Live Blog: Blasey Ford-Kavanaugh Hearing

The Senate Judiciary Committee will begin its hearing at 10:00 am (EST). Dr. Christine Blasey Ford will testify about her allegations Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were in high school. She claims that Kavanaugh and a friend from the elite Georgetown Preparatory School, just outside Washington, D.C., held her down and attempted to undress her before she managed to escape. After Dr. Ford’s testimony, Judge Kavanaugh will follow. We’ll be live-blogging the event, providing our readers fresh insights in real time. Please see our updates below.

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7:08

Well, that didn’t take long. Minutes after the Senate Judiciary Committee finished its excruciating hearing with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump vigorously defended his Supreme Court nominee.

This should surprise no one. By playing the Trumpian playbook, Kavanaugh made the president–no stranger to sexual assault allegations himself–proud: He was defiant, conspiratorial, and irate; he denied and doubled down; he called the accusations against him “revenge on behalf of the Clintons.”

Most GOP lawmakers will do whatever Trump and Mitch McConnell want them to do, yet only two need to vote against Kavanaugh to halt the nomination. Kavanaugh’s fate is now in the hands of three Republicans: Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, and Jeff Flake. It’s not hyperbole to say that the character of our country, and its highest court, rests on their consciences.

Senators, a nation turns it’s lonely eyes to you.

— Eric Cortellessa

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6:50

The hearing comes to a close. Takeaways are as follows:

* Dr. Ford testimony painful to watch at times, but extremely credible.
* Kavanaugh started off the hearing by being pretty unhinged.
* Senator Lindsey Graham joined Kavanaugh in going off on an unhinged rant.
* The point Republicans focused on was to discredit the process as a way to claim that the allegations are some kind of Democratic plot.
* The point the Democrats focused on was the need for an independent FBI investigation into the allegations against Kavanaugh.

— Nancy LeTourneau

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6:28

Senator Booker’s questioning was directed at Kavanaugh’s assertion that the allegations about sexual assault were nothing more than a Democratic conspiracy. He pressed the nominee to make a distinction between that claim and Ford’s testimony.

Pretty much every Republican on the committee has accused Sen. Feinstein of keeping the letter from Ford secret and built an entire conspiracy theory around that. Feinstein finally clarified that Ford asked her to keep the information confidential.

–Nancy LeTourneau

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5:42

It strikes me that Ford openly admitted to not remembering several things from 36 years ago. When it comes to Kavanaugh, he answers all questions with categorical denials. That specifically happens when senators ask him whether he ever blacked out or forgot events when he was drunk. He immediately denies that it ever happened.

— Nancy LeTourneau

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5:25

Here’s a moment, under questioning by Sen. Klobuchar, that demonstrates Kavenaugh’s character, and his contempt for women:

After returning from a break, Kavanaugh apologized to Klobuchar for those remarks.

— Nancy LeTourneau

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5:11

Republicans seem to have decided to dump Mitchell questioning Kavanaugh and go on rants to compete with the nominee’s.

— Nancy LeTourneau

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4:53

Twitter users are assembling an interesting timeline using Ford’s testimony, Kavanaugh’s calendar, and Mark Judge’s memoir.

In her testimony, Dr. Ford said that after the incident, she ran into Judge at his job at a Safeway grocery store, where he shrunk away from her in presumable shame. Judge’s memoir, Wasted, shows that he held this job in 1982, when the alleged incident occurred:

Kavanaugh was adamant that he never encountered Dr. Ford at any parties or gatherings, and he offered the Senate his high school calendars to prove it. But the Huffington Post’s Matt Fuller noted that on July 1, 1982, Kavanaugh said he was hanging out with “PJ” and “Judge,” referring to the two men Ford claimed where present at the attack:

The committee eventually touched on these points, leading Kavanaugh to stutter through his admission that he, “PJ,” and Judge, a recovering alcoholic, often gathered in the woods and drank “lots of beer” during the summer in question.

— Kaila Philo

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4:54

Sen. Lindsey Graham went a rant that made Kavanaugh’s aggression look mild.

There is speculation that Sen. Durbin pressing Kavanaugh to support an FBI investigation, which eventually left the nominee speechless, required an intervention. If so, Graham stepped up to the plate to provide one.

— Nancy LeTourneau

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4:43

My reaction to Kavanaugh’s opening statement was substantially the same as Eric’s (below). It appeared so conspiratorial and partisan that it led me to the conclusion that he is no longer interested primarily in being confirmed but only with salvaging some small bit of his reputation. I’d add that his temperament was pretty close to the opposite of judicial. He literally yelled for fifty minutes without much pause at all.

