Kavanaugh hearing: Supreme Court nominee calls confirmation process ‘national disgrace’

Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh angrily denied allegations of sexual misconduct and called his confirmation process a “national disgrace” during testimony before a Senate committee Thursday.

One of his accusers, Christine Blasey Ford, spoke and answered questions earlier in the day. She said she was “one hundred percent” certain that President Trump’s nominee was the man who attacked her when she was 15.

Highlights from the hearing:

Ford, Kavanaugh share written testimony

Grassley turns from sympathetic to combative in opening statement

Feinstein praises Ford, blasts Republicans for ‘rush to judgment’

Ford details alleged assault in emotional opening

Ford says she is ‘one hundred percent’ sure Kavanaugh was responsible for alleged assault

Trump ignores shouted question about hearing

Republicans mostly silent, yielding question time to prosecutor

Kavanaugh delivers angry opening statement

Asked about an FBI investigation, Kavanaugh defers to committee

4:08 p.m.: Mitchell begins with graphic questions for Kavanaugh

Republican lawmakers deferred to Rachel Mitchell, an Arizona prosecutor, to question Kavanaugh as they did with Ford.

In a series of detailed, graphic questions, Mitchell methodically ran through Ford’s allegations.

She asked Kavanaugh whether he had ever covered Ford’s mouth with his hand. Had he ever tried to remove her clothes? Had he ever tried to rub his genitals on her body?

Kavanaugh responded “no” to each of her questions.

The hearing went into a brief recess at 4:17 p.m.

4:06 p.m.: Kavanaugh dismisses allegations from Avenatti client

Kavanaugh dismissed claims from his latest accuser, Julie Swetnick, in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Swetnick’s lawyer is Michael Avenatti, who also represents adult-film actress Stormy Daniels.

Swetnick said in an affidavit released Wednesday that Kavanaugh was present at a house party in 1982 where she alleges she was the victim of a gang rape.

On Thursday, Kavanaugh responded to those claims.

“The Swetnick thing is a joke,” he said. “It’s a farce.”

4:02 p.m.: Asked about an FBI investigation, Kavanaugh defers to committee

Pressed on why he wasn’t asking the FBI to probe Ford’s allegation, Kavanaugh said he will “do whatever the committee wants.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) asked: “If you are very confident of your position, why aren’t you also asking the FBI to investigate?”

“Senator, I’ll do whatever the committee wants,” Kavanaugh replied. “I wanted the hearing a day after the allegation came up.”

He added: “Whatever the committee decides, I’m all in, immediately.”

Senate Democrats have asked for an independent investigation of Ford’s charges. Republicans have vowed to probe them but have not endorsed an outside inquiry.

3:41 p.m.: Kavanaugh said he drank beer in high school, never blacked out

Deep into his opening statement, Kavanaugh spoke frankly about his high school carousing in what appeared to be an effort to defuse potential questioning about his drinking and partying habits in high school.

In a Fox News Channel interview this week, Kavanaugh portrayed his high school years as more focused on sports, church and school than on partying — leading some commentators to suggest that he was whitewashing his hard-partying past.

On Thursday, Kavanaugh admitted to engaging in underage drinking. He said he never blacked out from drinking.

“I drank beer with my friends — almost everyone did,” he said. “Sometimes I had too many beers. Sometimes others did. I liked beer. I still like beer. But I did not drink beer to the point of blacking out, and I never sexually assaulted anyone.

“There is a bright line between drinking beer, which I gladly do and which I fully embrace, and sexually assaulting someone, which is a violent crime,” he added. “If every American who drinks beer or every American who drank beer in high school is suddenly presumed guilty of sexual assault, we’ll be in an ugly new place in this country.”

Throughout his opening remarks, Kavanaugh cried, sniffed and drank water, and he struggled to get through the statement he said he’d prepared on his own Wednesday.

As he had during a television interview, Kavanaugh described himself as sexually inexperienced as a younger man.

“I never had sexual intercourse or anything close to it” in high school and not for many years later, he told the committee.

In some crowds, “I was probably outwardly shy about my inexperience,” he said. “At the same time, I was also inwardly proud of it. . . . That lack of rampant sexual activity was a matter of faith, respect and caution.”

He went on to express regret for a high school yearbook page that included apparent references to crude high jinks, like the “100 Kegs Club.”

“As high school students, we sometimes did goofy or stupid things,” he said. “I doubt we are alone in looking back at high school and cringing at some things. For one thing, our yearbook was a disaster.”

His contemporaries at Georgetown Prep, he said, “wanted the yearbook to be some combination of ‘Animal House,’ ‘Caddyshack’ and ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High,’ which were all recent movies at that time. Many of us went along in the year book to the point of absurdity.”

Kavanaugh said he and his friends “cringed” this past week while revisiting the yearbook — especially references to a female friend that has been interpreted as sexually demeaning.

“That yearbook reference was clumsily meant to show affection and that she was one of us,” he said. “But in this circus, the media had interpreted the term as related to sex. It was not related to sex.”

3:10 p.m.: Kavanaugh delivers angry and emotional opening statement

Kavanaugh delivered an angry and emotional defense of his character and conduct after he was sworn in.

