The Slatest

Live Blog: Brett Kavanaugh’s Testimony About Christine Blasey Ford’s Allegation

Christine Blasey Ford will testify Thursday morning to the Senate Judiciary Committee about her allegation that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in the early 80s. Here is a statement she’s prepared in advance. Kavanaugh’s testimony will follow; his prepared statement is here. We’ll be updating this post with the latest developments from the hearing, which you can watch above.

7:10 p.m.: That’s a wrap on an extraordinary day and a nomination process that is still far from over. A committee vote is scheduled for Friday morning, whether that happens as planned will be the first substantive indication of how the Republican caucus feels the day shaped up.

6:54 p.m.: In the final moments of the day’s questioning, Republican Sen. Kennedy tried to give Kavanaugh a definitive closing moment to hang his day of testimony on, asking: “I am going to give you a last opportunity right here in front of god and country, I want you to look me in the eye, are Dr. Ford allegations true?”

“They’re not accurate as to me,” Kavanaugh answered. It was not exactly the alley-oop Kennedy likely expected. “I’ve not questioned that she might’ve been sexually assaulted at some point in her life by someone someplace, but as to me, I have never done this. Never,” he continued. “Done this to her or to anyone else. And I have talked to you about what I was doing the summer of 1982. That I am telling you, I have never done this to anyone, including her.” “No, senator” was probably the answer Kennedy was looking for.

6:45 p.m.: President Trump weighs in almost immediately after the conclusion of the day’s testimony by Kavanaugh.

6:43 p.m.: At the conclusion of questioning by Sen. Kamala Harris, Judge Kavanaugh said he did not watch the earlier testimony of Christine Blasey Ford.

6:05 p.m.: “By the way, I think Dr. Ford is a victim and she’s been through hell,” Republican Sen. Ben Sasse says. The inevitable “but” is that Sen. Feinstein didn’t bring the allegation forward soon enough. He seems to be on board the Kavanaugh train.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, then tried to argue that Judge Kavanaugh’s innocent description of his yearbook entry “Renate Alumnius” seemed plainly implausible. What he didn’t get to note, maybe because Kavanaugh repeatedly interrupted him, was that Kavanaugh’s lawyer released a statement saying it referred to date with a former classmate Renate Schroeder Dolphin with whom Kavanaugh “shared a brief kiss good night following that event.” Dolphin said no such kiss occurred, which I think was maybe meant to be another challenge to his credibility.

Blumenthal also challenged Kavanaugh’s earlier testimony that he had never had a drinking episode where he couldn’t remember what happened afterwards, noting that he had previously described an incident in which he had to “piece things back together” after “falling of the bus on to the front steps of the Law School at 4:45 a.m.” following a night out. Kavanaugh interrupted repeatedly: “I know what happened.” Then he said that it was a trip of “great camaraderie” to Fenway Park for a baseball game and that “piece things back together” “definitely [did] not” imply that he had recall problems. I assume the point was to demonstrate that it’s possible Kavanaugh attacked Dr. Blasey Ford without remembering it.

5:40 p.m.: Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware asked about comments by a former classmate of Kavanaugh, Liz Swisher, in the Washington Post. From the paper:

“Brett was a sloppy drunk, and I know because I drank with him. I watched him drink more than a lot of people. He’d end up slurring his words, stumbling,” said Swisher, a Democrat and chief of the gynecologic oncology division at the University of Washington School of Medicine. “There’s no medical way I can say that he was blacked out… . But it’s not credible for him to say that he has had no memory lapses in the nights that he drank to excess.”

Coons then reiterated that if Kavanaugh wanted his name cleared, it seems like he would want a week-long FBI investigation to interview corroborating witnesses. Kavanaugh repeated that his standard for evidence was the statements the witnesses have given to the Judiciary Committee. He also complained that the past week has felt like a lifetime to him, and another week delay would be intolerable.

5:35 p.m.: Kavanaugh apologized to Klobuchar, who accepted the apology and stated that children of alcoholics must be very careful about drinking themselves.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, meanwhile, asked a series of questions designed to pin blame of Sen. Dianne Feinstein for not bringing this accusations to light sooner. Hatch closed by saying: “I think it’s a disgrace.

5:20 p.m.: Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar pressed Kavanaugh on whether he’d ever forgotten about events that took place while he was drinking, to which he responded by asking if that had happened to her.

In general Democrats seem to be setting up the idea that Kavanaugh is not being honest about his drinking in a way that suggests he might also not be telling the truth about assaulting Ford—or that he might have done so and not remembered it. But they keep running out of time in their questioning before actually saying that aloud, in part because they keep talking about their seemingly doomed request for an FBI investigation into Ford’s accusations.

