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.
Highlights from the hearing:
8:18 p.m.: Committee to consider Kavanaugh nomination on Friday
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said the Senate Judiciary 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.
Cornyn expressed confidence that Kavanaugh would be confirmed, despite the fact that several senators have not declared a position.
“We’re still talking through those issues and I’m optimistic we’ll get to confirmation,” Cornyn said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also said he was “very optimistic” as he boarded an elevator at the Capitol.
Questions had swirled earlier in the night about whether the Judiciary Committee would proceed with its scheduled vote.
Several of the senators who have not declared a position on Kavanaugh — Susan Collins (R-Maine), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) — held a brief meeting in a private office in the Capitol building after the hearing.
Asked by reporters if he believed Ford, Flake said, “I’m not answering those kinds of questions.” “We’ll see,” he said When asked if he was ready to vote as part of the Judiciary Committee on Friday, he said, “We’ll see.”
Sens. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), who supported previous Trump Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch along with Manchin, have also not said how they will vote on Kavanaugh.
Exiting the meeting with Collins, Flake and Murkowski, Manchin said he didn’t know what the others would do.
“Nobody told me what decision they made,” he said. “Nobody has.”
7:33 p.m.: Rank-and-file Republicans voice support for Kavanaugh
Like Trump, rank-and-file Republicans in the Senate reiterated their support for Kavanaugh after Thursday’s hearing, with several calling on leaders to hold swift votes.
Within a few minutes in the 7 p.m. hour, Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) issued statements of support.
“I believe Judge Kavanaugh,” said Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) when caught by a reporter.
Even more senior Republicans seemed ready to move forward.
“He’s going to be confirmed and he should be,” said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (Utah), the chamber’s longest serving Republican.
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said he didn’t “see any reason why we wouldn’t proceed to the markup tomorrow and then go to the floor Saturday.”
“We did what we said we would do for Dr. Ford and gave her a fair opportunity to have her say. It still remains uncorroborated by all the people that were there,” he said.
7:22 p.m.: Lawyer for Mark Judge issues statement
Ford has said that Mark Judge, a friend of Kavanaugh’s in high school, was a witness to her alleged assault. Judge was not called to testify on Thursday and has declined to speak to reporters.
Barbara VanGelder, an attorney for Judge, issued a statement on his behalf after the hearing.
“Mr. Judge does not recall the events described by Dr. Ford in her testimony before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee today,” VanGelder stated. “We have told the Committee that Mr. Judge does not want to comment about these events publicly. We also have said that he is willing to answer written questions, and he has. In addition, he is willing to participate in a confidential, fact-finding investigation. He will not respond to any media inquiries.”
7:05 p.m.: Both Ford, Kavanaugh say they’re 100 percent certain
During the hearing, both Ford and Kavanaugh said they were 100 percent certain their version of events was correct.
Before noon, Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) asked what degree of certainty Ford had that Kavanaugh had attacked her.
“One hundred percent,” Ford said.
Thursday evening, Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) asked Kavanaugh whether he had any doubts that the accusations are untrue.
“Zero,” he answered. “Hundred percent certain, Senator.”
6:46 p.m.: Trump tweets strong endorsement after Kavanaugh testimony
Trump gave Kavanaugh a strong vote of confidence Thursday following his testimony before the Judiciary Committee.
“Judge Kavanaugh showed America exactly why I nominated him,” the president wrote on Twitter. “His testimony was powerful, honest, and riveting. Democrats’ search and destroy strategy is disgraceful and this process has been a total sham and effort to delay, obstruct, and resist. The Senate must vote!”
6:45 p.m.: Hearing adjourns
After more than 7 hours of testimony, the Judiciary Committee gaveled out for the day. Republican senators departed soon after for a conference meeting.
6:41 p.m.: Kavanaugh said he did not watch Ford’s testimony
Under questioning by Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Kavanaugh said he did not watch Ford’s testimony earlier in the day.
“I did not,” Kavanaugh said, “but I planned to.”
He said he was preparing his own testimony.
6:35 p.m.: Feinstein denies leaking Ford’s story
The top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee responded pointedly to accusations by Republicans that she had been secretly hiding Ford’s allegation to spring it on Kavanaugh in the lead up to a committee vote.
“I did not hide Dr. Ford’s allegations. I did not leak her story. She asked me to hold it confidential and I kept it confidential as she asked,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said.
“She was forced to come forward and her greatest fear was realized.”
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) spoke up to ask Feinstein whether he staff had leaked the letter describing Ford’s allegations.
