SCOTUS Confirmation: Kavanaugh, Christine Blasey Ford Testify On Sex Assault Allegations

Thursday, September 27th 2018, 11:39 am
By: News On 6

In her first public statements, Christine Blasey Ford recounted details from her alleged encounter with the Supreme Court nominee when they were both teenagers. She claims he sexually assaulted her at a party during their high school years in the early 1980s.

Ford at times appeared to fight back tears recalling her alleged assault. She testified that she felt it was her "civic duty" to come forward publicly. She told the body that she was "100 percent" sure Kavanaugh had assaulted her. Kavanaugh will now face similar questions into his past by Senate Democrats and outside prosecutor Rachel Mitchell, who was selected by Republican members to handle posing their questions.

What Ford has alleged:

  • Ford claims that Kavanaugh in the 1980s unsuccessfully attempted to force himself on her at a high school party when she was a 15-year-old sophomore. Kavanaugh would have been 17 at the time.
  • Ford alleges that Kavanaugh pinned her to the bed and groped her, trying to remove her clothing
  • When she tried to scream, Ford said Kavanaugh held his hand over her mouth

Kavanaugh has vehemently denied the multiple allegations against him, including Ford's, telling Fox News that he's "never sexually assaulted anyone" and would not withdraw his nomination.

Kavanaugh is testifying after Ford answers lawmaker's questions as the Senate continues to weigh his fitness for the United States Supreme Court.

Kavanaugh has vehemently denied the multiple allegations against him, including Ford's, telling Fox News that he's "never sexually assaulted anyone" and would not withdraw his nomination.

Ford says this is "absolutely not" a case of mistaken identity

Pressed by Feinstein why she believes it was Kavanaugh who held his hand over her mouth, Ford explained scientifically how the brain encodes memories of trauma.

Could this have been a case of mistaken identity? Feinstein probed.

"Absolutely not," Ford responded.

Ford says she worried she would be "personally annihilated" if she came forward

Ford described to Feinstein how she ultimately reached her decision to speak out.

Ford said she hoped to stay quiet, knowing she could get "personally annihilated" for her testimony, testimony that might not stop Kavanaugh's nomination anyways.

Ultimately, Ford said she spoke because reporters were sitting outside her home, trying to calm her dog. And one day, a reporter approached her in her graduate classroom, and Ford thought she was a student.

The "mounting pressure" made her decide to speak out, she said.

Ford explains how alleged assault has affected her life

Ford, asked by Feinstein why she held onto the allegations for so long, said she didn't keep them to herself. Ford said she told a therapist.

But she explained she has experienced anxiety, phobia, and "PTSD-like" symptoms. Particularly in the four years after the alleged assault, Ford said she experienced academic problems and had trouble forming friendships -- especially with males.

Ford clarifies the scene on the night of the alleged assault

Ford, under questioning by Mitchell, clarified that there were at least four other individuals present at the suburban home that night, and it's possible that Mark Judge, the friend of Kavanaugh who was also present, might have helped Kavanaugh push her into the bedroom.

Rachel Mitchell begins questioning Ford

Rachel Mitchell, the prosecutor Republicans chose to question Ford as the Judiciary Committee Republican Special Counsel, began questioning Ford.

Mitchell began by going through statements, including communications with a Washington Post reporter and the letter written to Feinstein. Mitchell asked Ford for any clarifications.

Republicans listen intently to Ford's testimony

CBS News' Jack Turman reports that during Ford's testimony, all senators were listening intently to Dr. Ford's opening remarks.

While Dr. Ford was describing the alleged incident at the party with Judge Kavanaugh, Senators Sasse, Crapo, Lee and Graham leaned forward. Sen. Cruz leaned back in his chair the entire time. Turman adds that Flake appeared to be struggling, sad and disgusted. Flake constantly looked down and had his chin resting on his hand on a few occasions.

Ford says threats have "rocked me to my core"

"The reality has been far worse than what I expected. My family and I have been the target of constant harassment and death threats. I have been called the most vile and hateful names imaginable. These messages, while far fewer than the expressions of support, have been terrifying to receive and have rocked me to my core. People have posted my personal information on the internet. This has resulted in additional emails, calls, and threats. My family and I were forced to move out of our home," Ford said, describing the aftermath of coming forward with her assault allegations.

She said she is being forced to relive her trauma in front of the world. To those who have claimed that Ford's story was politically motivated, Ford testified "I am an independent person an I am no one's pawn."

Ford on stepping forward: "I couldn't not do it"

"I tried to convince myself that because Brett 4 did not rape me, I should be able to move on and just pretend that it had never happened," Ford testified.