Speaking for 45 minutes, he lashed out at his political foes and called his confirmation process a “national disgrace.” The comments were a dramatic departure from his prepared remarks.

“You have replaced ‘advise and consent’ with ‘search and destroy,’ ” he said, accusing Democrats of seeking to “blow me up and take me down” after he sailed through his earlier hearings.

At several points, Kavanaugh became emotional. His wife, Ashley Estes Kavanaugh, sat behind him in the camera frame, appearing to hold back tears.

“The other night, Ashley and my daughter Liza said their prayers, and little Liza, all of 10 years old, said to Ashley, ‘We should pray for the women,’ ” he said. “That’s a lot of wisdom from a 10-year-old.”

Kavanaugh’s remarks were reminiscent of Justice Clarence Thomas’s livid retort after law Professor Anita Hill testified against him in 1991. Thomas called it a “high-tech lynching” orchestrated by his opponents.

“You may defeat me in the final vote, but you’ll never get me to quit, ever,” Kavanaugh said.

“Listen to the people I know. Listen to the people who have known me my whole life. Listen to the people I’ve grown up with and worked with and played with and coached with and dated and taught and gone to games with and had beers with. And listen to the witnesses who were allegedly at this event 30 years ago,” he said.

Behind him sat a line of women, all in black, along with his father and White House counsel Donald McGahn.

Kavanaugh suggested that the timing of the accusations had been meticulously planned by Senate Democrats after the confirmation hearings earlier this month.

“Some of you were lying in wait,” Kavanaugh said, making what appeared to be a reference to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). “This allegation was held in secret for weeks” and used “only when you couldn’t take me out on the merits.”

“I will not be intimidated into withdrawing from this process,” he said.

3:08 p.m.: Hearing resumes with Kavanaugh at the witness table

Kavanaugh entered the hearing room holding hands with his wife, Ashley Estes Kavanaugh, and took his seat ahead of opening testimony and questions from senators.

2:16 p.m.: Ford questioning concludes, hearing recesses

When the committee returns, Kavanaugh will have the opportunity to deliver an opening statement, followed by senators’ questions.

2:12 p.m.: Harris takes a shot at Mitchell, tells Ford ‘you are not on trial’

Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) took a clear shot at Rachel Mitchell, the outside attorney hired by Republicans to pose questions to Ford, as she referenced the Maricopa County attorney’s guidance on dealing with sexual assault victims. Mitchell is the chief of the special victims unit in the Arizona county.

Harris also launched an impassioned defense of Ford in her five minutes of questioning Thursday.

“You know you are not on trial. You are not on trial,” Harris said. “You have the courage to come forward because as you have said, you believe it was your civic duty.”

When Harris mentioned the Maricopa County manual, Mitchell smiled tightly and took a few notes.

2:09 p.m.: Questioning refers to lawyer’s ‘mistaken identity’ theory

The hearing made glancing reference to a strange sideshow to the Kavanaugh confirmation saga — the effort by a well-known conservative lawyer to pin the alleged assault on a Georgetown Prep classmate of Kavanaugh’s.

The lawyer, Ed Whelan, posted a lengthy thread on Twitter last week speculating that, because this classmate looked similar to Kavanaugh and lived in a house matching Ford’s descriptions of the assault, he could be the actual culprit. Whelan later deleted the tweets and apologized.

Mitchell on Thursday asked Ford about “a classmate who was really sort of the connection between you and Brett Kavanaugh.”

Ford declined to name that person, citing Whelan “trying to blame the person” for the assault.

“I don’t feel like it’s right for us to be talking about that,” Ford said.

Ford did say she knew the person in question from Columbia Country Club, and “went out with him” for a time in high school.

Mitchell moved on to ask Ford about her interactions with Kavanaugh before the alleged assault. Ford said she was at four or five parties during her freshman or sophomore years of high school where Kavanaugh was present.

“Did anything happen at these events like we’re talking about?” Mitchell asked.

“There was no sexual assault at any of those events,” Ford replied. “Is that what you’re asking?”

Ford has identified three people in addition to Kavanaugh who she says were at the party in summer 1982. Mitchell pressed Ford about why P.J. Smyth, Leland Ingham Keyser and Mark Judge have all said in statements to the committee that they have no memory or knowledge of the party.

Ford said she was not surprised when it came to Smyth or Keyser. For them, she said, “it was an unremarkable evening.”

“Nothing remarkable happened to them that evening,” she said. “They were downstairs.”

Judge, who Ford says was in the room with Kavanaugh when the alleged assault occurred, “is a different story,” she said.

1:50 p.m.: ‘This is not a courtroom,’ Booker says

After a series of pointed questions from Mitchell about how Ford would pay her legal fees, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said: “I want to remind everyone, this is not a courtroom. This is not a legal proceeding.”

Booker characterized Ford as a hero for coming forward with her story, and praised her “courage and bravery.”

“How we deal with survivors who come forward is unacceptable,” he said.

Booker also quoted one of his Republican colleagues on the committee, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), and his plea for civility in a floor speech Wednesday. Flake did not say during his speech how he would vote, but said he would listen to testimony from both Ford and Kavanaugh before making up his mind.

1:41 p.m.: Hearing resumes with contentious questions

The hearing reconvened after a nearly one-hour break with some of the most contentious questioning of the day.

