Brett Kavanaugh, Christine Blasey Ford testify in historic Senate hearing: Recap
Kavanaugh and his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, testified in an emotional, nearly nine-hour hearing Thursday.
The hearing over Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court and the sexual misconduct allegations surrounding him has ended after nearly nine hours Thursday.
Christine Blasey Ford offered emotional testimony alleging she was sexually assaulted at a party 36 years ago. Kavanaugh was also emotional in his testimony, appearing irritated and at times tearing up as he refuted Ford's account of what happened.
"I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified," a visibly nervous Ford told the committee after being sworn in Thursday morning. "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."
Kavanaugh, Trump's pick to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, has vehemently denied all the accusations of sexual misconduct and assault made against him. In his own remarks before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the nominee again categorically denied the allegations, and slammed the turns the confirmation process has taken.
Republicans hired an outside counsel, Rachel Mitchell, a sex crimes prosecutor from Arizona, to question Ford. Democrats asked questions themselves. Both Democrats and Republicans questioned Kavanaugh.
Here's a recap of what happened.
Booker asks Kavanaugh whether he thinks Ford is a political operative
Sen. Cory Booker (D, N.J.) asked Kavanaugh whether he wished Ford never came forward.
"The witnesses who were there say it didn't happen," Kavanaugh replied.
Booker also asked Kavanaugh whether people who believe Ford were legitimizing despicable things.
"I say listen to both sides before you make a bottom-line conclusion that is fair," Kavanaugh said.
Booker defended Ford and said she gave meaningful and credible testimony. He referred to an earlier claim by Kavanaugh, who said he was a victim of "revenge on behalf of the Clintons."
"[Ford] is not a political pawn … she is not part of the Clintons' efforts to get some kind of revenge," Booker said.
"The witnesses who were there say it didn't happen," Kavanaugh responded.
Sen. Kamala Harris (D, Calif.) asked Kavanaugh whether he had taken a polygraph test regarding the allegations. He said he had not.
Asked about allegations of being an aggressive drunk, Kavanaugh lists his college accomplishments
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D, Hawaii) pressed Kavanaugh about a college roommate who recalled that Kavanaugh was an aggressive drunk.
Asked if the roommate was lying, Kavanaugh responded by listing his college accomplishments.
"I worked very hard in college and my studies, and I also played basketball," Kavanaugh said. "I did sports."
Sen. Thom Tillis (R, N.C.) said Kavanaugh was the victim of unfair attacks.
"I look forward to supporting your confirmation, I believe that you're gonna be on the bench," he said.
Republican Sen. Hatch says Kavanaugh ‘is not a monster’
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) called Ford's allegations uncorroborated and unsubstantiated. He also stressed that the alleged conduct is from Kavanaugh's teenage years.
"He was an immature high schooler," Hatch said. "So were we all."
Hatch said it was a "national disgrace" how Kavanaugh has been treated.
"This man is not a monster," Hatch said. "Nor is he what has been represented here in these hearings."
He was among the Republicans to address and speak positively to Kavanaugh. No Republicans, other than Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, addressed Ford.
Republican Sen. Graham defiantly tells Kavanaugh he has ‘nothing to apologize for’
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C) was livid as he accused Democrats of wanting to destroy Kavanaugh's life.
"You've got nothing to apologize for," Graham said. Then, addressing Democrats, he said, "this is the most unethical sham since I've been in politics, and if you really wanted to know the truth, you sure as hell wouldn't have done what you've done to this guy."
Graham said Democrats knew about Ford's allegations against Kavanaugh but didn't move on them.
"I hope that the American people will see through this charade," Graham said. He told Kavanaugh, "I wish you well, and I intend to vote for you."
The White House praised Graham in a tweet.
Sen. John Cornyn (R, Texas) told Kavanaugh he had a right to be angry.
"The burden is not on you to disprove the allegations made," Cornyn said. "The burden under our system … is on the person making the accusation."
He also urged Kavanaugh not to give up.
Kavanaugh gets into heated exchange with Democratic senators
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D, Vt.) pointed out that Kavanaugh had brought up drinking in his high school yearbook. Kavanaugh tried to list his accomplishments in high school.
"I was number one in the class," Kavanaugh started. Leahy then interrupted, causing Kavanaugh to tell "No, no, no, no, no."
"I'm gonna talk about my high school record if you're gonna sit here and mock me," Kavanaugh said.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) pressed Kavanaugh on whether he'd be open to an FBI investigation.
