By Prarthana Mitra
Under historic, dramatic and extraordinary circumstances, professor Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh testified before the US Senate Judiciary Committee to address Ford’s sexual assault allegation against the US Supreme Court nominee. Ford, a college psychology professor, has alleged that Kavanaugh attacked her during a party in the 1980s when they were high school students. Notably, two other women have also accused the judge of assault. Despite the allegations and calls for his nomination process to be halted until an investigation is conducted, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11-10 to forward Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Senate – but on the condition of an FBI investigation into the sexual misconduct allegations.
As a result, a full Senate vote on Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation has been postponed by a week.
What is Kavanaugh accused of?
According to Ford, in the summer of 1982, a drunk teenaged Kavanaugh ambushed her at a house party, pinned her to a bed groping and trying to disrobe her, placing his hand over her mouth to silence her and keep her from screaming. Mark Judge, Kavanaugh’s friend and classmate from Georgetown Preparatory School, was allegedly present in the room at the time and amused by the incident, until he collapsed on top of the two, enabling Ford to escape.
Judge’s memoir records that they were heavy drinkers at the time, although Kavanaugh has categorically denied this. Ford first came detailed the alleged assault to Democrat Diane Feinstein and later in an interview with The Washington Post.
Prior to this, she had discussed the alleged assault with her therapist in 2012 and her partner when they met in 2002, long before Kavanaugh was in the running for Supreme Court judgeship.
In addition to Ford’s accusations, Kavanaugh is also accused of assaulting Deborah Ramirez while in college. Ramirez claims that he exposed himself to her and pushed his genitals in her face at a party when they were both studying at Yale University in the 1980s.
A third woman, Julie Swetnick, has also come forward to claim that Kavanaugh attended parties where women were drugged, assaulted and raped. Swetnick says she was raped at one of these parties where Kavanaugh and Judge were present, although she did not accuse the former of her rape.
Kavanaugh has denied the allegations.
What Ford said at the hearing
On Thursday, after a long campaign that saw her derided (importantly by US President Donald Trump and his family) and supported in equal measure (giving rise to the #WhyIDidn’tReport movement), Ford was invited to testify before the committee. She asserted that although it was tough for her to speak, it was her civic duty that had driven her to take the stand.
“I believed he was going to rape me,” she said of the alleged assault, delivering a powerful testimony before answering their questions with logic and composure.
Sen. Patrick Leahy: What is the "strongest memory" of the incident?
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) September 27, 2018
“Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter — the uproarious laughter between the two, and their having fun at my expense,” she said. Ford responded to all the questions put forward by Rachel Mitchell, a veteran prosecutor appointed by the Republicans, concerning the grizzly details and the vile epithets hurled at her since she came forward.
She also addressed concerns regarding her political motives. “I have been accused of acting out of partisan political motives,” she said. “Those who say that do not know me. I am a fiercely independent person, and I am no one’s pawn. My motivation in coming forward was to provide the facts about how Mr. Kavanaugh’s actions have damaged my life, so that you can take that into serious consideration as you make your decision about how to proceed.”
What Kavanaugh said
Kavanaugh vehemently denied the charges and gave non-committal answers to the questions posed to him. This comes after he expressed having regrets about his choices in high school.
In his opening statement, he spoke about his childhood, family, school life and his illustrious career, which he maintained was clean. He broke down speaking of his daughters who he said had prayed for Ford night before, and asserted his innocence based on a calendar he maintained during his teenage years.
Kavanaugh could also not refrain from lashing out at the Democrats, saying, “This confirmation process has become a national disgrace.”
“The Constitution gives the Senate an important role in the confirmation process, but you have replaced ‘advice and consent’ with ‘search and destroy,’” he continued. Some were unnerved by his lack of humility, especially when he said, “You may defeat me in the final vote, but you will never get me to quit. Never.”
While Ford has passed a polygraph test on the alleged assault and has asked for an independent FBI probe into the facts, Kavanaugh has categorically refused both (despite saying he favours due process), even claiming that he was not present at the party where Ford claims the assault occurred. In fact, Kavanaugh even declared before the Senate that hers was a case of mistaken identity even as she testified that her memory serves her right, citing clinical reasons for why she was absolutely right about it.
Thousands came out in support of Ford during the testimony, with many gathered across the country, including outside the Senate and near the schools Ford and Kavanaugh attended.
Democrat Kamala Harris acknowledged Ford’s courage and thanked her for her patriotism and for testifying against a powerful man when she had nothing to gain from it.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham echoed Kavanaugh’s thoughts on the confirmation process when he addressed his opponents across the dais, saying, “What you want to do is destroy this guy’s life, hold this seat open and hope you win in 2020,” he said. He told his Republican colleagues, “If you vote no, you’re legitimising the most despicable thing I have seen in my time in politics.”
The American Bar Association and the dean of the Yale Law School, which Kavenaugh attended, have called for an investigation the allegations.
Dean Gerken Joins the ABA in Calling for Further Investigation. pic.twitter.com/SYAsVHwsi7
— Yale Law School (@YaleLawSch) September 28, 2018
Meanwhile, soon after Kavanaugh’s testimony, Trump tweeted that “Judge Kavanaugh showed America exactly why I nominated him” after the hearing adjourned, urging the Senate to vote immediately. He later acknowledged Ford’s account as credible.
The testimonies were followed by a discussion where each senator put forward their takeaways from the nine hour-long session and voiced their decisions to vote for or against the nominee. When the senators reconvened, Republican senator Jeff Flake backed Kavanaugh but stood up against taking the final vote without an independent FBI investigation. The Democrats now need another defection to overturn this nomination (50 votes), unless the FBI finds concrete evidence during their “limited” inquiry and background check. Considering how important this nomination is for the Republicans, who desperately want a more conservative judiciary, Kavanaugh may have crossed his first hurdle but continues to be on trial.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
Stay updated with all the insights.
Navigate news, 1 email day.
Subscribe to Qrius