Mitchell asked Ford about how her polygraph examination was being paid for. After Ford expressed some confusion, her attorney Debra Katz spoke to the senators for the first time: “Let me put an end to this mystery. Her lawyers paid for this polygraph.”

Co-counsel Michael R. Bromwich added, “As is routine.”

Later, Mitchell pressed Ford on the chain of custody of her confidential letter to Democratic lawmakers and how it might have become public.

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“It was my understanding that it was going to be kept confidential, period,” Ford said.

Mitchell then asked Ford whether it was “possible” that some one else had shared it more widely.

After Ford expressed confusion, Katz again jumped in: “You’ve asked her not to guess, and now you’re asking her what’s possible. If you want to ask her what she knows, you should ask her what she knows.”

Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) directed Ford to answer the question.

“I don’t totally understand the question, but I didn’t speak with anyone besides my counsel,” Ford said. She added that she did not know how he letter’s existence ultimately became public.

1:39 p.m.: Hatch calls Ford ‘attractive,’ ‘pleasing’ during break

After the hearing recessed for lunch, senators were confronted by reporters as they went to the floor to vote.

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the longest-serving member of the Senate, was asked whether Ford was “credible” in her testimony.

He called her “attractive” and a “good witness.”

“I don’t think she’s un-credible. I think she’s an attractive, good witness. But it’s way early,” he said.

Asked what he meant by “attractive,” Hatch said: “In other words, she’s pleasing.” He said the hearing had not shaken his support for Kavanaugh but he called it “interesting.”

Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) said he had seen only “bits and pieces” of the hearing and will withhold judgment until he watches it in full.

Manchin was critical of Republicans for not questioning Ford themselves.

“We’re the ones who take the oath,” he said.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) called the testimony “riveting.”

“It’s very compelling and emotional for her obviously, and I think anybody who’s watching it’s gotta feel the same way. That’s all I’m going to say,” she said.

Some other Republican senators — James M. Inhofe (Okla.) and Mike Rounds (S.D.) — said they had not been watching.

Flake, who has criticized the politicization of the controversy and railed against the harsh treatment of both Kavanaugh and Ford, said he was “glad she’s here.” He declined to comment at length until the hearing ended.

Flake was trailed by reporters as he walked outside the Capitol and back to the office building where the hearing is being held. A group of protesters saw him and shouted: “Vote no!”

1:37 p.m.: Hearing gavels back in

After a longer-than-expected break, the questioning resumed with Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii).

1:17 p.m.: Republicans mostly silent, yielding question time to prosecutor

Before the hearing recessed, Republican senators one by one passed on questioning Ford, handing over something they do at every other hearing to Mitchell, an outside counsel.

“We think the more we stay out of it, the better,” said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) after the first installment of the hearing.

Grassley and the rest of his Republican colleagues deferred to Mitchell, an Arizona prosecutor who served as proxy for the lawmakers. Republicans faced the uncomfortable optics of the all-male Republican lineup on the committee questioning Ford.

Democrats used their turns to commend Ford and gently question her. And they couldn’t resist commenting on the GOP’s silence.

“They made a decision to not really do their constitutional duty. This woman is extraordinary, she’s calm, she’s honest,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).

1:09 p.m.: Viewers around the country watch Ford’s testimony, transfixed

LAKE WORTH, Fla. — “It looks like she’s crying,” Hilda Darkins said, as several retirees around her dabbed their own eyes. “Who can blame her?”

At the Mid-County Senior Center here, two dozen people sat around circular tables, facing the television. They watched Christine Blasey Ford, who was watching in silence as Sens. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) read lengthy opening statements . . .

The power of the moment — the reason that people cried in airplane seats and called into C-SPAN to tell their own stories of sexual assault — was in seeing Ford tell a story of private pain before a massive public audience.

It was to see her speak, without knowing yet who would believe her.

“16A: Crying. 14B: Crying. 17C: Weeping,” Ron Lieber, a New York Times columnist, wrote on Twitter from a flight headed from New York to Salt Lake City, listing the reactions as passengers watched the hearing on seat-back televisions. “I am one of the criers.”

As the hearings began, some of the busiest places in the country fell quiet. At the New York Stock Exchange, Brad Smith — an anchor for the news site Cheddar — said normally frenetic traders were all watching the TVs. Phones rang in the background, unanswered.

In the Capitol building itself, the halls were quiet, as senators not on the Senate Judiciary Committee bunkered in their offices to watch TV.

Read more here.

1:01 p.m.: Lunchtime reading list

Further coverage and analysis from The Washington Post:

Mark Judge’s book validates Christine Blasey Ford’s timeline of the alleged Kavanaugh assault

Chuck Grassley’s heavy-handed stewardship of a very delicate hearing

‘I have never sexually assaulted anyone’: Brett Kavanaugh’s opening statement to Congress, annotated

How cable news networks are covering the Kavanaugh-Ford hearing

The problem with making a sex-crimes prosecutor the face of Senate Judiciary Republicans

12:42 p.m.: Hearing recesses for lunch

Senators will have an opportunity to vote and face reporters. Ford’s testimony will continue about 1:10 p.m.

