Republican senators could not deny Thursday that Christine Blasey Ford appeared credible as she testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. So they didn’t even try.

Instead several Republicans who support Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination settled on a different strategy: Questioning the absence of corroborating evidence that would prove Kavanaugh sexually assaulted Ford more than three decades ago.

“I think most people listen to Professor Ford and say she completely believes what she’s saying,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). “I know she believes it.”

But, Johnson said: “We have to take a look at the totality of the evidence. You know, where’s the corroboration?”

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Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a Judiciary Committee member, described Ford as “a nice lady who has come forward to tell a hard story that is uncorroborated.”

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“I don’t doubt something happened to her, Graham added. But he repeated that Ford’s “emotional accusation” isn’t corroborated.

The reactions underscored the delicate challenge for Republicans in responding to earnest testimony from a sympathetic woman who came close to tears as she testified — terrified and reluctant, by her own admission — against Kavanaugh.

Several Republicans quickly determined that Ford’s testimony had the ring of authenticity. So after listening to her deliver her emotional opening statement and undergo several rounds of questioning, there was no GOP senator who publicly called Ford a liar or suggested she was making anything up.

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Instead, for some Republicans seeking to rescue Kavanaugh’s nomination, the solution was to criticize Democrats over their handling of Ford’s allegation — and point to the absence of contemporaneous evidence corroborating her account.

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Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), the chamber’s No. 2 Republican, said he thought Ford did a “good job,” telling reporters: “I find no reason to find her not credible.”

But, Cornyn said: “There are obviously gaps in her story, obviously we know people who are traumatized have those sorts of gaps.”

Even Kavanaugh himself, when his turn came to testify, angrily denied Ford’s charges and called the entire process a “national disgrace.” But he did not accuse her of fabricating her account.

“I’m not questioning that Dr. Ford may have been sexually assaulted by some person in some place at some time,” Kavanaugh said.

But pointing out that no one Ford has named as attending the gathering in question had confirmed her account, Kavanaugh insisted: “I am innocent of this charge.”

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