Dr. Christine Blasey Ford & Brett Kavanaugh Speak Before Senate Judiciary Committee

The Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Thursday, following allegations from Ford that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a party when the two were in high school.

In a tearful opening statement, as shared by The Atlantic,  Ford shared her background and the events that lead to her testimony. She noted that she had previously talked about her experiences — both in a couple's therapy session in 2012, as the effects of her assault had led to far-reaching issues for her mental health, and to a small number of her friends over the years. 

"I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified," Ford said. "I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanaugh and I were in high school."

"I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanaugh and I were in high school."

Poised, yet very clearly upset, Ford shared what she says she experienced on a summer night in 1982 when she was 15 and Kavanaugh was 17: 

“I was pushed onto the bed and Brett got on top of me,” Ford said. “He began running his hands over my body and grinding his hips into me. I yelled, hoping someone downstairs might hear me, and tried to get away from him, but his weight was heavy. Brett groped me and tried to take off my clothes. He had a hard time because he was so drunk, and because I was wearing a one-piece bathing suit under my clothes. I believed he was going to rape me.”

As Ford is a professor of psychology, her testimony seemingly doubled as an expert testimony when it came to discussing the physical and mental effects of what she experienced. One moment, when she was describing the alleged assault and the behavior between Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge, who Ford says was also in the room during the attack, had caught the attention of the Internet. 

“Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter, the uproarious laughter between the two,” she said. “And their having fun at my expense.”

Throughout the remainder of the hearing, Republican members of the Committee had deferred their questions to Rachel Mitchell, a sex crimes prosecutor from Arizona. Mitchell, during her turns, asked Ford a number of questions about her testimony — including questions about the logistics of her getting to her hearing (as Ford said she was afraid of flying) and other questions as to whether she was entirely certain that Brett Kavanaugh was the person who assaulted her. 

Allison Leotta, a former federal sex crimes prosecutor, tweeted that she believed Mitchell's process was far closer to a cross examination than that of someone "trying to find the truth." 

"Do not for a minute think this sex crimes prosecutor is trying to find the truth about a sex crime. This is how you cross examine someone. Nail down the documents, then start picking apart minor details," she wrote. "I’d hoped Rachel Mitchell would act like a prosecutor, but she is 100% acting as the Republicans’ defense attorney." 

The optics of the hearing — particularly the stark contrast between  Mitchell and Ford's exchanges and those of Democrats who addressed her directly — were discussed at length online. As Democratic Senators lauded Ford as "heroic" and thanked her for her "bravery," the silence on the part of their Republican colleagues felt telling, with reports of GOP insiders regretting the decision to have Mitchell take the wheel. 

In Kavanaugh's opening statement, per BuzzFeed News, he argued that the allegations were part of a "political hit" which he said was "fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons, and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups." He also repeatedly cited his academics and time on sports teams to vouch for his character at the time of the allegations. 

Kavanaugh also once again denied the allegations, citing a friend of Ford's who said she didn't recall the night in question:

"Less than two weeks ago Dr. Ford publicly accused me of committing wrongdoing at an event more than 36 years ago when we were both in high school. I denied the allegation immediately, categorically and unequivocally. All four people allegedly at the event, including Dr. Ford’s longtime friend Ms. Kaiser, have said they recall no such event. Her longtime friend, Ms. Kaiser, said under penalty of felony that she does not know me and does not believe she ever saw me at a party ever."

Kavanaugh's testimony contrasted thoroughly from Ford's. While she remained calm, if distressed, he was openly sharing his emotions — particularly anger — and directing them at the Senators who questioned him. 

One notable moment occurred during questioning from Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, when she was asking Kavanaugh, per statements from friends, about his reported drinking habits when he was in college and high school.

She'd asked whether he'd ever gotten drunk enough that he'd "blacked out" and forgotten the events of a night, also mentioning that her own father had drinking problems. He, somewhat glibly, turned around and asked her "have you?" but later apologized for the comment. 

Toward the end of what was a full and exhausting day of testimonies (which were undoubtedly a lot for viewers, particularly those who may have experienced sexual assault in their own lives), Sen. Kamala Harris of California addressed Kavanaugh and asked him about whether he had taken a polygraph test, as Ford had (he did not), whether he would request an FBI investigation (no) and whether "men can both be friends with woman and treat other women badly?” (yes).  

Finally, she asked him if he'd watched the testimony from Dr. Ford from earlier this morning. 

"I planned to, but I did not," he said. "I was preparing mine."

Update 7:15 p.m. EST

Following the hearing, President Trump tweeted that he believed the Senate should go through with the vote in the next week, which cast doubt on the theory that he'd consider pulling Kavanaugh following Ford's testimony: "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!"