12:36 p.m.: Ford says it would be her ‘preference’ for Judge to testify

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) asked Ford whether she wanted Judge, who she says was present for the alleged assault and whom she says she encountered at a supermarket weeks afterward, to publicly testify.

“That would be my preference. I’m not sure it’s really up to me,” she replied.

Said Blumenthal, “It’s not up to you, it’s up to the president of the United States, and his failure to ask for an FBI investigation is, in my view, tantamount to a coverup.”

Blumenthal said he found Ford’s testimony “powerful and credible, and I believe you.”

“You have inspired and given courage to women to come forward,” and inspired men, he said, “to listen respectfully to women survivors and men, who have survived sexual attack, and that is a profound public service regardless of what happens with this nomination.”

Ford seemed to tear up when Blumenthal read a passage from a book by Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), another member of the committee. Graham described his work as a prosecutor and the courage it takes for rape victims to share their traumatic stories.

An aide to Blumenthal provided the full passage.

“I learned how much unexpected courage from a deep and hidden place it takes for a rape victim or sexually abused child to testify against their assailants. Trying to get a scared, confused, little kid or young woman who feels the best part of her life is over to recall a memory that their every psychological impulse is trying to suppress is not something you forget. It has stayed with me ever since,” Graham wrote.

12:22 p.m.: Asked about ‘boys will be boys,’ Ford describes effects of alleged assault

Under questioning from Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), Ford deployed her expertise as a research psychologist in explaining her experience and recollections of the alleged assault.

Asked by Coons for her reaction to the excuse that “boys will be boys,” Ford instead addressed why the incident had such a profound effect on her psyche.

“It has impacted me greatly for the last 26 years even though I was only 15 years old at the time,” she said.

“The younger you are when these things happen, it can possibly have worse impact than when your brain is fully developed and you have better coping skills that you have developed.”

Coons asked her about the potential psychological effects of a traumatic experience like the alleged assault.

Ford referred to it as “fight-or-flight mode.”

“I was definitely experiencing the surge of adrenaline and cortisol and norepinephrine, and credit that a little bit for my ability to get out of the situation,” she said, referring to the hormones associated with human emergency response.

Earlier in the hearing, Ford described the “sequelae” of the alleged assault by Kavanaugh.

“Sequelae” is a term commonly used in medical literature to describe the consequences of an injury or disease, whether it is the health effects of sexual abuse or the aftermath of an infection. For a psychology professor such as Ford, “sequelae” would be an everyday, commonly used term.

Ford also said that what was “indelible in the hippocampus” was the laughter of Kavanaugh and Judge during the alleged assault.

The hippocampus is the center of memory in the brain. One expert in brain development said that memories of trauma, with strong emotional content, can be laid down in the brain in “bold print,” while other details of an event might fade. Meanwhile, alcohol can interfere with the formation of memory, and teenagers are especially susceptible.

“Based on the science, it’s entirely possible that one person remembers some parts of an event, in spotty fashion, but also very vividly enough for it to affect her throughout the life course,” said Kate Carey, a clinical psychologist at Brown University School of Public Health.

12:18 p.m.: An emotional scene outside the hearing room

Three floors above the hearing room, 130 members of the public watched Ford’s testimony from a packed overflow room. Outside, a line of people stretched down and around the hallway. Schoolgirls, college students and older women huddled around cellphones watching the hearing on a live stream. Some cried during Ford’s opening remarks, saying her words resonated with their own experiences of sexual abuse.

Anita Abraham, 62, a mental health advocate and Democratic activist from Milwaukee, said: “I’d give the world to thank her. I understand being silenced. I understand being unable to speak out of shame or anxiety. She is so brave, so strong. I’m so proud of her.”

She said Ford had inspired her to tell her husband about being molested as a 12-year-old.

“We cried together and he told me how much he loved me. He told me he loved me even more,” she said, crying. “I’d never told anyone before.”

Sarah Mantus, 18, was one of a group of college students who came to support Ford.

“I can’t imagine how anyone could watch that and not believe her. She has lost everything and gained nothing. Even the president says she’s lying,” she said.

Mantus had a banner, which police requested that she fold up, which read: “Roses are red, Dr. Ford needs our support. Rapists belong in jail, not the Supreme Court.”

A small number of women openly supporting Kavanaugh were present. Jeotsna Grover, a physician from California, said: “He hasn’t done anything wrong his whole life until the confirmation. An accusation like this, unproven, will ruin his life. When his children grow up, what will they think of him?”

Anne Creter, 70, a retired social worker from New Jersey, who previously worked with sexually abused children, disagreed. “I lived through Anita Hill. She planted seeds. Today will be another big evolutionary moment in equality between men and women.”

12:15 p.m.: Grassley, Ford lawyer discuss polygraph test

Before Ford’s allegations became public, she took a polygraph test on the advice of her attorneys in August. The test, administered by a former FBI agent, concluded that Ford was being truthful when she said a statement summarizing her allegations was accurate.

Ford’s attorney Michael R. Bromwich said Thursday that he had offered to make the polygraph administrator available to testify before the committee. Grassley rejected that proposal, said Bromwich, who is sitting next to Ford in the hearing room.

Instead, Grassley said he would accept for the record a report from the polygraph administrator.