Feinstein said she had not asked her staff about it; her staff director then whispered in her ear that she had in fact already asked about it: “The answer is no,” Feinstein told Cornyn.
Later, as Republicans continued to insinuate that Democrats had leaked the letter in order to create a firestorm, Feinstein speculated that a friend of Ford’s might have spoken to a reporter about it.
“It did not leak from us, I assure you of that,” Feinstein said.
6:33 p.m.: Republicans express sympathy for Kavanaugh, offer apologies
One by one, the Republican lawmakers questioning Kavanaugh bemoaned the timing of the allegations against the judge and they apologized profusely for the damage done to his reputation and to his family.
“This is a national disgrace, the way you’re being treated,” said Hatch.
“You’ve been treated unfairly,” said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.).
“Watching your mother’s pained face has been heart-wrenching as she’s seen your name dragged through the mud,” said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.).
The Republicans apologizing to Kavanaugh had deferred to Arizona prosecutor Rachel Mitchell to question Ford during the morning session and offered no such apologies to the California professor.
6:18 p.m.: Supreme Court appears to be waiting on Kavanaugh outcome to decide full schedule
Earlier Thursday, the eight justices of the Supreme Court announced that they added five cases to the new term that begins Monday.
It was a cautious return from their summer break: The court usually adds far more cases from the list of applications that pile up during those months. That would seem to indicate that the court is waiting to see what happens with Kavanaugh before making some decisions.
It showed no action on a request to reconsider a lower court’s decision that a large cross on a busy highway just outside Washington is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion on public land. The Maryland Peace Cross was erected nearly 100 years ago as a memorial to Marylanders killed in World War I. The court could still add that case and others at a later date.
To join the Supreme Court, Kavanaugh must be confirmed by the Judiciary Committee and then confirmed by a majority vote of the full Senate. A committee vote is scheduled for Friday.
6:10 p.m.: What Washington felt like during the Ford-Kavanaugh hearings
A rare moment of silence befell Washington on Thursday.
Elected officials holed themselves up in their offices to watch a hearing that captivated a nation. President Trump watched, riveted, and canceled his much-anticipated meeting with Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein. Like much of the city, he was unwilling to miss the Senate hearing that featured testimony from Kavanaugh and Ford, the woman who has accused him of sexual assault while the two were in high school.
Crowds gathered in basement coffee shops around the Capitol, not for source meetings or gossip sessions, but to hold their collective breath and watch as Ford, her voice wavering and cracking with emotion, alleged that Kavanaugh had pinned her down on a bed in the early 1980s and covered her mouth with his hand when she tried to shout for help.
5:32 p.m.: Hatch says process worse than Bork, Thomas confirmations
Hatch called the “circus atmosphere” surrounding Kavanaugh’s confirmation “worse than Robert Bork, worse than Clarence Thomas. I didn’t think it could get any worse.”
“This is a national disgrace the way you’re being treated,” Hatch said, his voice rising in disbelief at the notion that the committee is examining the judge’s antics as an “immature high schooler.”
Justice Clarence Thomas, during his confirmation to the Supreme Court in 1991, was accused by a former employee of sexual harassment, which he denied. That employee, Anita Hill, testified before the Judiciary Committee and was interviewed by the FBI.
Robert Bork was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan in 1987. His nomination was rejected by Senate Democrats.
5:25 p.m.: How Fox reacted to Ford’s testimony
Fox News announcers likened the break between Ford’s testimony Thursday morning and the Supreme Court nominee’s appearance to “halftime.”
Their prognosis of the first half? Not looking good for the home team.
Fox News anchor Chris Wallace called Ford’s testimony “extremely emotional, extremely raw, and extremely credible.”
“This is a disaster for the Republicans,” he said.
Other Fox reporters and hosts shared doubts about Ford’s testimony.
Fox News chief White House correspondent John Roberts piped in the line from the White House, saying that officials, who he did not name, “told me there were a lot of inconsistencies in things she said, a lot of gaps in her recollection but that she was very emotional in the telling of the story.”
5:22 p.m.: Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan calls for delay in Kavanaugh vote
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan joined three other Republican governors Thursday in calling on the U.S. Senate to delay a vote on Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh until sexual misconduct allegations against the judge are fully investigated.
“The governor believes there should be a full investigation prior to the process moving forward in any way,” Hogan’s spokeswoman, Amelia Chasse, said in a statement.
Govs. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Phil Scott of Vermont and John Kasich of Ohio have also broken with national party leaders and called for caution in proceeding with Kavanaugh’s confirmation process.