"I wanna know what you wanna do, Judge," Durbin said.
"I'm innocent," Kavanaugh responded. "I'm innocent of this charge."
"Then you're prepared for an FBI investigation," Durbin said.
"They don't reach conclusions," Kavanaugh said. "You reach the conclusions."
"No," Durbin replied, "but they do investigate questions."
Kavanaugh questioned about drinking habits; calls allegations by accuser Julie Swetnick ‘a joke’
Under questioning by Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Kavanaugh addressed the allegations by Julie Swetnick, who has said Kavanaugh was present at a party where she was raped (she has not identified Kavanaugh as the rapist). Swetnick was the third woman to come forward with allegations against Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct.
"The Swetnick thing is a joke," he said. "That is a farce."
"Would you like to say more about it?" Feinstein asked.
"No," he responded.
Feinstein also asked Kavanaugh why he wasn't asking the FBI to investigate the allegations against him, given that he's so confident he never sexually assaulted the women who have accused him.
"I'll do whatever the committee wants," Kavanaugh replied. "I wanted a hearing a day after the allegation came up … it's an outrage that I was not allowed to come and immediately defend my name."
Under questioning by Mitchell, Kavanaugh was asked questions about his sexual activity. He denied ever having rubbed his genitals on Ford, putting his hand over her mouth, or removing her clothes.
Mitchell also asked Kavanaugh about his drinking.
"What do you consider to be too many beers?" Mitchell asked.
"I don't know," Kavanaugh replied. "Whatever the chart says, the blood alcohol chart."
Asked if he had ever passed out from drinking, he said he had fallen asleep but never blacked out.
Kavanaugh: I’m a victim of ‘revenge on behalf of the Clintons’
During his opening remarks, an angry and visibly upset Kavanaugh claimed Democratic opposition to his nomination and allegations of sexual misconduct were done in part to get "revenge on behalf of the Clintons."
"This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons, and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups," Kavanaugh said.
Kavanaugh worked as an associate counsel under independent counsel Ken Starr during multiple investigations of President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, which ultimately ended in Clinton's impeachment by the House of Representatives in 1998.
Kavanaugh calls confirmation process ‘a national disgrace’
Kavanaugh, who came out defiant and emotional in his opening statement, denied being at the party with Ford and called out Democrats, describing the confirmation process as a "circus."
"This confirmation process has become a national disgrace," Kavanaugh said. He added: "There's been a frenzy on the left to come up with something, anything, to block my confirmation."
He said the allegations other women have since lodged against him since Ford's emerged have hurt his and his family's good name.
"My family and my name have been totally and permanently destroyed by vicious and false additional accusations," he said, describing them as "last-minute smears" designed to scare him.
"I will not be intimidated into withdrawing from this process," he added.
Kavanaugh said he does not question that Ford may have been assaulted at some point.
"But I have never done this to her or to anyone," he said. "That's not who I am."
On social media, observers noted that Kavanaugh appeared visibly irritated and upset. Some said he may be acting defiant to appeal to President Trump.
Kavanaugh acknowledged that he sometimes drank too much beer in the past.
"I liked beer, I still like beer," he said. "But I did not drink beer to the point of blacking out, and I never sexually assaulted anyone."
Republican senator: Ford’s allegations are ‘credible’
Sen. Richard Shelby (R., Ala.), the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, called Ford's allegations "credible" following more than four hours of sometimes emotional testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
"I thought she looked credible," Shelby said of Ford, according to The Hill.
Shelby wasn't the only Republican senator to weigh in on Ford's testimony. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia called Ford's testimony "riveting."
"It's riveting and that's all I'm going to say," she told reporters following the first half of the hearing.
Most Republican senators, including Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Jeff Flake, said they were waiting until Kavanaugh had a chance to respond to Ford's allegations before rendering judgement.
"I'm glad we're having the hearing and we'll see where it goes," Flake told reporters.
Republican senator: Democrats ‘set it up’
In an angry rant following Ford's testimony, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham claimed Democrats "set it up" to bring her allegation at the end of the process in hopes of pushing Kavanaugh's nomination past the midterm elections in November.
Graham told reporters: "All I can say, is that we are 40 something days away from the elections and their goal, not Mrs. Ford's goal, is to delay this past the midterms so they can win the Senate and never allow Trump to fill this seat." Graham told reporters. "The friends on the other side set it up to be just the way it is. I feel ambushed,"
Ford’s attorney interrupts arguing senators: ‘Can we be excused?’