4:55 p.m.: Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin pressed Kavanaugh on whether he would personally support an FBI investigation into Ford’s allegation; Kavanaugh declined to answer, saying he would support the committee’s decision on the matter. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham has made his questions into a fiery attack on the Democratic minority, calling it a “sham” and “crap” that is intended to destroy Kavanaugh’s life.

4:40 p.m.: Kavanaugh has gone back and forth with Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Patrick Leahy, largely reiterating points he made in his opening statement—that the way the allegations against him have been handled by Democrats is a farce and that the portrait that has emerged of him in the press as a hard-partying frat type is inaccurate. Republicans are still ceding their time to Mitchell, who has asked him questions about Ford’s allegation and his calendars, to which he has denied assaulting her and said that his detailed calendar-keeping indicates he was never at a gathering like the one she described.

3:50 p.m.: Kavanaugh’s opening, in addition to the shots at Democrats mentioned earlier, went on to highlight his work for Ken Starr and George W. Bush; he also mentioned the concept of Borking with contempt. It’s a very partisan set of remarks for someone who’s supposedly being nominated for a nonpartisan institution.

He’s also going into detail on the activities outlined in his recently released 1982 calendars, arguing that Ford’s account of an alcohol-heavy party in the area of the Columbia Country Club is incompatible with his schedule that summer and the locations of the houses of the people who she remembers being there. He’s become emotional several times in describing specific people he knew from the time—especially when describing his regret that he made a seeming sexual reference to a woman named Renate Dolphin. (He says the reference was meant to be affectionate and he regrets it.) And he’s reading texts and testimonials he’s gotten from female friends and acquaintances who say he treated them with respect.

3:25 p.m.: Kavanaugh’s opening statement accused Democrats of coordinating a smear effort against him as “revenge on behalf of the Clintons” (he worked for Ken Starr’s investigation of Bill Clinton). “This has destroyed my family and my good name,” Kavanaugh said, calling the allegations against him a “grotesque and coordinated character assassination.”

Kavanaugh also teared up while describing an incident in which he says his daughter asked his wife, Ashley, about praying for his alleged victim: “The other night Ashley and my daughter, Liza, said their prayers and little Liza, all of 10 years old, said to Ashley, ‘we should pray for the woman.’ We mean no ill will.”

3:15 p.m.: Kavanaugh has begun his testimony with an aggressive statement that departs from his prepared remarks, loudly denying Ford’s allegations and condemning the Democratic Party. “This confirmation process has become a national disgrace,” Kavanaugh said. “The Constitution gives the Senate an important role in the confirmation process, but you have replaced advice and consent with search and destroy.”

2:30 p.m.: Mitchell asked Ford how she knew the individual identified in a (since-disavowed) Twitter thread by right-wing legal activist as a classmate of Kavanaugh’s who Ford might be confusing for Kavanaugh. Ford said she and the classmate “went out,” which is new information; the exchange didn’t go any further. Mitchell later asked Ford if she was familiar with standard procedure for interviewing a victim of trauma, which she described as involving an initial statement by the victim after which interviewers ask followup questions. Mitchell then suggested that the awkward five-minute increments of questioning she’d done of Ford today were not that best way to get Ford’s version of events, which one could interpret as both a shot at the Republican majority for not conducting a fuller investigation and at the Democratic minority for using Ford’s account as a political instrument. (Mitchell also brought up the fact that Feinstein’s office recommended she contact her attorney Debra Katz, who is a Democratic activist, with the implication being that perhaps they should instead have recommended she contact a trauma professional).

And with that, Ford’s time in front of the committee is over. There’ll be a break and then Brett Kavanaugh will be called. Judging from the instant reaction on TV and online, it seems like most observers (including many at Fox News) found Ford’s testimony credible and compelling and don’t believe Mitchell uncovered any serious inconsistencies in her story.

2:00 p.m.: Democratic New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker used his time to praise Ford as a hero in a way that your live blogger found fairly maudlin, but others’ mileage may very. Mitchell then began asking Ford again about who’s paying her legal fees; Ford’s attorneys interjected that they are working pro bono.

1:50 p.m.: Mitchell has gone back to asking about who financed the polygraph, at which point Ford’s lawyers interjected to say that they’d done it. Mitchell could be laying the groundwork for Republicans to later make hay out of Democratic donors helping reimburse Ford for her legal costs. (Ford says she hasn’t figured out how her legal and security costs will be covered beyond having been made aware that some GoFundMe accounts have been set up by others to benefit her.)

1:35 p.m.: The hearing is about to restart. Mitchell’s last questions to Ford before the break were about the circumstances of her decision to take a polygraph test (which she passed). It seemed again like Mitchell may have been building up to reveal new information that calls Ford’s credibility into question, but none has been introduced as of yet.

12:50 p.m.: Mark Judge’s memoir Wasted apparently details the time he spent working at Safeway in 1982, which would seem to in part confirm Ford’s story about seeing him there after the alleged incident.