Ford said that she felt compelled to step forward after seeing reports that Kavanaugh was on President Trump's short list of Supreme Court nominees.

"I thought it was my civic duty to relay the information I had about Mr. Kavanaugh's conduct so that those considering his potential nomination would know about the assault. On July 6, 2018, I had a sense of urgency to relay the information to the Senate and the President as soon as possible before a nominee was selected," she said.

An emotional Ford: "I'm terrified"

A clearly emotional Ford began her opening statement to the committee saying she is "here today not because I want to be. I am terrified. 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."

"Brett's assault on me drastically altered my life. For a very long time, I was too afraid and ashamed to tell anyone the details," Ford testified.

Fighting back moments of tears, Ford detailed her account with Kavanaugh which can be read in full here.

Ford swears in

Shortly after 10:30 a.m., Ford is formally sworn in by Chairman Grassley.

Feinstein draws comparisons to Anita Hill

Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein drew comparisons to the Anita Hill hearings in the 1990's to that of Ford's testimony. She said what she finds "most inexcusable is this rush to judgement" and an "unwillingness to take these kind of allegations at face value."

"This is not a trial of Dr. Ford, it's a job interview of Brett Kavanaugh," said Feinstein. "Is he the best we can do?"

Grassley says he's "attempted" to have other accusers testify

Grassley said that the committee has made 8 requests to Deborah Ramirez's attorneys and 6 requests for Julie Swetnick's, Kavanaugh's two other accusers that have stepped forward with sexual assault allegations but they have not responded.

Chairman Grassley apologizes to Ford in opening statement

Grassley gaveled in at 10:05 a.m. to begin his opening statements. He apologized directly to both Ford and Kavanaugh, saying they and their families have been through a "terrible couple of weeks."

He said the process "ought to be considered as unacceptable and a poor reflection the state of civility in our democracy."

Ford takes seat at witness table

Shortly after 10:00 a.m., Ford took her seat at the witness table, seated beside her attorneys. Dressed in a navy blue suit jacket, this is the first time the public has seen Ford since stepping forward.

GOP prosecutor arrives

Shortly after 9:45 a.m., attorney Rachel Mitchell arrived at the hearing room. She will be conducting much of the questioning for the Republican side. Mitchell is currently seated at a desk of her own situated adjacent to the committee panel.

Ford arrives at hearing

Ford arrived in the building shortly before 9:30 a.m., according to a spokeswoman. CBS News' Ed O'Keefe reports that Ford's husband will not be in attendance at the hearing but is with the couple's children in California, according to a spokeswoman. She is here with friends who made the cross-country trek with her.

Trump says he could change his mind on Kavanaugh

During his press conference in New York on Wednesday, President Trump suggested that he could change his mind on Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court, if the allegations can be proven true.

Asked if he would be willing to withdraw Kavanaugh's nomination, Mr. Trump replied: "If I thought he was guilty of something like this, sure." He added, "I can always be convinced, I have to hear it."

Top White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, however, told reporters at the White House on Thursday that the president stands by Judge Kavanaugh and is not looking at any list of replacements.

"The president is not looking at any list. He's watching the hearing," said Conway.

Pressed on his own cases of allegations against him, Mr. Trump on Wednesday said his past experiences have influenced his opinion of the Kavanaugh claims because "I've had a lot of false charges against me, I'm a very famous person unfortunately."

He added, "People want fame, they want money, they want whatever so when I see it, I view it differently."

Abortion rights activists plan to confront Senate Judiciary Republicans

Activists with NARAL, the abortion-rights group, plan to confront Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee before they enter the hearing.

CBS News' Alan He reports a group of roughly 40 women with NARAL were in the Hart Senate office building before 9 a.m. The activists say they plan to break up into small groups and head to the offices of all Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans to confront them as they walk to the hearing.

Abortion-rights activists have opposed Kavanaugh's nomination over concerns that he might curb or even eliminate abortion rights in the U.S.

Mr. Trump himself has declined to weigh in on whether he would support the overturn of Roe v. Wade.

Julie Swetnick says Kavanaugh doesn't belong on the Supreme Court

In her first public appearance since coming forward with allegations against Kavanaugh, accuser Julie Swetnick told "The Circus" that she came forward so close to the hearing because it's been on her mind ever since her claim of assault occurred.

"Brett Kavanaugh is going for a seat where he's going to have that seat on the Supreme Court for the rest of his life," she said.

"If he's going to have that seat legitimately, all of these things should be investigated because from what I experienced firsthand, I don't think he belongs on the Supreme Court and I just want the facts to come out and I want it to be just and I want the American people to have those facts and judge for themselves."

