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Opinion What was Rachel Mitchell doing?

Phoenix prosecutor Rachel Mitchell before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill on Thursday. (Andrew Harnik/Pool/Reuters)

The last set of questions prosecutor Rachel Mitchell put to Christine Blasey Ford may have been the most remarkable. She asked if Ford knew that this process — five-minute intervals of questions — was not the best way to determine the credibility of a sexual-assault survivor’s account. One might have construed that as self-defense: Don’t blame me for finding out nothing! But it also raises the question as to why a professional prosecutor would agree to be used, to be labeled an “assistant” as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) so insultingly put it, to participate in a farce not designed to get at the truth.

Mitchell then insinuated that somehow Ford should have known how to get a forensic interview, remarkably putting the onus on the victim to figure out the prosecutor’s job.

At any rate, what was obvious is that Mitchell spent virtually no time challenging Ford on her memory of the attack. How could she? It was entirely credible and had all the ear-markings of a truthful witness statement. It was a powerful rebuttal to President Trump and snide Republican lawmakers who chose not to believe Ford. Their hired attorney had no way to challenge the account. No mistaken identity defense is going to work.

Mitchell also revealed through utterly irrelevant lines of questions about how Ford found an attorney, who paid for her to take a polygraph test, who paid for security and other events not in the least probative of whether the attack occurred. Instead, it was her lawyers providing the polygraph and a bunch of sympathetic Americans setting up GoFundMe sites for an assault survivor. Republicans have had no way to discredit Ford, so they’ve gone down a series of blind alleys: It was an evil twin! She has a leftist sugar daddy! Democrats didn’t give us enough notice! Whether Mitchell intended it, the questioning simply confirmed the obvious: This was a woman unsophisticated in the legal process and political warfare who tried to navigate her way through a hellish experience that could not possibly inure to her benefit.

We should apply a higher standard to Supreme Court nominees. Nobody deserves to be on the bench, says editorial board member Stephen Stromberg. (Video: Adriana Usero, Kate Woodsome/The Washington Post)

Mitchell, on one hand, was put in a ridiculous position of fronting (literally) for male Republicans too scared to ask questions. On the other hand, she signed up for the task, whether in hopes of pleasing her client or in subtly rebuking them for setting up a kangaroo court.

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As for the Republican senators, the 10 mute male Judiciary Committee members and one overbearing, grumpy chairman looked as weak as Ford looked strong. They looked on unemotionally as she bared her soul. They were as cowardly as she was courageous. They are ultimately responsible for any torment they imposed and yet may well conduct a whisper campaign criticizing their own lawyer.

As anyone with eyes and a modicum of good sense knows, Republicans’ gutless format and silence demonstrated that they have nothing in their bag of tricks other than innuendo, smears and blind partisanship. It turns out that’s just not good enough when one faces a thoroughly honest and sympathetic victim. They are playing a political game. She is relating a searing life experience.

My goodness, Trump of all people should know what a media disaster it was for them. The only question is how he will throw them and Kavanaugh under the bus.

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