Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard directly from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh in a nationally televised hearing. As Dr. Blasey answered questions from Maricopa County, Arizona, prosecutor Rachel Mitchell, more questions emerged of what Kavanaugh really did while in high school, why the FBI can’t reopen its background check investigation, and whether the Senate has learned anything from the #MeToo movement in taking seriously Dr. Blasey’s and others’ stories of sexual assault.
“How women are treated in this country [in regard to sexual assault and harassment] shows [the need] for a lot of reform.”
– Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California)
At the very start of the hearing, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) demanded “civility” from his Senate colleagues. Seconds later, he attacked Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) for her initial decision to keep the letter from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford confidential.
Once Grassley concluded his stemwinder, Feinstein quickly moved to correct the record: “She reiterated that she wanted this held confidential, and I held this confidential.” She then added, “How women are treated in this country [in regard to sexual assault and harassment] shows [the need] for a lot of reform.”
“What I find inexcusable is this rush to judgment,” Feinstein later said. She then brought up Senator Dean Heller’s (R) now infamous remarks on Kavanaugh in noting, “My Republican colleagues are saying this is a ‘hiccup’, that this needs to come to a close.” Feinstein then condemned Republican leaders’ rush to confirm Kavanaugh before the election: “This is despite the fact that in the last two days, two more women have come forward with serious allegations of misconduct.”
Feinstein concluded her opening comments in saying, “This is not a trial of Dr. Ford. It’s a job interview for Brett Kavanaugh. Is he the best we can do?”
“I believed he was going to rape me. I yelled for help. He put his hand over my mouth to stop me from yelling.”
– Dr. Christine Blasey Ford
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) September 27, 2018
Then, it was finally time for the committee, and the nation, to hear directly from Dr. Blasey. She described in detail what happened at a suburban Maryland house party in 1982, and declared, “This is how I met Brett Kavanaugh, the boy who sexually assaulted me.”
Dr. Blasey continued, “I was pushed onto the bed, and Brett got on top of me. […] Brett groped me, and he tried to take off my clothes.” She added, “I believed he was going to rape me. I yelled for help. He put his hand over my mouth to stop me from yelling.”
Dr. Blasey Ford then said, “Brett and Mark were drunkenly laughing during my laughing.” As I noted last night, there are several common threads emerging in the stories of Dr. Blasey, Deborah Ramirez, and Julie Swetnick. Here’s another instance of Dr. Blasey’s story eerily mirroring Ramirez’s.
Dr. Blasey admitted, “I was too afraid and ashamed to share any of these details.” But she later said, “I couldn’t allow the Senate to make this decision without knowing his past behavior.”
“The laughter. The uproarious laughter between the two. And their having fun at my expense.”
– Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, on what she remembers of Brett Kavanaugh and Mark Judge
‘They were laughing.’ Christine Blasey Ford says her strongest memory of the alleged incident was 'uproarious laughter' between Brett Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge. Watch live: https://t.co/IIZtI51h10 via @ReutersTV pic.twitter.com/ptzBYUKqQC
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) September 27, 2018
As Rachel Mitchell, a prosecutor who specializes in sex crime cases, began cross-examining Dr. Blasey on behalf of Senate Republicans, Dr. Blasey provided more details that further strengthened her account of what happened. And as Democrats and Republicans on the committee argued over the process that led to today’s televised spectacle, questions continued to emerge over why the White House still refuses to reopen the FBI background check investigation, as Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D), Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Rep. Walter Jones (R-North Carolina) and several others in Congress have asked aloud this week.
After a back-and-forth between Grassley and the Democrats over whether Dr. Blasey’s polygraph can be entered into the official record, Mitchell later asked who paid for the polygraph, who helped her prepare her letter, why she now has lawyers working with her, and other questions that pointed to various far-right conspiracy theories on Dr. Blasey that have been discussed on the internet all this week.
During the Democrats’ question time, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) asked, “What is your most vivid memory of the incident?” Dr. Blasey responded by repeating, “The laughter. The uproarious laughter between the two. And their having fun at my expense.”