This process seems to have left him unbalanced and unhinged, which I suppose would be understandable in either an innocent or guilty man. But it’s a strong argument against voting to confirm him in the next day or two. Interspersed within his rant were some points that made for a decent defense, but those points were vastly less effective, or even noticeable, precisely because his demeanor attracted the most attention and was the most worrisome thing.

I suppose a lot of people will find him credible, just as many (probably more) will find Dr. Ford credible, but he did real damage to the idea that he can sit impartially on the nation’s highest bench.

— Martin Longman

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4:37

Under questioning from Sen. Leahy about Mark Judge and his high school yearbook, Kavanaugh gets very aggressive trying to avoid specific questions. When Leahy asks if he is the drunk referred to in Judge’s memoir, Kavanaugh first tries to avoid the question by talking about his friend’s addiction problem, and then claiming that Leahy was mocking him. When Leahy asks the question again, Kavanaugh says, “You’ll have to ask him.” Leahy says that’s precisely why they wanted him to appear before the committee.

Going back to questioning by Mitchell,  Kavanugh is once again much more calm and measured. That indicates a kind of partisanship that should, in and of itself, disqualify him from serving on the Supreme Court.

— Nancy LeTourneau

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4:23

The committee has taken a break. But under questioning by Sen. Feinstein, Kavanaugh became really unhinged. She asked him why, if he was so interested in testifying, he didn’t call for an FBI investigation. Kavanaugh railed about how he wanted to testify to the committee the next day, going on and on. I’m sure that he is particularly angry with Feinstein, and it seemed that he was letting loose with his contempt for her. He was much more measured in response to questions from Mitchell.

— Nancy LeTourneau

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4:07

Brett Kavanaugh’s opening statement was beyond indignant. Perhaps most stunningly, he suggested the many allegations against him are part of a Democratic plot to curtail his nomination, calling them an “orchestrated political hit” and “revenge on behalf of the Clintons.” This was an astounding response for someone who wants to sit on the Supreme Court. It may be an admission that he thinks his fate is already sealed. If he genuinely believed he might soon rule on cases that have even the slightest partisan dimension, he wouldn’t say something that compromises his appearance of impartiality. That prognosis may have liberated him to act as aggrieved and angry as he did. “You may defeat me in the final vote,” he told senators, presumably Democratic ones, “but you’ll never get me to quit. Never.”

— Eric Cortellessa

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3:21

Other than an initial claim that he wasn’t at the party, Kavanaugh isn’t talking directly about the allegations, but is obviously using the initial moments of his opening statement as a chance to rage about the entire process and everyone involved.

The line he is trying to walk is to dismiss all of the claims without dismissing Ford specifically. He does so by referring to the whole “mistaken identity” defense, suggesting that she might have been attacked—but not by him. Kavanaugh gets emotional when he says that his 10 year old daughter suggested that they should pray for “the woman.”

There’s a lot of truth to this:

Kavanaugh is making a big deal about how meticulous he was in listing everything he did in his calendar—probably in an attempt to show that he didn’t attend the party. But he notes that he didn’t include attendance at church in his calendar, because it was automatic. In other words, his calendar wasn’t as meticulously maintained as he wants us to believe.

Kavanaugh says that in high school they used the yearbook to mimic frat party movies that were popular at the time. He also claims that “Renate alumnus” refers to showing affection to a friend, which he says showed “she was one of us…I’m so sorry to her for that year book reference.”

As we watch Kavanaugh rage and cry, I’m seeing a lot of reactions like this on twitter:

— Nancy LeTourneau

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2:56

Many have already compared Kavanaugh’s hearing compares to Clarence Thomas’s in 1991, but what about Christine Blasey Ford and Anita Hill—and how we’re perceiving them? Gene Demby of NPR’s CodeSwitch podcast tweeted the following:

While the CNN pundit’s statement itself is imprudent at best, there is some truth to the sentiment. In 1991, Clarence Thomas infamously capitalized on the post-Rodney King racial tension to argue that the case against him was unfounded and racially charged, invoking white guilt to color the committee’s—and America’s—judgment.

As Charles Blow wrote in the Times, “Thomas provoked blacks to circle the wagons when he declared the hearings a ‘high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves.’” The inverse can be said for Anita Hill: she appeared confident and composed throughout her hearing, as the all white, all male committee scrutinized her life and story. As a result, even Joe Biden acted coldly toward her, cutting the hearing short before more of Thomas’s victims could testify. Her claims were dismissed, and Thomas was confirmed nonetheless.

Anita Hill was afflicted by an image of a “strong black woman,” and therefore considered untrustworthy, durable, and disposable. There are many questions to be discussed from these hearings, but the most disturbing among them may be: what makes our belief in women so conditional?