Judicial crisis network releases two new ads in hours before hearing

The conservative-leaning Judicial Crisis Network released two new national ads late Saturday evening in a final effort to push the narrative that the allegations against Kavanaugh are unsubstantiated and a "smear" against the judge.

"It never happened," says one voice over in an ad featuring female Kavanaugh supporters making the rounds on cable news networks dubbed, "Good Man."

Another ad, titled "Unblemished" the video describes Kavanaugh as being dedicated to a lifetime of service to his community, church and family. The ad slams Democrats for "disgusting" and "discredited" accusations against Kavanaugh, and urges viewers not to let a "last-minute smear campaign negate a lifetime of excellence."

Ford explains why she wants to testify in public

"It is not my responsibility to determine whether Mr. Kavanaugh deserves to sit on the Supreme Court. My responsibility is to tell the truth," Ford wrote in prepared testimony before the Senate.

In her remarks, Dr. Ford details her encounter with Kavanaugh once again but also provides background into her decision making process as to how she came to decide to testify in a public setting on her allegations.

"All sexual assault victims should be able to decide for themselves whether their private experience is made public," she wrote in her testimony. Ford said she agonized daily with her decision to speak before the committee and the mounting pressure she was under after her letter to Feinstein went public.

"I have had to relive my trauma in front of the entire world, and have seen my life picked apart by people on television, in the media, and in this body who have never met me or spoken with me. I have been accused of acting out of partisan political motives," Ford said.

She added, "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."

Kavanaugh slams allegations as "last-minute smears"

In prepared remarks, Kavanaugh is prepared to testify before the committee that the allegations of sexual assault are "last-minute smears" against him.

Such grotesque and obvious character assassination--if allowed to succeed--will dissuade competent and good people of all political persuasions from serving our country, he claimed.

Kavanaugh maintains that the efforts to "destroy my good name" will not drive him out or intimidate him to withdraw from the confirmation process.

Kavanaugh slams sexual assault as "morally wrong" and "contrary to my religious faith" and once again denies ever sexually assaulting "anyone--not in high school, not in college, not ever."

The remarks also mark the first time Kavanaugh has admitted he often drank in excess, saying he was "not perfect in those days."

"I drank beer with my friends, usually on weekends. Sometimes I had too many. In retrospect, I said and did things in high school that make me cringe now. But that's not why we are here today. What I've been accused of is far more serious than juvenile misbehavior. I never did anything remotely resembling what Dr. Ford describes," Kavanaugh wrote in his remarks.

He added, "The allegation of misconduct is completely inconsistent with the rest of my life. The record of my life, from my days in grade school through the present day, shows that I have always promoted the equality and dignity of women."

READ: Kavanaugh's full prepared testimony

Senate still aims for confirmation vote Friday

While the allegations against Kavanaugh mount, with two other women alleging similar acts of sexual assault in the early 80s, the Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled its potential final vote on Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court for Friday, September 28th -- the day after Ford testifies.

Republican Chairman Chuck Grassley can, however, decide to postpone the vote to late Thursday or early Friday if senators aren't ready.

Sen. Feinstein slammed the current plan, calling the move to schedule a Friday vote "outrageous."

"First Republicans demanded Dr. Blasey Ford testify immediately. Now Republicans don't even need to hear her before they move ahead with a vote. It's clear to me that Republicans don't want this to be a fair process," Feinstein said.

Republicans had long-pushed for Kavanaugh to be confirmed in time for the start of the Supreme Court's fall session, which starts on Monday.

Should they vote on Friday, Republicans could move to keep the Senate in session over the weekend in order to bring Kavanaugh's nomination to the senate floor for a vote by next Tuesday, Oct. 2 -- the second day of the Supreme Court's term.

Who is the female prosecutor?

Rachel Mitchell, a career prosecutor with decades of experience prosecuting sex crimes, comes from the Maricopa County Attorney's Office in Phoenix, Arizona where she heads the Special Victims Division, which covers sex crimes and family violence.

A GOP lobbyist familiar with the process told CBS News that Mitchell was "a Jon Kyl suggestion." Kyl was described as Kavanaugh's "Sherpa" during his confirmation process, before Kyl was tapped to fill the late John McCain's Senate seat.

What to expect for Thursday's hearing

According to Democrats and Republicans familiar with the plans, Thursday's hearing will begin with opening statements from Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ranking Member Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

The two witnesses can speak as long as they'd like in their opening statements, and then senators will get 5 minutes each to question the witnesses. Dr. Ford will testify first with Judge Kavanaugh testifying second.

Senators can yield their time to a special counsel or different senator. Democrats plan to ask their own questions, but Republicans are expected to yield to recently-hired female prosecutor Rachel Mitchell.