12:12 p.m.: Mitchell questions Ford over therapist notes

Over two rounds of questioning, Mitchell questioned Ford on a set of notes taken by Ford’s therapist more than five years ago in which Ford described the alleged assault.

The notes were first disclosed publicly in The Washington Post’s initial report on Ford’s account. The Senate Judiciary Committee requested a copy of the notes, but Ford’s attorneys have declined to provide them, citing Ford’s privacy.

The initial Post story stated:

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The therapist’s notes, portions of which were provided by Ford and reviewed by The Washington Post, do not mention Kavanaugh’s name but say she reported that she was attacked by students ‘from an elitist boys’ school’ who went on to become ‘highly respected and high-ranking members of society in Washington.’ The notes say four boys were involved, a discrepancy Ford says was an error on the therapist’s part.

At the hearing, Mitchell questioned Ford on whether she had actually provided the notes to The Post or whether she had simply described them to The Post reporter.

Ford said she did not recall: “I remember summarizing for her what they said. . . . I can’t remember if she saw them directly or I described them.”

Later, Ford said her lawyers might have provided the notes to The Post. She confirmed that the notes did not name Kavanaugh and “erroneously” described four boys being involved in the alleged attack.

12:05 p.m.: Kavanaugh’s parents arrive

Kavanaugh’s parents arrived on Capitol Hill and were escorted by police into a holding room. Kavanaugh is scheduled to testify and answer questions after Ford.

11:55 a.m.: Trump ignores shouted question about hearing

Trump watched Ford’s testimony on Air Force One as he flew back to Washington from New York on Thursday morning, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters.

Sanders said Trump was watching the Senate hearing on a bit of a delay. The televisions on Air Force One were tuned to Fox News’s coverage of the hearing.

Upon arriving in Washington, Trump ignored a question shouted by a reporter about how he thinks the hearing is going.

Sanders said that Trump did not speak to Kavanaugh on Wednesday as Kavanaugh prepared for the hearing.

11:51 a.m.: Ford describes grocery store encounter with Mark Judge

Before the recess, in response to questions from Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), Ford described an encounter she had with Mark Judge at a Safeway grocery store in Potomac, Md. Ford has named Judge as a witness to the alleged assault.

According to Ford, the encounter took place roughly six to eight weeks after the alleged assault.

“I was with my mother, and I was teenager, so I wanted her to go in one door and me go in the other. So, I chose the wrong door, because the door I chose was the one where Mark Judge was,” she said.

Judge was “arranging the shopping carts, and I said hello to him,” Ford recalled. “And his face was white and very uncomfortable saying hello back.”

“We had always been friendly with one another,” she added. “He was just nervous and not wanting to speak with me. He looked a little bit ill.”

Judge has said in a statement that he has no recollection of any incident matching Ford’s allegations. Senate Republicans have resisted subpoenaing him for testimony.

In a 1997 book by Judge, “Wasted: Tales of a GenX Drunk,” he described working as a “bag boy in a local supermarket.”

“Invariably I would be hungover — or still drunk — when I got to work at seven in the morning, And I spent most of the first hour just trying to hold myself together,” he wrote.

11:47 a.m.: Hearing resumes

Mitchell began questioning Ford on behalf of Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.).

11:27 a.m.: Hearing recesses for 15 minutes

The testimony and questions will resume around 11:45 a.m.

11:25 a.m.: Ford says she is ‘one hundred percent’ sure Kavanaugh was responsible

On the eve of the hearing, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee disclosed that they had questioned two men who say they, not Kavanaugh, had the encounter with Ford that led to her sexual assault allegations but offered no evidence to back up either claim.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) referenced that theory during Ford’s testimony Thursday, asking what degree of certainty Ford had that Kavanaugh had attacked her.

“One hundred percent,” Ford said.

11:05 a.m.: Ford says she’s confident alleged assault was committed by Kavanaugh

Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) zeroed in on the details of the alleged attack and Ford’s assertion that it was Kavanaugh who covered Ford’s mouth with his hand to prevent her from screaming.

“How are you sure it was he?” Feinstein asked.

Ford said the trauma from the experience “is locked” in her memory while “other details drift.”

“This cannot be a case of mistaken identity?” Feinstein asked.

“Absolutely not,” Ford responded.

Ford testified that the strongest memory she has of the night that Kavanaugh allegedly assaulted her was the “laughter” between Kavanaugh and Judge.

Ford said her “indelible” recollection of the alleged assault was the “uproarious laughter” of two boys who were “having fun at my expense.”

She also said it was not possible that she had mixed up Kavanaugh with another person.

11:04 a.m.: Ford says reporters began approaching her, prompting her to come forward

Ford said she decided to come forward publicly with her accusation against Kavanaugh because more and more reporters were approaching her.

Journalists were sitting outside her home, and some were even “trying to talk to my dog through the window,” Ford said. Another reporter appeared in her graduate school classroom, and Ford initially thought she was a student until Ford realized she was a journalist.

“At that point, I felt that enough was enough,” Ford said. Journalists were also calling her work colleagues, she said.

10:54 a.m.: Rachel Mitchell begins questioning for GOP

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) immediately handed over his questioning time to Mitchell, the Arizona prosecutor hired by committee Republicans to interview Ford and Kavanaugh.

