Inside the room for Kavanaugh’s testimony on sexual assault allegations

For the first half of Thursday, while Professor Christine Blasey Ford alleged to the Senate Judiciary Committee that Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school, the Supreme Court nominee did not watch. He instead prepared for his own grueling testimony, which consumed the second half of this historic Washington day.

During his testimony, Kavanaugh displayed a full range of emotions: anger at the process, defiance toward Democratic senators and grief over the harm done to his family and reputation. He repeatedly, emphatically denied Ford’s allegations.

This, in photos and video, is how his testimony unfolded.

Cover image: Matt McClain/The Washington Post

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Before Kavanaugh faced the committee, Ford recalled her memory of a gathering on a 1982 summer night when she and the nominee were teenagers.

She testified that Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge held her in an upstairs bedroom, where she said Kavanaugh groped and tried to undress her, then held a hand over her mouth when she tried to scream for help. She broke away, hid in a bathroom and fled the house, she said.

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Kavanaugh submitted prepared remarks to the committee before the hearing, but his opening statement on Thursday stretched far longer than anticipated. His tone shifted throughout, from firm and enraged to quiet and sad. His voice cracked. At times, he verged on tears.

Kavanaugh was most emotional when discussing those close to him — his friends, his father, his wife and children.

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The setting of the alleged assault — a party with alcohol — opened Kavanaugh to questions about his drinking habits and inebriated behavior. He denied blacking out and sexually assaulting Ford or anyone else. He also told the committee he remained a virgin throughout high school and college.

Even still, senators inquired about statements from a former college roommate of Kavanaugh, who said he was often “aggressive and belligerent” when drunk. They mentioned Mark Judge’s book, “Wasted: Tales of a Gen X Drunk,” in which it is speculated that a “Bart O’Kavanaugh” character is a fictionalized version of Kavanaugh.

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Kavanaugh asked the committee members to judge him the way they would want their male family members and friends to be judged. He clearly declared his innocence and closed his statement by loudly slamming shut his binder.

Ranking Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein began the question portion by asking why Kavanaugh had not asked for an FBI investigation, even though each woman who had accused him of sexual misconduct — Ford, Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick — already had. Nearly every Democratic senator that followed Feinstein asked a version of that question.

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The order of questioning alternated between the Democratic and Republican senators, who were each allotted five minutes. When Ford testified, career sex crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell spoke on behalf of each Republican committee member — all of whom are men. During Kavanaugh’s testimony, Mitchell again asked questions before the Republican senators took over.

Mitchell presented the nominee with definitions of sexual acts and asked if he performed those acts. Mitchell later questioned Kavanaugh two more times, choosing to discuss — once again — beer and social gatherings.

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As the Democrats pressed Kavanaugh on the allegations, his refusal to ask for an FBI investigation and the validity of old calendars documenting the judge’s activities in 1982, tension built inside the hearing room.

When Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) delivered an angry, impassioned speech, the tone of the hearing shifted. Graham defended Kavanaugh, blamed Democratic senators for prolonging the process for political gain then, jarringly, name-dropped two other sitting Supreme Court associate justices whose confirmation hearings he observed.

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Melina Mara/The Washington Post

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During her questioning, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) once again asked Kavanaugh if he would be willing to request an FBI investigation into Ford’s allegations. The committee was not allowed to hear from any other witnesses, like Judge — the other man Ford placed in the room during the assault — or the man who administered a polygraph test that the professor took.

Kavanaugh avoided answering the question directly and repeatedly interrupted Klobuchar. When she asked him if there had ever been a case where he’d drank so much he’d lost his memory, the interaction escalated even further.

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The committee took a brief recess, and when they returned, Kavanaugh apologized. The rest of his testimony was notably less combative.

Of the Democratic committee members, Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.) and Sen. Kamala Harris (Calif.) were the last to address Kavanaugh. With direct questions, they pushed him to answer “yes” or “no.” He would not.

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The emotionally-charged, exhaustive proceedings wrapped with comments from three Republican senators: Ted Cruz of Texas, Jeff Flake of Arizona and John Kennedy of Louisiana.

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After more than seven hours of testimony, the committee adjourned at 6:45 p.m. and Republican senators departed soon after for a conference meeting. President Trump in a tweet called Kavanaugh’s testimony “powerful, honest, and riveting,” then urged the Senate to move forward on a confirmation vote.

Less than two hours later, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said the committee will vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination as planned on Friday, with procedural votes on Saturday and Monday and a final confirmation vote on Tuesday.