An emotional and sometimes tearful Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh declared his innocence Thursday of a high-profile sexual abuse allegation, moments after his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, said she was “100 percent” sure Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her while in high school.
“I was not at the party described by Dr. Ford. 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.”
Minutes earlier, Ford had said Kavanaugh did something that scarred her for life.
The two spoke in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee during a historic hearing, with Kavanaugh’s nomination hanging in the balance – and with all eyes on a handful of key votes within the Republican caucus that could determine whether he sits on the nation’s most powerful court. Among those key votes: Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of North Carolina expressed frustration at the process
“We’re 40-something days from the election, and [the Democrats’] goal – not Ms. Ford’s goal – is to delay this past the mid-terms so they can win the Senate and never allow Trump to fill this seat. I believe that now more than ever,” Graham told reporters.
“I feel ambushed,” he added.
President Trump nominated Kavanaugh to replace retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was a critical swing vote on the court on several hot-button issues, including abortion and gay marriage.
During his opening statement, Kavanaugh said the people supposedly at the party don’t corroborate Ford’s story.
“All four people allegedly at the event including Dr. Ford's longtime friend, Ms. Keyser, have said they recalled no such event,” he said. “… This has destroyed my family and my good name -- a good name built up through decades of very hard work and public service at the highest levels of the American government.”
Kavanaugh said he wasn’t questioning whether Ford “may have been sexually assaulted by some person in some place at some time, but I have never done this to her or to anyone.”
Kavanaugh added, “This is a circus. The consequences will extend long past my nomination. The consequences will be with us for decades. This grotesque and coordinated character assassination will dissuade competent and good people of all political persuasions from serving our country. … I have to say that I fear for the future.”
Earlier, Senators heard from Ford.
“Brett’s assault on me drastically altered my life,” she said. “For a very long time, I was too afraid and ashamed to tell anyone the details. I did not want to tell my parents that I, at age 15, was in a house without any parents present, drinking beer with boys.”
Here are 10 key exchanges from Thursday’s hearing -- five from Ford and five from Kavanaugh:
Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony
Prosecutor Rachel Mitchell, representing Republican Senators in the hearing, asked, “Are you aware that the three people at the party besides yourself and Brett Kavanaugh have given statements under penalty of felony to the committee?”
“Yes,” Ford said.
“And are you aware of what those statements say?” Mitchell asked.
“And are you aware that they have no memory or knowledge of such a party?” Mitchell said.
“Yes,” Ford said.
Ford later said it was a “very unremarkable party” and she wasn’t surprised they don’t remember it.
Mitchell argued that the best way to get to the memory of a sexual assault long ago is with a “forensic interview” in a private setting, one on one.
Asked if anyone ever advised her to get a forensic interview, Ford said, “No.”
“Instead, you were advised to get an attorney and to get a polygraph,” Mitchell said.
Diane Feinstein, the ranking Democratic member on the Judiciary Committee, asked Ford what impact the event had had on her life. Ford said she has had “PTSD-like symptoms,” claustrophobia and panic.
Feinstein then asked if it could be a case of mistaken identity.
“Absolutely not,” Ford said.
Mitchell, trying to undercut Ford’s credibility, quoted media reports that said Ford didn’t want to fly to Washington because she had a fear of flying.
“I eventually was able to get up the gumption … to get on the plane,” Ford said.
Mitchell then asked Ford if she had previously flown to other locations. Ford said she flies once a year to Delaware to meet family.
“In fact, you fly fairly frequently for your hobbies” and work, Mitchell said.
Ford said she had flown also to Hawaii, Costa Rica and French Polynesia.
Mitchell asked Ford about other social encounters she had with Kavanaugh. Ford answered that she attended four to five other parties where Kavanaugh was present.
Mitchell then asked if Kavanaugh did anything that would be considered “sexually inappropriate” at these other parties.
“No,” Ford responded.
Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said Mark Judge, who allegedly was at the party, should be subpoenaed to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
He also asked Ford to gauge her level of certainty that Kavanaugh – and not someone else – assaulted her.
“100 percent,” Ford answered.
Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony
Feinstein asked Kavanaugh if he would be willing to cooperate with the FBI. Kavanaugh said he would.
“I’m all in,” he said.
Kavanaugh then added, “The FBI doesn’t reach a conclusion.” The FBI would just “tell you what we said.”
“I’m here. I wanted to be here the next day” after the allegation surfaced, he said.
“You’re interviewing me,” Kavanaugh said told Feinstein.
Under questioning from Mitchell, Kavanaugh said he’s never blacked out after drinking alcohol.
“In high school … did you ever wake up in a different location than you remembered?” she asked.
“No,” Kavanaugh said.
Mitchell then asked, “Did you ever wake up with your clothes in a different condition or fewer clothes on” than when you passed out?
“No,” Kavanaugh said.
Mitchell further asked, “Did anyone ever tell you about something that you did not remember?”
“No,” he answered.
Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy (Vt.) argued that Mark Judge – who allegedly was present at the sexual assault – should have been called before the Senate.
“He has provided sworn testimony,” Kavanaugh said, referencing written testimony.
Judge has said he was not present at the party.
Leahy asked Kavanaugh about his high school yearbook, where he supposedly bragged about drinking and sexual exploits.
“The yearbook,” Kavanaugh said, “was something” where “the students and the editors” made a decision to “treat some of it as farce and exaggeration.”
“If we want to sit here and talk about whether a Supreme Court nomination should be based on a high school yearbook page, I think that’s taking us to a new level of absurdity,” Kavanaugh added.
Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.) pressed Kavanaugh his thoughts on an FBI investigation.
“I welcome whatever the committee wants to do because I’m telling the truth,” Kavanaugh answered.
“I want to know what you want to do,” Durbin responded.
After a back and forth, Kavanaugh said, “They don’t reach conclusions. You reach conclusions.”
Durbin answered, “No, but they do investigate questions.”
Kavanaugh said, “They just go and do what you’re going – ask questions and type up a report. They don’t reach the bottom line.”
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham asked Kavanaugh, “Are you aware that at 9:23 on the night of July 9, the day you were nominated to the Supreme Court … [Democratic] Sen. Schumer said, ‘I will oppose Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination with everything I have. … The stakes are simply too high for anything less.’?”
Before giving Graham time to answer the question, a passionate Graham noted that when Kavanaugh met with Feinstein in their one-on-one meeting weeks ago, Feinstein already had recommended an attorney for Ford.
Kavanaugh said he did not know Feinstein had recommended an attorney to Ford.
“This is the most unethical sham since I’ve seen in politics,” Graham said.
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.
Photo courtesy: Getty Images/Alex Wong/Staff
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, The Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.