5:19 p.m.: White House signals that it stands behind Kavanaugh
The White House signaled Thursday afternoon that it remained behind Kavanaugh after a lengthy day of emotional testimony on Capitol Hill that gripped the nation.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted praise for Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who had delivered a fiery speech defending the nominee and attacking Democrats:
.@LindseyGrahamSC has more decency and courage than every Democrat member of the committee combined. God bless him.— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) September 27, 2018
Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, who often channels the president on sensitive political matters, also praised Graham’s remarks:
After excoriating the outrageous and unfair treatment of him, “I intend to vote for you and I hope everyone who’s fair-minded will”. @LindseyGrahamSC to Judge Kavanaugh— Kellyanne Conway (@KellyannePolls) September 27, 2018
Trump has not commented on the testimony, though he has previously said he backed the judge and questioned Ford’s account, saying the alleged incident was almost four decades ago and that she should have reported her allegation at the time.
White House officials were relieved at Kavanaugh’s combative tone Thursday afternoon, where he forcefully, and sometimes tearfully, defended himself against charges that he sexually assaulted Ford in high school. He also faces accusations from two other women of sexual misconduct.
Aides said Trump was watching the hearing closely and liked Kavanaugh’s indignation. He previously complained that Kavanaugh was not forceful enough in his defense in a Fox News interview.
Aides grew concerned Thursday morning that the nomination was up in the air after Ford gave testimony that many around Trump saw as compelling. Trump was also frustrated, the aides said.
Inside the White House, the nomination is seen as a “50-50” proposition, one senior administration official texted late Thursday.
Trump does not get a vote in the matter, and many of the moderate Republicans who need to vote for Kavanaugh for him to be confirmed do not have close ties with Trump.
5:02 p.m.: Kavanaugh claims allegations are a ‘political hit,’ lashes out at Democrats
From the beginning of the hearing, Kavanaugh claimed that the accusations against him were politically motivated. And his anger flared as he was directly questioned by Democratic senators.
Kavanaugh interrupted Feinstein while she spoke, and curtly rejected her questions about an allegation made this week. He similarly cut off Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), at one point interrupting him by again criticizing how Feinstein handled the original letter stating Ford’s allegations.
Kavanaugh also interrupted Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) during his questioning about the judge’s drinking as a younger man, asking Whitehouse what he liked to drink.
At one point, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) pressed Kavanaugh about whether he was being candid about not having drank to excess in high school and college.
“Drinking is one thing, but the concern is about truthfulness,” she said. “Was there ever a time when you couldn’t remember what happened or part of what happened?”
Kavanaugh tried to turn the tables, and asked Klobuchar whether she had ever blacked out. “I’m curious,” he said.
“I have no drinking problem, judge,” the senator responded.
“Neither do I,” Kavanaugh said.
Kavanaugh later apologized for his question.
Characterizing the accusations as a “calculated and orchestrated political hit,” Kavanaugh claimed that they were fueled by anger at President Trump’s election in 2016 and people seeking revenge on behalf of the Clinton family.
His remarks were a sharp contrast from his stance three weeks earlier when he appeared before the same senators and, declining to repudiate Trump’s attacks on the judiciary, stressed the ideal of an apolitical judge.
“We stay out of politics,” Kavanaugh said during his earlier hearing Sept. 6. “We don’t comment on comments made by politicians.”
The hearing entered a short recess at 5:09.
4:46 p.m.: Graham lays into Democrats, calls confirmation process ‘unethical sham’
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), one of Kavanaugh’s most adamant defenders as he faced the allegations of sexual misconduct, ripped Democrats in a furious speech for engaging in the “most unethical sham” he’s seen in his entire political career.
The first Republican senator aside from Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) to speak, Graham seemed like he was unloading anger that had been pent up for days.
“This is the most unethical sham since I’ve been in politics,” Graham said, facing a row of stone-faced Senate Democrats.
And facing directly toward Flake, who has not announced how he will vote, Graham vowed: “To my Republican colleagues, if you vote ‘no,’ you’re legitimizing the most despicable thing I have seen in my time in politics.”
4:21 p.m.: Trump ‘riveted’ by Kavanaugh testimony
President Trump was “riveted” as he watched Kavanaugh’s defiant opening statement and told people in his inner circle, “this is why I nominated him,” according to a person close to the president who was not authorized to speak publicly.
A person close to Kavanaugh said the remarks were not “pre-cleared with the White House.” “This is 100 percent Brett Kavanaugh,” the person said.