After Ford had concluded offering her testimony, one of her lawyers had to interrupt a pair of arguing senators in order for her to be excused.
"Can we be excused?" Michael Bromwich said, interrupting a back-and-forth between Republican Sen. John Kennedy and Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein. "The witness is quite tired. She'd like to be excused. "
Cory Booker calls Ford ‘heroic’
Sen. Cory Booker (D, N.J.) called Ford "heroic" for coming forward and testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Booker's comments drew rave reviews from at least one Hollywood admirer.
Republican senator calls Ford ‘attractive’
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R, Utah) told reporters he thought Ford was an "attractive" witness when asked by reporters if he found her testimony credible.
"Well, it's too early to say. I don't think she's un-credible. I think she's a very attractive, good witness," Hatch said.
Hatch was cut off by McClatchy reporter Kate Irby, who asked what the senator meant by the term attractive.
"Oh, in other words she's pleasing," Hatch responded.
As ABC News noted, a spokesman for Hatch clarified that he uses the term "attractive" to "describes personalities, not appearances."
Republican senator not swayed by Ford’s testimony
During a break in the hearing, Sen. Lindsey Graham told a gaggle of reporters he wasn't swayed by Ford's testimony, claiming she remained "uncertain in time, place, date."
"Hiring a lawyer and taking a polygraph makes me more suspicious," Graham said about Ford testimony, adding that Ford "can't say how she got [to the party] and how she left."
"She seems like a… something happened to this woman. The question for me is, I've got a man who's lived a credibly productive life adamantly denying it," Graham added. "And a lot of the details, I don't know how you fill them in."
Graham also warned Democrats that if Kavanaugh's nomination ends up failing over allegations of sexual assault, "you better watch out for your nominees." Graham wasn't asked about Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama's Supreme Court nominee who wasn't granted a hearing by Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Questions about Ford’s fear of flying stir debate in both political parties
Mitchell questioned Ford about her fear of flying, pointing out that Ford has taken planes for work and vacation.
"You've had to fly for your work, is that true?" Mitchell asked.
"Correct, unfortunately," Ford replied.
Ford said she had hoped to avoid flying to Washington D.C., but that, "I eventually was able to get up the gumption with the help of some friends and get on the plane."
Some Kavanaugh supporters jumped on the flight issue to question Ford's credibility. The president's son, Donald Trump Jr., tweeted a criticism of Ford but didn't appear to understand she had flown to Washington to testify.
Critics of Mitchell's line of questioning said people afraid of flying often have to fly and that Ford's travel had nothing to do with the allegations of sexual misconduct.
‘The stairwell, the living room, the bedroom’
Ford recalled to Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) things that continue to haunt her about the night she says she was assaulted.
"The stairwell, the living room, the bedroom, the bed on the right side of the room — as you walk into the room, there was a bed to the right — 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.
Ford came forward before Kavanaugh was nominated
Ford confirmed to Sen. Chris Coons (D., Del.) that she came forward with her allegations about Kavanaugh before he was nominated by President Trump to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. Ford also confirmed it wasn't her intention for her allegation to have an impact at such a late stage of the nominating process.
"I felt it was very important to get the information to you but I didn't know how to do it while there was a short list of candidates," Ford said.
Fox News host: ‘This is a disaster for Republicans’
Fox News host Chris Wallace called Ford's powerful testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee a "disaster" for Republicans.
"This was extremely emotional, extremely raw, and extremely credible. And nobody could listen to her deliver those words talk about the assault and the impact it had had on her life and not have your heart go out to her, and she was actually traumatized by an event," Wallace said following the committee's first break. "This is a disaster for the Republicans."
Fellow Fox News host Martha MacCallum, who interviewed Kavanaugh on Monday night, agreed that Ford's testimony was powerful and suggested it may have been a mistake for Republican senators to outsource their questions to Rachel Mitchell, the top sex crimes prosecutor for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office in Phoenix.
"You have to believe that the Republican senators right now are asking themselves whether or not this was a good idea – whether or not they have robbed themselves of their opportunity to ask pointed questions in a way that perhaps might be more compelling," MacCallum said.
What anchors are saying on Fox News is important, Air Force One televisions were tuned to Fox News' live coverage of the hearing, according to The Hill. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that Trump was watching the live coverage of the hearings aboard Air Force One.
‘I was underneath one of them while the two laughed’
Ford explained to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.), that one of her most distinct memories from the alleged assault was the laughter shared during the incident between Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge.
"Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter, the uproarious laughter between the two, and them having fun at my expense. I was underneath one of them while the two laughed," Ford said.
"You've never forgotten that laughter. You never forgot them laughing at you," Leahy responded.
"They were laughing with each other," Ford said.
Ford shoots down conspiracy theory pushed by some Republicans
Ford once again dismissed a conspiracy theory promoted as recently as Thursday morning by White House counselor Kellyanne Conway that allegations against Kavanaugh were simply a case of mistaken identity.
"So what you are telling us this could not be a case of mistaken identity," Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.), the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, asked Ford.
"Absolutely not," Ford responded.
The idea that Ford could have misidentified Kavanaugh was first floated by Ed Whelan, a conservative lawyer and a close friend to Kavanaugh. Last week, Whelan rolled out a baseless conspiracy theory that Ford was assaulted by a different classmate who, in Whelan's view, could easily have been confused with Kavanaugh. Whelan has since apologized and called his comments "appalling and inexcusable."
Ford has been clear since first coming forward to the Washington Post 11 days ago that it was Kavanaugh and Judge who sexually assaulted her at the high school party.
"[T]he details about that night that bring me here today are ones I will never forget," Ford said during her opening remarks. "They have been seared into my memory and have haunted me episodically as an adult."
Republican questioner opens with empathy to Ford
Mitchell, who is questioning Ford on behalf of Republican senators, began her first question by showing the witness some empathy.
"I just wanted to tell you that the first thing that struck me from your statement this morning was that you were terrified, and I just wanted to let you know that I'm very sorry," Mitchell said. "That isn't right."
Ford’s view as she delivers her opening remarks
Ford explains why she first revealed she had been sexually assaulted
During her opening remarks, Ford, her voice cracking at times, disclosed what caused her to first reveal to her husband, Russell Ford, that she had been sexually assaulted.
"The reason this came up in counseling is that my husband and I had completed an extensive remodel of our home, and I insisted on a second front door, an idea that he and others disagreed with and could not understand," Ford explained. "I wanted to have a second front door, I described the assault in detail. I recall saying that the boy who assaulted me could someday be on the U.S. Supreme Court and spoke a bit about his background. My husband recalls that I named my attacker as Brett Kavanaugh."
She later said the door had been installed.
Top Republican apologizes to both Ford and Kavanaugh
Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley apologized to both Kavanaugh and Ford during his opening remarks, citing death threats both of them and their families had received over the past week.
"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, a Republican from Iowa. "I want to apologize to you both for the way you've been treated and I intend hopefully for today's hearing to be safe, comfortable and dignified for both of our witnesses."
Fox News host said Kavanaugh allegations caused his two daughters to open up
Fox News host Chris Wallace got personal during the network's live coverage of the hearing, revealing that two of his daughters opened up to him about incidents they experienced in high school that they had never discussed before.
"Two of my daughters have told me stories that I had never heard before about things that happened to them in high school," Wallace said. "There are teenage girls who don't tell stories to a lot of people, and then it comes up… I don't think we can disregard Christine Blasey Ford and the seriousness of this."
Alyssa Milano in attendance
Actress Alyssa Milano, who revealed that it took her 30 years to admit she had been sexually assaulted as a teen, is among the invited guests on hand to watch the historic hearing. Milano said she came to show solidarity with Ford, and believes the country is in a different place than when Anita Hill testified that she had been sexually harassed by then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas back in 1991.
"Women throughout the country are not going to let it be what it was," Milano told my colleague Jonathan Tamari.
Tamari caused reporters in the hearing room to chuckle when he asked the popular actress to tell the press gaggle her name and to spell it.
• Kavanaugh denied two additional allegations, including an alleged rape that took place on a boat in Newport, R.I. in August of 1985, according to a transcript released by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
• The Judiciary Committee also spoke to two individuals who believed they were the men who assaulted Ford, according to an investigative summary released by the committee. The anonymous claims were not corroborated or verified.
• Fox News host Laura Ingram called Ford a liar for her decision not to hand over her therapist's notes to the committee. "Guess what, there are no notes! She didn't deliver her notes. You know why? Because I think the therapist is an ACME therapist. There was no therapist! It's a big lie! Lie! Lie! Lie!"
• Maine Sen. Susan Collins, one of the few Republican swing votes on Kavanaugh, raised serious concerns on Wednesday about Swetnick's allegations and questioned why the committee did not subpoena Judge, according to CNN.