“You may defeat me in the final vote, but you will never get me to quit. Never.”
– Judge Brett Kavanaugh
Later in the day, it was Brett Kavanaugh’s turn. He described the past 11 days this way: “My family and my name have been permanently destroyed by vicious and false accusations.” He then insisted he “cooperated fully” with Senate and exclaimed, “I know any investigation will clear me.”
Kavanaugh then insisted, “This has become a national disgrace.” He proceeded to follow Trump’s lead in attacking Democrats as he declared, “You have replaced advice and consent with search and destroy.”
As talk has increasingly turned to whether Donald Trump may withdraw Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court and whether his current seat on the D.C. Court of Appeals is now in jeopardy, Kavanaugh lashed out as he sneered at Democrats, “You may defeat me in the final vote, but you will never get me to quit. Never.”
“I liked beer. I still like beer. […] Gone to sleep, but I never blacked out. That was wrong.”
– Judge Brett Kavanaugh
Kavanaugh proceeded to insist, “I never committed sexual assault,” as he claimed he was undergoing strength training for football when Dr. Blasey says he attempted to rape her. He offered his high school calendar as proof, yet he also tried to explain away the high school yearbook in which Kavanaugh seemingly boasted of sexual conquests and heavy drinking.
At one point, Kavanaugh stated, “I liked beer. I still like beer. Which I gladly do and fully embrace.” Yet when Rachel Mitchell asked about his changing story of alcohol consumption, Kavanaugh changed it again as he described his drinking habits as, “Gone to sleep, but I never blacked out. That was wrong.” (Doesn’t “blacking out” essentially mean being so drunk that one falls asleep or loses consciousness?)
Later on, when Senator Patrick Leahy asked Kavanaugh about why Mark Judge wasn’t in the room to testify and why his yearbook entry includes so many references to sex and alcohol, he yelled, “No, no, no, no, no!,” shouted over Leahy, then listed his high school athletic accomplishments in what felt like a filibuster of Leahy’s line of questioning.
When Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) asked Kavanaugh if he’s willing to ask the White House to reopen his FBI background check investigation, Kavanaugh sidestepped in saying, “I’m welcoming whatever the committee wants to do. I am innocent!” And as Durbin continued to ask this of Kavanaugh, he continually deflected to “whatever the committee wants” instead of making any request of the White House.
“Why don’t you just ask the President to reopen the FBI investigation?”
– Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota)
Asked if he ever drank to the point of blacking out, Brett Kavanaugh says no, asking Sen. Klobuchar, "Have you?"
"Could you answer the question, judge? So, that's not happened, is that your answer?"
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) September 27, 2018
Oddly enough, after Senators Dianne Feinstein, Dick Durbin, and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) questioned Kavanaugh about what he actually did while in high school, Republicans sidelined Rachel Mitchell and instead allowed Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) to make melodramatic pleas on Kavanaugh’s behalf.
Then, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) calmly managed to continue the line of questioning that Durbin and Whitehouse had conducted more angrily. Klobuchar asked, “Why don’t you just ask the President to reopen the FBI investigation?” Kavanaugh answered by not really answering: “I think you’re doing the investigating.”
When Klobuchar asked whether Kavanaugh has engaged in “blackout” level drinking, he responded, “Have you?” Klobuchar tried again: “Could you answer the question, judge? So, that’s not happened, is that your answer?” He flippantly replied, “Yeah, and I’m curious if you have.”
Apparently Kavanaugh’s Trump-esque defiant tone has very much pleased Trump, who tends to view imitation as the highest form of flattery. What remains to be seen, however, is whether Kavanaugh has convinced anyone beyond the Senate Republicans who were already firmly in his corner. A committee vote may happen as soon as tomorrow, and a full Senate floor vote may happen early next week, even as the Senate Republicans have thus far declined to hear from Ramirez, Swetnick, or any relevant third-party witnesses. It may soon be up to all 100 Senators to decide if this is how the nation will decide Supreme Court Justices going forward.