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WASHINGTON — Christine Blasey Ford told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday that she was testifying about her allegations of assault by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh when both were teenagers out of a sense of civic duty, “not because I want to be. I am terrified.”
As the hearing began, Ford described the alleged assault that she said occurred during a house party in the summer of 1982. She had one beer that evening, she said, while Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge were “visibly drunk.” Speaking slowly, her voice cracking at times, Ford said that as she went upstairs, she was pushed into a bedroom, with the door locked behind her. She recounted how music playing in the bedroom was turned up louder by one of the young men.
“I was pushed onto the bed and Brett got on top of me. He began running his hands over my body and grinding into me. I yelled, hoping someone downstairs might hear me, and tried to get away from him, but his weight was heavy. Brett groped me and tried to take off my clothes. He had a hard time because he was very inebriated, and because I was wearing a one-piece bathing suit underneath my clothing,” Ford told the panel.
“I believed he was going to rape me,” Ford went on. “It was hard for me to breathe, and I thought that Brett was accidentally going to kill me. Both Brett and Mark were drunkenly laughing during the attack. They seemed to be having a good time. Mark was urging Brett on, and at times telling him to stop.”
“The details about that night that bring me here today are ones I will never forget. They have been seared into my memory and have haunted me episodically as an adult,” Ford said.
Before Ford spoke, Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said in his opening statement that Democrats “mistreated” Ford and called the treatment of both Ford and Kavanaugh “shameful.”
“What they have endured ought to be considered by all of us as unacceptable and a poor reflection on the state of civility in our democracy,” said Grassley, who then apologized to both Ford and Kavanaugh for how they’ve been treated.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., ranking member on the panel, defended Ford and outlined what happens to those who come forward publicly and why many remain silent.
“Too often, women’s memories and credibility come under assault. In essence, they are put on trial and are forced to defend themselves and are often re-victimized in the process,” Feinstein said in her opening statement, blasting Republicans for refusing to call other witnesses and for moving forward without a formal FBI investigation. “What I find most inexcusable is this rush to judgement.”
Ford and Kavanaugh are facing questions Thursday from Democratic senators and Rachel Mitchell, an experienced sex crimes prosecutor in Maricopa County, Arizona, who Republicans have hired to ask questions on their behalf — though they have the opportunity to ask their own as well.
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., asked Republicans for the documents that Mitchell was referring to in her line of questioning so that senators could follow along, and then asked again after a break because they had not yet been provided.
Asked by Feinstein what impact the alleged assault had on her life, Ford said that “anxiety, phobia and PTSD-like symptoms are the types of things I’ve been coping with,” and that she “struggled academically” in college.
Feinstein asked Ford how she could be sure that Kavanaugh was her assailant.
“The same way that I’m sure that I’m talking to you right now. Basic memory functions,” Ford said.
Feinstein then asked Ford if she was sure this could not be a case of mistaken identity.
“Absolutely not,” Ford replied. Later, she said she was “100 percent” certain Brett Kavanaugh had been her assailant.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., asked Ford what she’ll never forget.
“The stairwell. The living room. The bedroom. The bed on the right side of the room … the bathroom in close proximity. The laughter. The uproarious laughter. And the multiple attempts to escape. And the final ability to do so.”
Ford said she first reached out to the office of Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., and tip-line for The Washington Post before Trump nominated Kavanaugh in early July, when she learned that he was on the president’s shortlist for possible Supreme Court justice nominees. She then shared her experience in a letter to Feinstein and Eshoo in late July and spoke out publicly for the first time in a recent interview with the Post.
The hearing comes after a week in which two other women have accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct. Deborah Ramirez alleged in an article published by The New Yorker on Sunday night that while she and Kavanaugh both attended Yale University in the early 1980s, he pulled down his pants and exposed himself to her. Lawyer Michael Avenatti revealed a third accuser, Julie Swetnick, whom he represents, on Wednesday. The Senate Judiciary Committee has also probed at least one additional allegation of misconduct from an anonymous accuser, NBC News reported Wednesday.
Grassley said that the committee has tried to investigate the two other public allegations, but said that attorneys for both accusers have not cooperated and have made no attempt to “substantiate their claims.” Referring to Feinstein’s complaint that the panel is not pursuing the other allegations, he said the committee would “consider other issues, other times.” The committee is currently scheduled to vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination Friday morning.
Ford’s husband, Russell Ford, and children are not at the hearing and are home in California, a spokesperson to Ford told NBC News. Ford is seated at the witness table alongside her lawyers. Ford has at least 15 friends sitting in the two rows behind her.
Once Ford finishes her testimony and answering a round of questions, Kavanaugh, who attended Georgetown Preparatory School at the time of the alleged assault, will respond to Ford’s claims in follow-up testimony before the Judiciary Committee. He has denied all of the allegations he faces, and spoke out about the first two accusers in an on-camera interview on Fox News this week. Kavanaugh testified for two consecutive days in early September during a series of hearings for his confirmation and these allegations were not raised then.
Their testimony could be crucial in determining how Republicans move forward with his nomination. Right now, the committee is scheduled to vote Friday morning on Kavanaugh’s nomination, days before the Supreme Court’s next term begins on Monday, which is when GOP leaders had originally planned to confirm him by.
While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has projected confidence about Kavanaugh’s confirmation chances, many GOP senators have not revealed how they planned to vote on his nomination, especially as each of the allegations surfaced. Sens. Susan Collin, R-Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, for example, are two potential Republican defectors. Several red state Democrats, meanwhile, who could also be swing votes and help Kavanaugh’s chances, have remained mum as well.