(Update to the above: The excerpts refer to working at the “local supermarket,” not specifically Safeway.)

12:25 p.m.: Democratic Delaware Sen. Chris Coons is using his question time to underline a point made by Ford in her statement, which is that she actually contacted the Washington Post and her local congressional representative after Kavanaugh’s name had been reported as a possible nominee but before he was actually nominated on July 10—a timeline that suggests her motivation in coming forward was not to damage the Republican Party broadly but to provide specific relevant information about Kavanaugh.

12:10 p.m.: Mitchell asked Ford a series of questions about what had been described in press accounts as a fear of flying that she developed as a result of claustrophobia related to her assault. Ford acknowledged that flying made her anxious; Mitchell listed a number of locations to which Ford would have had to fly in the past, seemingly implying that her fear of flying had been exaggerated, although it’s not clear by who or what that has to do with her allegations about Kavanaugh.

12 p.m.: Mitchell has brought out a map of Ford’s childhood home in relation to the Columbia Country Club, which she says was in the area of where she believes her assault took place. (Ford has said she does not remember whose home it took place at.)

The implication may be that Ford couldn’t have walked home from the party by herself and would have needed someone to drive her who could corroborate or dispute her account, but Mitchell hasn’t made that clear.

Ford, meanwhile, mentioned for a second time that she recalls seeing Mark Judge six to eight weeks after the assault at a Safeway that he worked at and that finding out when he worked there might help narrow down the time of her alleged assault. Republicans have said they will not call Judge as a witness.

11:30 a.m.: A striking exchange between Leahy and Ford.

LEAHY: Let’s go back to the incident. What is the strongest memory you have? Strongest memory of the incident? Something that you cannot forget? Take whatever time you need.

FORD: Indelible into the hippocampus is the laughter. [Ed.: Recall that Ford is a psychology professor.] The uproarious laughter between the two and having fun at my expense. 

LEAHY: You have never forgotten that laughter, forgotten them laughing at you. 

FORD: They were laughing with each other. 

LEAHY: And you were the object of the laughter? 

FORD: I was underneath one of them while the two laughed. Two friends having a really good time with one another. 

11:15 a.m.: In response to Democratic Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy’s question about a far-fetched theory promoted by right-wing activists that Ford is confusing Kavanaugh with a different classmate of his, Ford said that the individual named in the theory 1) is not who attacked her and 2) is actually the person who introduced her to Kavanaugh and Ford. Leahy seemed to suggest that the individual named in the theory has sent a letter to the Judiciary Committee denying any involvement in the attack, which if true is a new piece of information.

11:05 a.m.: Arizona prosecutor Rachel Mitchell, who’s been employed by the committee to question Ford, began by telling Ford that “the first thing that struck me from your statement this morning is that you’re terrified, and I’m very sorry. That’s not right.” Because Mitchell is technically questioning Ford by using minutes allotted to Republican members, Grassley ended up awkwardly interrupting her questioning of Ford while Ford was mid-answer in order to switch over to questions from Feinstein, the ranking Democrat. Hopefully the committee comes up with a way to keep this from happening every five minutes for the rest of the day.

Before being cut off, Ford amended two previous accounts she’d written of the incident (a WhatsApp message to the Washington Post and her letter to Feinstein) to clarify that more than four people may have been present at the party in question and that an individual named “PJ” was not a “bystander” to her alleged attack and that she does not allege that he knew about it.

10:50 a.m.: Ford became visibly and audibly emotional while reading her account of what she described as a violent sexual assault perpetrated by “Brett” with help from his friend “Mark.”

Here’s the scene in the room:

Said Ford: “I am an independent person and I am no one’s pawn. My motivation in coming forward was to be helpful and to provide facts about how Mr. Kavanaugh’s actions have damaged my life so that you could take [them] into a serious consideration as you make your decision about how to proceed. It is not my responsibility to determine whether Mr. Kavanaugh deserves to sit on the Supreme Court. My responsibility is to tell you the truth.”

10:40 a.m.: Ranking Democrat Dianne Feinstein spoke after Grassley, outlining Ford’s biography (she’s a professor of psychology), criticizing the majority for not calling Mark Judge (the alleged witness to Ford’s assault), speaking generally about the prevalence of sexual assault in the U.S., and raising comments that other Republicans have made that imply they plan to confirm Kavanaugh regardless of what Ford says Thursday.

10:25 a.m. Iowa Sen. and Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, who has been complaining for days about how unfair it is to him that Ford has made her allegation against Kavanaugh, opened proceedings with a long series of complaints about California Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s handling of the confidential letter in which Ford first made her allegations and comments about the alleged lack of corroboration that the committee has found for Ford’s claims. Democrats on the committee, Grassley alleges, are using Ford’s story to “obstruct Kavanaugh’s nomination by any means necessary.”