time because he was very inebriated, and because I was wearing a one-piece bathing suit underneath my clothing,” Ford continued. “I believed he was going to rape me. I tried to yell for help. When I did, Brett put his hand over my mouth to stop me from yelling. It was hard for me to breathe, and I thought that Brett was accidentally going to kill me.”
Ford, a psychologist, sometimes relied on clinical terms to describe her experience.
“What is the strongest memory you have, strongest memory of the incident? Something that you cannot forget,” Democratic Sen. Pat Leahy of Vermont asked.
“Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter,” Ford said. “The uproarious laughter between the two, and their having fun at my expense.”
The committee’s 11 Republican men — most of them lawyers themselves — ceded their time to Rachel Mitchell, an Arizona prosecutor and sex crimes expert. She gently probed for gaps in Ford’s story.
“You said that you do not remember how you got home,” Mitchell said.
“I do not remember,” Ford replied.
“Has anyone come forward to say to you, ‘I’m the one who drove you home’?”
Democrats repeatedly pointed out that the hearing “is not a trial.”
“It’s a job interview for Judge Kavanaugh,” as Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the committee’s ranking member, put it. Their questions centered on the Republicans’ theory that this is a case of mistaken identity.
“Dr. Ford, with what degree of certainty do you believe Brett Kavanaugh assaulted you?” Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin asked.
“One hundred percent,” Ford replied.
She said the trauma left lifelong damage: “More specifically claustrophobia, panic and that type of thing.” And that’s why she said she initially wanted to remain anonymous.
“I was calculating daily the risk/benefit for me of coming forward and wondering whether I would just be jumping in front of a train that was just headed to where it was headed anyway, and that I would just be personally annihilated,” Ford said.
“How did you decide to come forward?” Feinstein asked.
“Ultimately because reporters were sitting outside of my home trying to talk to my dog through the window,” Ford said.
After about four hours of testimony, a defiant Kavanaugh took Ford’s place. He said the last two weeks had ruined his life.
“My family and my name have been totally and permanently destroyed,” he said. “I was not at the party described by Dr. Ford. This nomination process has become a national disgrace… Since my nomination in July, there has been a frenzy on the left to come up with something — anything — to block my confirmation.”
“Some of you were lying in wait and had it ready,” he continued. “This first allegation was held in secret for weeks by a Democratic member of this committee and staff… This whole two week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit… You may defeat me in the final vote but you’ll never get me to quit.”
As he went on, his anger gave way to emotion.
“The other night Ashley and my daughter Eliza said their prayers and little Liza all of 10-years-old… said to Ashley we should pray for the woman,” he said, choking up. “It’s a lot of wisdom from a 10-year-old. We mean no ill will.”
He referred to the calendars he kept in 1982.
“Let me emphasize this point: If the party described by Dr. Ford happened in the summer of 1982 on a weekend night, my calendar shows all but definitively that I was not there,” Kavanaugh said.
Mitchell, the prosecutor, questioned him, too.
“Did you consume alcohol during your high school years?” she asked.
“Yes, we drank beer, liked beer, still like beer,” he replied. “The drinking age as I noted was 18, so the seniors were legal.”
Feinstein asked: “If you very confident of your position, and you appear to be, why aren’t you also asking the FBI to investigate these claims?”
“Senator, I’ll do whatever the committee wants. I wanted a hearing the day after the allegation came up. I wanted to be here that day,” Kavanaugh said, clearly furious.
Republicans like Sen. Lindsey Graham.
“This is the most unethical sham since I’ve been in politics. If you really wanted to know the truth, you sure as hell wouldn’t have done what you’ve done to this guy,” Graham said. “To my Republican colleagues, if you vote no, you are legitimizing the most despicable thing I have seen in my time in politics.”