Before Kavanaugh’s testimony, a Trump adviser who was not authorized to speak publicly said Ford’s testimony was “certainly credible” and dealt a significant blow to Kavanaugh’s chances of joining the Supreme Court.
The adviser said White House aides watched the testimony with a sinking feeling, with some crafting a backup plan to urge the president to make a new nomination — a woman. Some remain determined to continue to pursue Kavanaugh’s confirmation, thinking he simply needs to come out swinging, and insist that the alleged assault never occurred.
“I feel sad for everybody here,” including for Ford, Kavanaugh, Kavanaugh’s wife and family, the adviser said. “At the end of the day, somebody needed to do better homework, maybe.”
Communication between Trump administration officials and Senate Republicans was limited throughout Thursday, with GOP leaders maintaining that they — not the White House — were in firm control of the confirmation process.
Talk of a so-called “Plan B,” should Kavanaugh withdraw, was muted among senior Senate Republicans, but did crop up privately in conversations as lawmakers and aides watched the testimony and texted, at times anxiously, to each other about what many of them saw as a strong, compelling turn by Ford.
4:08 p.m.: Mitchell begins with graphic questions for Kavanaugh
Republican lawmakers deferred to Mitchell 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 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.”
Feinstein 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.
Later, Leahy pressed Kavanaugh on whether Judge, alleged to have participated in the assault that Ford describes, should be interviewed by the FBI.
“He’s already provided sworn testimony,” Kavanaigh said, then pivoted to criticizing Democrats for their handling of the allegations.
On Thursday afternoon, a lawyer for Judge, Barbara Van Gelder, declined to answer questions about her client until the hearing was over.
Van Gelder told The Post earlier this week that her client has nothing to provide the Judiciary Committee because he doesn’t recall being present for the alleged assault that Ford said occurred at a high school party in the 1980s.
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 as a teenager.
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 but 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 said.
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 on Wednesday.
As he had during a television interview, Kavanaugh described himself as sexually inexperienced as a younger man.
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.”
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.”
Later, Mitchell asked Kavanaugh what he considered to be “too many beers.”
“I don’t know — you know, whatever the chart says, blood-alcohol chart,” he said, briefly flashing a smile.
Mitchell then asked him whether he had ever “passed out” from drinking.
Kavanaugh said he han’t, “but I’ve gone to sleep. But I’ve never blacked out — that’s the allegation. And that’s, that’s wrong.”
Mitchell quizzed him on whether, while drinking, he’d ever woken up in a different location, woken up with his clothes in a different condition or later been told something he did not remember.
No, he said repeatedly: “We drank beer, and, you know, so did, I think, the vast majority of people of our age at the time. In any event, we drank beer and still do.”
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 Feinstein. “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’
Harris took a clear shot at Mitchell 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 Judge, P.J. Smyth and Leland Ingham Keyser 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, Flake, 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.
“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.”
Grassley 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.
Hatch, a member of the Judiciary Committee and the longest-serving Republican in 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.”
Manchin 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.
“We think the more we stay out of it, the better,” said Hatch 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 Klobuchar.
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 Ford, who was watching in silence as Grassley and Feinstein 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 Judiciary Committee bunkered in their offices to watch TV.
1:01 p.m.: Lunchtime reading list
Further coverage and analysis from The Washington Post:
‘I have never sexually assaulted anyone’: Brett Kavanaugh’s opening statement to Congress, annotated
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 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:
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 Judge
Before the recess, in response to questions from Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), Ford described an encounter she had with 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 Cornyn’s behalf.
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 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
Feinstein 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.: Mitchell begins questioning for GOP
Grassley 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 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 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. Flake, 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, 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
Dr Ford sworn in pic.twitter.com/dfKw2Y9clV— Seung Min Kim (@seungminkim) September 27, 2018
10:18 a.m.: Feinstein praises Ford, blasts Republicans for ‘rush to judgment’
In opening remarks, Feinstein 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.
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 McConnell’s 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
Grassley 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.
9:33 a.m.: Grassley enters hearing room as police seek to control hallway chaos
Grassley 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.”
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.
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.
Robert Barnes, Mark Berman, Robert Costa, Steven Burkholder, Carol Leonnig, Gabriel Pogrund, Lori Rozsa, Sean Sullivan, Dan Simmons, John Wagner and Erica Werner contributed. Barnes, Berman, Costa, Leonnig, Pogrund, Sullivan, Wagner and Werner reported from Washington. Burkholder reported from New Haven, Conn. Rozsa reported from Lake Worth, Fla. Simmons reported from Milwaukee.