“Ms. Mitchell, you have my five minutes,” he said.

Mitchell greeted Ford with a smile and an expression of empathy: “We haven’t met. My name is Rachel Mitchell. I just wanted to tell you that what first struck me from your statement this morning is that you were terrified. I just wanted to let you know, I’m very sorry. That’s not right.”

Mitchell went on to describe “guidelines” for her questioning, asking Ford, for instance, to ask for clarification of any questions she did not understand.

“I’m not going to ask you to guess, I know it was a long time ago. If you do estimate, please let me know you are estimating,” Mitchell said.

“Fair,” Ford replied.

Mitchell went on to ask her about text messages she exchanged with a Washington Post reporter and the letter she sent to Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.) in late July describing her claims.

Under questioning from Mitchell, Ford addressed some inconsistencies in the letter. Ford said she can’t guarantee that there weren’t more than four others at the party, and that she can’t promise that Judge wasn’t the one who pushed her into the bedroom.

Later, Mitchell drilled down on Ford’s memories of the day the assault allegedly happened.

Ford said her “best estimate” was that she had been at Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, Md., where she frequently swam. She said she had not been drinking or been on any medication.

Ford said she did not recall whether she had expected Kavanaugh to be at the gathering. She did expect Kavanaugh’s friend Mark Judge and her close friend Leland Ingham to be present, she said.

Kavanaugh and Judge, she said, “were extremely inebriated. They had clearly been drinking prior [to the gathering] and the other people at the party had not.”

She went on to describe the premises as having a “sparsely furnished, fairly modest living room.”

“It was not really a party like the news has made it sound,” she said. “It was just a gathering that I assumed was going to lead to a party later on.”

Kavanaugh and Judge, she said, tended to attend parties that were held later than she was typically allowed to stay out.

10:53 a.m.: In Milwaukee, hearing observers react to Ford

MILWAUKEE — At Coffeetails — a coffee shop that also sells liquor in the morning — Ford’s face first flashed on the small TV screen about 9 a.m. local time.

“She looks terrified,” said one man at the bar.

“Worse than a deer in headlights,” replied another.

“What do you expect?” said a woman nearby.

By 8:30 a.m., a half-hour before the hearing, the bar hosted about 20 patrons, including three nurses still in the scrubs they wore to the night before, and about 10 men sitting at the bar. Germaine, the 59-year-old bartender, held court behind the bar.

Paul Chier, 49, was nursing a morning cocktail. Before the hearing began, he said he’d seen Kavanaugh in earlier interviews, and found him unconvincing.

“He kept saying his focus was church and sports and school,” he said. “But everyone else who knew him then is saying he was a drunk, and an angry drunk.”

10:50 a.m.: Senators listen intently to Ford’s speech

The 21 members of the Senate Judiciary Committee looked on with clear attention as an emotional Ford testified in vivid detail about her allegation that Kavanaugh assaulted her.

Numerous senators leaned forward in their seats, elbows on the table, listening intently. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a key swing vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination, looked especially gripped by her testimony, with his hands folded in front of his face.

10:42 a.m.: Ford details alleged assault in emotional opening

A visibly emotional Ford began her testimony before the Judiciary Committee, telling senators, “I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified.”

The story is one she has recounted before to The Washington Post and in a confidential letter to her congressional representatives, Ford said. She acknowledged that she doesn’t have “all the answers, and I don’t remember as much as I would like to,” but the key details, “I will never forget” because “they have been seared into my memory.”

Ford detailed the party where she said she was assaulted, naming other people who she said were there. They included Kavanaugh, Mark Judge and a boy named “PJ,” as well as a female friend, Leland Keyser, she said.

At one point when they were upstairs, “Brett and Mark came into the bedroom and locked the door behind them. There was music playing in the bedroom,” and Kavanaugh and Judge turned up the volume, she said.

Kavanaugh then groped her and tried to take off Ford’s clothes, including her one-piece bathing suit, she said. “I believed he was going to rape me,” she said, saying she thought that Kavanaugh was “going to accidentally kill me.”

She was able to get out and leave the room, Ford said.

“I did not want to tell my parents,” said Ford, who was 15 at the time. “I convinced myself that because Brett did not rape me, I should just move on.”

Throughout her statement, Ford read from prepared remarks. With her voice cracking at times, Ford told senators how she came to tell her story despite deep reservations about going public.

“I believed that if I came forward, my voice would be drowned out by a chorus of powerful supporters” of Kavanaugh, she said.

The response to her allegations, Ford said, has been worse than she imagined, and she described in vivid terms how her family has faced threats and been forced to relocate from its home.

“I have been called the most vile and hateful names imaginable. These messages, while far fewer than the expressions of support, have been terrifying to receive and have rocked me to my core,” she said.

Ford forcefully defended herself, saying she was not motivated by politics.

“I am a fiercely independent person and I am no one’s pawn. My motivation in coming forward was to provide the 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.”

10:33 a.m.: Ford sworn in before testifying

10:18 a.m.: Feinstein praises Ford, blasts Republicans for ‘rush to judgment’

In opening remarks, Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) praised Ford for her “strength and bravery in coming forward. I know it’s hard.”

