Kavanaugh accuser says alleged attack is ‘seared’ into her memory
WASHINGTON (Courthouse News) – Concluding a four-hour session at the Senate Judiciary Committee, Christine Blasey Ford gave emotional testimony Thursday about her alleged assault in 1982 by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, a night she said has been “seared” into her memory.
“My motivation in coming forward was to be helpful and provide 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,” Ford said, reading from prepared remarks. “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.”
Seated beside her attorney, Ford testified for the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning over two weeks after reports of her previously anonymous claims derailed a hconfirmation vote that once seemed inevitable.
Ford went public days later, telling the Washington Post that, at a party in 1982 when she was 15, Kavanaugh forced her into a bedroom, pinned her down and attempted to remove her clothes.
Kavanaugh, who has been a judge on the D.C. Circuit since 2006, maintains that he never committed sexual assault. Later this afternoon, according to prepared remarks, Kavanugh plans to tell the committee that he sometimes had “too many” drinks with his friends in high school.
“In retrospect, I said and did things in high school that make me cringe now,” Kavanaugh will say. “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.”
A former peer of Kavanaugh’s from a constellation of elite, Beltway-area high schools, Ford told the committee that her assault occurred at a home near Bethesda, Maryland, where she and five other people got together one summer evening. She said Kavanaugh and his friend, Mark Judge, were “visibly drunk,” and forced Ford into a bedroom when she walked up a narrow flight of stairs in the home, according to her prepared remarks.
When Kavanaugh jumped on top of Ford, she claimed Judge stood nearby, periodically egging him on. At one point, according to her remarks, she believed Kavanaugh was “accidentally” going to kill her as he put his hand over her mouth to muffle her cries for help.
Ford acknowledged that she does not remember certain details of the night, including how she got to the house or where exactly the gathering took place, but assures the committee the rest of the night is “seared into [her] memory.”
Now a professor psychology at Palo Alto University, Ford said she did not tell anyone about the alleged assault until 2012, when she told her husband about it in a couples counseling session to explain why she wanted to put two front doors on their house as they did remodeling work.
Ford told the committee she did not tell anyone else about the incident until this July, when she thought it was her “civic duty” to come forward with the allegation as Kavanaugh was on President Donald Trump’s shortlist of candidates to succeed the now-retired Supreme Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Ford relayed the information to Representative Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., who on July 30 passed it to Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. Ford also called the Washington Post’s tip line, according to her prepared remarks.
Since coming forward, Ford said she has received threatening calls and been forced to move from her home and live under the watch of guards.
“Apart from the assault itself, these past couple of weeks have been the hardest of my life,” Ford said. “I have had to relive this trauma in front of the entire world, and I have seen my life picked apart by people on television, on Twitter, other social media, other media and in this body who have never met me or spoken with me.”
Thursday’s hearing offers members of the committee five minutes each to question Ford, but Republicans brought in sex-crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell to question Ford on their behalf.
Ford told Senator Feinstein that her allegations could “absolutely not” be a case of mistaken identity. Later she told Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill., she is “100 percent” confident it was Kavanaugh who attacked her.
She also told Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the “uproarious laughter” between Kavanaugh and Judge was “indelible” in her mind.
“I was underneath one of them while the two laughed,” Ford said. “Two friends having a really good time with one another.”
Mitchell, the Arizona prosecutor, asked Ford to explain certain portions of her testimony and the letter she submitted to Feinstein describing her allegations.
Ford told Mitchell that Kavanaugh and Judge were both “extremely inebriated” at the party, though the other people gathered at the house were not. Ford said it was her understanding that Kavanaugh and Judge would be going to another party later on.
Though reminiscent of an attorney questioning a witness in a courtroom, Mitchell’s lines of inquiry have been cut short throughout the hearing because of the five-minute time limit. Mitchell has been returning to her line of questioning after ceding the floor to Democrats.
Describing the short- and long-term effects of her experience, Ford said she developed significant anxiety and what she called a “fairly disastrous” first two years of college.
Mitchell pressed Ford on how she determined exactly which year the incident occurred, considering her accounts to the Washington Post and to Feinstein varied slightly. Ford said she used her memory of when she got her driver’s license to pinpoint the year because she knew she did not drive to or from the party that night, and that once she got her license she liked to drive herself places.
Ford also told Mitchell she came forward based on the advice of friends, though she was initially wary of going to the media. She instead thought it would be best to take her allegations to Eshoo, her congresswoman.
Wrapping up with Ford this afternoon, Mitchell pressed the professor on why the three people Ford says were at the party have all delivered sworn statements to the Judiciary Committee saying they have no recollection of the incident Ford has described.
Ford said her friend Leland Keyser did not ask her anything about the party in the days after it happened. Keyser told the committee through an attorney she “does not know Mr. Kavanaugh” and “has no recollection of ever being at a party or gathering where he was present.”
P.J. Smyth, another person Ford identified as being at the house where she was attacked, also said he does not remember such a gathering.
Ford dismissed this, saying she would not expect them to remember it all these years later because nothing unusual happened to these people at the party. Ford also said Keyser apologized to her after she sent the letter through her lawyer to the committee.
Ford said Judge has no such way to explain his denial to the committee.
“Mr. Judge is a different story,” Ford said. “I would expect that he would remember that this happened.”
Mitchell concluded with Ford by asking a series of questions about the proper ways to question a sexual-assault victim to establish their credibility. She confirmed with Ford that a one-on-one interview would be the best way to do so and who advised Ford ever suggested one.
“So instead of submitting to an interview in California, we’re having a hearing here today in five-minute increments,” Mitchell said.
Shortly after Ford came forward, The New Yorker identified a second accuser, Deborah Ramirez, who said Kavanaugh exposed his genitals to her at a dorm room party while they were students at Yale.
Kavanaugh’s third accuser, Julie Swetnick, came forward on Wednesday afternoon. Represented by Michael Avenatti, who also represents Trump accuser Stormy Daniels, released a declaration in which she described having witnessed Kavanaugh drink “excessively” at parties in high school and fondle women without their consent.
Swetnick said Kavanaugh and others would spike drinks at these parties to get girls drunk, and that the girls would sometimes be “gang raped” after, with lines of boys standing outside for their turn.
Though Swetnick herself identifies as a victim of once such “gang rape,” she has not said whether Kavanaugh was directly involved. She did say she remembers seeing Kavanaugh standing in line outside of a room at one such party.
Kavanaugh has denied both allegations, calling Swetnick’s something “from ‘The Twilight Zone.’”
In the hours before the hearing, new information began to circulate about interviews that committee staff conducted with Kavanaugh regarding additional accusers who have anonymously levied accusations against the nominee.
One of the allegations came in an anonymous letter to Senator Cory Gardner, R-Colo., claiming Kavanaugh pushed a woman against a wall “aggressively and sexually” outside a bar in the 1990s.
A committee spokesman said there was no way to corroborate the allegations, considering they were submitted anonymously, and that the committee had “no reason” to find the letter credible.
The committee has also disclosed that it received a report from two men who say it was them, not Kavanaugh, who had the alleged encounter with Ford.