— Kaila Philo

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2:35

The hearing will resume at 3:00 p.m. with questioning of Kavanugh.

— Editors

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2:21

Not stated during the hearing, but Sen. Lindsay Graham has issued a threat to Democrats: “If this is the new norm, you better watch out for your nominees.” They’ve ended their time with Dr. Ford, but Mitchell closed by implying that it was Ford’s fault that she is being subjected to this hearing because she didn’t agree to be questioned by committee staff—who work for the Republican majority.

— Nancy LeTourneau

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2:00

It seems clear that Democratic senators have decided to keep their questioning of Ford to a minimum, which makes sense because she’s told her story. To continue asking about it simply continues the pain. In response to Mitchell’s questions that suggested something nefarious about the lawyers Ford chose and who was paying them, her counsel said that they are representing her pro bono.

— Nancy LeTourneau

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1:46

Mitchell is trying to make something nefarious about who paid for Fords’ polygraph.

— Nancy LeTourneau

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1:43

Rachel Mitchell, an accomplished prosecutor from Maricopa County, keeps asking Dr. Ford questions that only help the accuser’s case. From questioning her fear of flying to who will pay for her polygraph test to how she’s sure it was Kavanaugh who assaulted her, Mitchell has helped establish Dr. Ford as not only a credible witness, but also a highly intelligent psychologist. Considering Mitchell has spent the bulk of her career prosecuting powerful men accused of sex crimes, this may be no accident. Emma Green at The Atlantic even goes so far as to conjecture that she’s actually building a case for Maryland prosecutors to investigate the claims even further in the future.

— Kaila Philo

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1:37

Obviously, Brett Kavanaugh has not had his say yet, but my takeaway from Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony is that she is telling the truth and will be widely seen as highly credible. She’s also so sympathetic, it will be poorly received if Kavanaugh attacks her credibility in his testimony, which he must of course do to a very convincing degree.

But one thing that might not get immediate notice is that Dr. Ford’s testimony has already shifted the contours of this debate rather decisively. If there was still an idea that perhaps this assault occurred so long ago that it’s not really pertinent to Kavanaugh’s suitability for a Supreme Court seat, that notion seems to have evaporated. It’s clear to see the kind of damage this experienced caused to Dr. Ford. The presumption is now that if he did carry out the assault, he cannot be confirmed.

Of course, Kavanaugh also assured this by making sworn statements denying that the incident could have occurred. If she is believed, he must have perjured himself. He made the decision to dispute the charges categorically rather than saying he can’t remember, or that he may have crossed a line and he is sorry, but that he’s lived an otherwise exemplary life. In doing so, he acknowledged that the charges are disqualifying if true. It will be up to him to rescue himself during his testimony, but I simply cannot see any way that that can be done.

— Martin Longman

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1:30

If you want to know how badly this is going for Republicans, there’s this:

Everyone but the president knew ahead of time that Ford would be a credible witness. But of course, he blames his staff.

— Nancy LeTourneau

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1:27

The line from Republicans in response to Ford’s extremely credible testimony so far is that there is no corroboration of her claims.

Given that the committee refused to ask any other people to testify—except the accused—that’s exactly the outcome they wanted from this hearing.

— Nancy LeTourneau

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1:18

A little dose of caution: I think the hearing is going great for Ford. She’s remarkably poised under immense pressure, and her bravery is sincere and commendable. But never underestimate the power of Republicans (and some independents) to reason their way out of anything. Keep in mind that our country that just elected a president who’s bragged about sexually assaulting women.

— Daniel Block

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1:03

Senator Chris Coons made a very important point during his questioning of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford: She first warned her member of Congress about Judge Kavanaugh before the president officially nominated him to the Supreme Court. In fact, she reached out to Rep. Anna Eshoo when Kavanaugh was named on Trump’ short list to fill Justice Anthony Kennedy’s seat. While Ford is already a highly credible witness, this revelation shredded the GOP talking point that her allegations are part of an 11th-hour gambit to block Kavanugh’s appointment.

— Eric Cortellessa

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12:48

Prosecutor Rachel Mitchell’s line of questioning seems to depend on painting Christine Blasey as a liar. At one point, she asks Dr. Ford about her travel history.  She cited, unnecessarily, Ford’s fear of flying. Since Dr. Ford dismissed the GOP’s doppelgänger theory—that perhaps Mark Judge, not Kavanaugh, was the real culprit, and that this is just a case of mistaken identity—their defense seems to be falling apart. It was 1992, the first election year after Anita Hill’s testimony, that was deemed the “Year of the Woman” because of the electoral backlash from Hill’s dismissal. Similarly, this hearing could spell trouble for the GOP in the coming midterms, whether Kavanaugh is confirmed or not.