Feinstein lamented that sexual violence is a serious problem that goes largely unseen and drew immediate parallels to the testimony in 1991 of Anita Hill during confirmation hearings for Justice Clarence Thomas.

“While young women are standing up and saying, ‘no more,’ our institutions have not progressed in how they treat women when they come forward,” Feinstein said.

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Feinstein recalled watching Hill’s televised testimony from an airport terminal and described how poorly Hill was treated by an all-male Senate committee, “accused of lying, attacked and her credibility put to the test throughout the process.”

The California Democrat went on to blast Republicans for not holding a more thorough hearing to examine the claims of Ford and two other women who accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct.

“What I find most inexcusable is this rush to judgment, the unwillingness to take these kinds of allegations at face value and look at them for what they are — a real question of character for someone who is looking for a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court,” Feinstein said.

She went on to use the words of Republican senators who, in recent weeks, have sought to minimize the seriousness of Ford’s claims.

“Today our Republican colleagues say this is a ‘hiccup,’ Dr. Ford is ‘mixed up,’ and declaring, ‘I’ll listen to the lady, but we’re going to bring this to a close,’” she said, bringing particular attention to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) claim that Republicans would “plow right through” with Kavanaugh’s nomination.

She concluded: “This is not a trial of Dr. Ford. It’s a job interview for Judge Kavanaugh. Is Brett Kavanaugh who we want on the most prestigious court in our country. Is he the best we can do?”

10:08 a.m.: Grassley turns from sympathetic to combative in opening statement

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) began Thursday’s monumental hearing with a sympathetic tone, condemning the stream of threats that have poured in against Ford and Kavanaugh.

“Both Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh have been through terrible couple weeks. They and their families have received vile threats. What they have endured ought to be considered by all of us as unacceptable,” Grassley said. “I intend hopefully for today’s hearing to be safe, comfortable and dignified for both of our witnesses.”

But he then immediately launched into a fierce defense of how Republicans have investigated Ford’s accusations, and how Feinstein handled the allegation when she was first notified of it in July.

“These allegations could’ve been investigated in a way that maintained the confidentiality” that Ford wanted, Grassley said. “This is a shameful way to treat our witness who insisted on confidentiality.”

Democrats, Grassley said, have “every step of the way” refused to participate in the committee’s investigation of allegations from Ford and other women. Grassley also defended the hiring of Mitchell, saying it would be a “stark contrast in the grandstanding and chaos from the other side” in Kavanaugh’s previous confirmation hearing.

10:03 a.m.: Ford takes her seat at the witness table

She was flanked by lawyers Debra Katz and Michael R. Bromwich. Another attorney, Lisa Banks, sat behind her.

9:49 a.m.: Inside the hearing room

The location where Ford and Kavanaugh will testify is the regular hearing room for the Judiciary Committee in the Dirksen Senate Office Building — a much smaller space than the room where Kavanaugh appeared during his marathon confirmation hearings earlier this month.

Senate staff have made room for about four dozen members of the press, about twice what is usually available in the room. Behind the main witness table, there are 47 chairs — about 16 reserved for the testifying witnesses, Kavanaugh and Ford; four for members of Congress; and the rest for other guests. Security is tight, and members of the public are not being admitted without a ticket.

There is also a small table in front of the Republican side of the dais designated for Mitchell, the Arizona prosecutor hired by the GOP for today’s hearing to handle their questioning.

Mitchell arrived at 9:53 a.m. with a pad of paper and a pen in hand.

9:43 a.m.: Trump aides defend Kavanaugh before hearing

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway suggested during a television interview Thursday morning that Ford, who has accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her while both were teenagers, may have the wrong man.

“They may both be right, that she had something very awful happen to her when she was 15 and that Judge Kavanaugh was not there and not involved whatsoever,” Conway said during an appearance on Fox News. “They could both be correct.”

Conway’s appearance was part of an effort by the White House to try to frame the day for Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.

During a separate appearance on NBC’s “Today” show, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders sought to explain why Trump has stood by Kavanaugh in the midst of multiple allegations of sexual misconduct.

“He knows him,” Sanders said. “He knows the type of individual he is. He knows the extensive background-check process that he’s been through and the fact that none of these things have come up.”

9:37 a.m.: Senate GOP makes late-hour mention of possible other attackers of Ford

On the eve of a high-stakes hearing for Kavanaugh, Republicans on the Judiciary Committee disclosed late Wednesday that they had questioned two men who say they, not Kavanaugh, had the encounter with Ford that led to her sexual assault allegations, but offered no evidence to back up either claim.

The late-night release of the committee’s investigative material about 12 hours before the scheduled hearing further inflamed tensions between Republicans and Democrats, who said they felt ambushed.

The disclosure of potentially exculpatory material was included in a larger timeline of the committee staff’s investigative work released by Grassley.

Neither man claiming responsibility is identified by name, and there is no indication that either intends to come forward publicly.

The committee declined to comment further than what was outlined in the news release when asked why Grassley’s staff interviewed the two men who separately say they might have had the alleged encounter with Ford, how they found the men and whether the committee found them credible.

Read more here.