— Kaila Philo

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12:43

Break for lunch.

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During the break, it’s worth thinking about what Mitchell’s questions are designed to accomplish.

How’s it going so far?

I’m sure the president would like it better if the Mitchell was ripping up Ford’s testimony and simply calling her an evil con artist.

If you didn’t believe Ford before, it’s pretty impossible to dismiss her after this testimony. Women all over the country are watching and listening…and feeling it in their bones.

— Nancy LeTourneau

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Wow, Mitchell just noted that Ford told the Washington Post that the assault “contributed” to emotional distress and PTSD symptoms, then asked if there were other contributing factors. In other words, she was fishing for whether or not Ford has experienced other traumatic events. That kind of questioning should be off base and is incredibly offensive.

Mitchell asks if Ford talked to any Republican members of congress – wow! She went to her own congresswomen, who happened to be a Democrat.

Mitchell is laying ground rules before questioning.

Under questioning by Feinstein, Ford says that she came forward when reporters began harassing she, her colleagues and students.

Feinstein asks how she knows the attacker was Kavanaugh. Ford responds with information about how the brain records these kinds of memories. In summary, Feinstein questions whether or not this could be a case of “mistaken identity,” and Ford says “absolutely not.”

Mitchell’s questioning is not intrusive, but feels a lot like putting Ford on trail by pushing what is/isn’t factual.

The pattern seems to be that the hearing will alternate between Mitchell and committee Democrats for five minutes each. Very disjointed.

Question from Leahy is what memory is most indelible, she says that it’s the laughter from Kavanugh and Judge as the assault was underway.

Durbin asks with what degree of certainty Ford says that Kavanaugh assaulted her – she responds with 100%.

15 minute break.

— Nancy LeTourneau

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Feinstein defends the fact that she held Dr. Ford’s letter at her request to keep it confidential. She is also the first to thank Dr. Ford for being willing to testify.

Ford is now reading her statement – mentioned that she’s terrified, but feels this is her civic duty. She’s now recounting the incident with Kavanaugh.

Ford: “The memories have haunted me as an adult”

Ford says that she convinced herself that since Kavanaugh didn’t rape her she should just forget about it and move on.

Ford is recounting her experience of initially wanting to get the information about her assault to Senators confidentially and the invasion of her privacy when reports began to go public.

Ford: “My responsibility is to tell the truth.”

— Nancy LeTourneau

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Before things get started, this is significant:

This is also important to keep in mind:

In his opening statement Grassley decides to defend Kavanaugh.

Grassley is making a highly partisan statement about how Democrats handled the allegations, then defends their bringing Mitchell on board. He goes on to justify why other victims were not included – blaming their lawyers.

— Nancy LeTourneau

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The president held a news conference yesterday in which he shared his opinion about Kavanaugh and the allegations of sexual assault. He said that evil people (i.e., Democrats) were attempting a con job on “one of the highest quality people I have ever met,” and that Kavanaugh could go on to be one of the greatest justices on the Supreme Court in history. Oh, and he also said that he’ll be listening to what she has to say (he never uttered her name) and could change his mind.

While that news conference was underway, yet another victim came forward—this time via Republican Senator Cory Gardner.

The sender of the complaint described an evening involving her own daughter, Kavanaugh and several friends in 1998.

“When they left the bar (under the influence of alcohol) they were all shocked when Brett Kavanaugh, shoved her friend up against the wall very aggressively and sexually.”

“There were at least four witnesses including my daughter.” The writer of the letter provided no names but said the alleged victim was still traumatized and had decided to remain anonymous herself.

A fifth victim came forward last night.

In terms of Dr. Ford’s allegation, at least two men have approached the Judiciary Committee to say that they might be the men who are responsible for the attack on her.

Senate Judiciary Committee staff interviewed two men who said they believed that they, and not US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, had “the encounter” with the woman who accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers, according to new information released Wednesday night by the committee.

Prior to the start of the hearing you can read the opening statements from both Kavanaugh and Ford. The order of their testimony will be as follows:

Ford is to testify first. Kavanaugh responds. Each can talk for as long as he or she wants, according to Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.

At Ford’s request, Kavanaugh will not be in the room when she testifies.

Each of the 11 Republican senators and each of the 10 Democratic senators on the committee will have a chance to ask five minutes of questions, Grassley said. The questioning will alternate between Republicans and Democrats.

Republicans plan to cede their time to Rachel Mitchell, the prosecutor they hired to question Dr. Ford. Antonia Noori Farzan has summarized what we know about her.

That should get you caught up.

— Nancy LeTourneau