9:33 a.m.: Grassley enters hearing room as police seek to control hallway chaos

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) entered the hearing room about 30 minutes before the event was scheduled to begin. Asked what he was hoped for ahead of Ford’s testimony, he told reporters, “A fair hearing.”

Meanwhile, dozens of Capitol Police officials lined the hallway of the Dirksen Senate Office Building’s second floor, where the hearing will take place. Over 10 guards were stationed outside each elevator, with makeshift barriers to prevent protesters from entering. The security was so tight that White House counsel Donald McGahn was delayed for several minutes before he could enter the hearing.

“Right now I have an open mind and a closed mouth,” Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) told reporters when asked what he planned to ask Ford. He told reporters Wednesday that he would likely yield his allocated question time to Mitchell.

9:32 a.m.: Hearing to echo 1991 testimony from Anita Hill

The scene on Capitol Hill was not so different 27 years ago as Anita Hill prepared to testify against Clarence Thomas.

Hill’s testimony galvanized a movement that tripled the number of female senators in Congress and turned women’s representation into a rallying cry in political races around the country.

Ford will testify today as a record number of women vie for office in the midterm elections.

In her 1997 book, Hill described the experience of entering the hearing room for the first time. She did not know, she wrote, that she would be testifying for eight hours.

The chaotic scene “startled me momentarily,” she wrote in “Speaking Truth to Power.”

“The focal point of the large room was a long table draped in a bright green cloth . . . Immediately to my right and left were throngs of photographers; behind me were my advisers, more journalists, staffers, and other nameless observers. In front of me, facing me and the bank of journalists, was the Senate Judiciary Committee — fourteen white men dressed in dark gray suits.”

Read more here.

9:07 a.m.: Ford, Kavanaugh share written testimony

Both Ford and Kavanaugh will deliver opening statements and take questions from senators on Thursday. The two have already shared their prepared remarks with the press.

In her statement, Ford describes her alleged assault in detail.

“I was pushed onto the bed and Brett got on top of me. He began running his hands over my body and grinding his hips into me . . . Brett groped me and tried to take off my clothes. He had a hard time because he was so drunk, and because I was wearing a one-piece bathing suit under my clothes. I believed he was going to rape me. I tried to yell for help. When I did, Brett put his hand over my mouth to stop me from screaming. This was what terrified me the most, and has had the most lasting impact on my life,” her statement reads.

In his statement, Kavanaugh strongly denies the allegations.

“I categorically and unequivocally deny the allegation against me by Dr. Ford. I never had any sexual or physical encounter of any kind with Dr. Ford. I am not questioning that Dr. Ford may have been sexually assaulted by some person in some place at some time. But I have never done that to her or to anyone. I am innocent of this charge,” his statement reads.

8:54 a.m.: A look at Ford’s background

Thursday’s hearing will be the public’s first chance to see and listen to Ford speak about her allegations. Earlier this week, The Post look at her personal history, including her upbringing in the D.C. suburbs, and spoke with her husband about their experience in the national spotlight:

On the day that Ford publicly identified herself as Kavanaugh’s accuser in an interview with The Washington Post, her husband was driving their 15-year-old son and his friends from a soccer tournament in Lake Tahoe. He couldn’t answer the calls that were blowing up his phone; by the time they reached home, a crowd of reporters was waiting.

Russell struggled to explain it to his children. “I said that Mommy had a story about a Supreme Court nominee, and now it’s broken into the news, and we can’t stay in the house anymore,” he recalled. The family was separated for days, with the boys staying with friends and their parents living at a hotel. They’ve looked into a security service to escort their children to school.

Read more here.

8 a.m.: In first public comments, another accuser says Kavanaugh doesn’t deserve Supreme Court seat

In her first public comments, Julie Swetnick, who has accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct in high school, said in an interview broadcast Thursday that Kavanaugh does not deserve a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court.

“If he’s going to have that seat legitimately, all of these things should be investigated because from what I experienced firsthand, I don’t believe he belongs on the Supreme Court,” Swetnick says in an interview for the Showtime series, “The Circus.”

“I just want the facts to come out and I want it to be just and I want the American people to have those facts and judge for themselves.”

On Wednesday, Swetnick accused Kavanaugh of being physically abusive toward girls in high school and present at a house party in 1982 where she says she was the victim of a “gang rape.”

Swetnick, a Washington resident, is represented by celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti, who revealed her identity on Twitter and posted her photograph on Wednesday.

In the interview, she said she did not deliberately time her emergence as an accuser for the eve of Thursday’s Senate hearing featuring Ford.

“It wasn’t that I wanted to come out one day before the hearings,” she said. “Circumstances brought it out that way.”

Watch a clip of the interview here.

Further reading:

The Fix: A viewer’s guide to the Kavanaugh hearing

The Fix: 7 things to watch for in Thursday’s Kavanaugh hearing

Kavanaugh’s opening statement to Congress, annotated

Robert Barnes, Robert Costa, Steven Burkholder, Carol Leonnig, Gabriel Pogrund, Lori Rozsa, Dan Simmons and John Wagner contributed. Barnes, Costa, Leonnig, Pogrund and Wagner reported from Washington. Burkholder reported from New Haven, Conn. Rozsa reported from Lake Worth, Fla. Simmons reported from Milwaukee.


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