Support Intelligent, In-Depth, Trustworthy Journalism.
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused him of sexual assault, are testifying today before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Watch live in the player above. Read more updates on Kavanaugh’s testimony here.
After thanking Ford, Grassley recesses the committee, which will return at about 3 p.m. ET to question Kavanaugh.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, remarked that Ford was “attractive” and “pleasing” during a break in Thursday’s hearing about her allegation of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Hatch’s office told the PBS NewsHour’s Lisa Desjardins that he was not referring to Ford’s physical appearance.
“Hatch uses ‘attractive’ to describe personalities, not appearances. If you search his past quotes you’ll see he’s used it consistently for years for men and women he believed has compelling personalities,” the office said.
Prosecutor Rachel Mitchell asked Christine Blasey Ford during a hearing Thursday if she was aware that three people had submitted sworn statements that said they did not have any memory of the party where an alleged sexual assault by Brett Kavanaugh occurred.
Ford said she wouldn’t expect that two of those people — her friend Leland Ingham Keyser and a man identified as P.J. — “would remember this evening. It was a very unremarkable party … because nothing remarkable happened to them that evening,” Ford said.
The third person, Mark Judge, a friend of Brett Kavanaugh’s who Ford said was in the room when the alleged assault occurred, is a different story, Ford said. “I would expect that he would remember that this happened.”
Mitchell also acknowledged that questioning Ford in five-minute increments was less than ideal, asking her, “Would you believe me if I told you that there’s no study that says that this setting in five-minute increments is the best way to do that?” People in the room, including Ford, laughed.
Prosecutor Mitchell is pressing Ford on whether she was receiving assistance with her legal fees.
Ford’s lawyers, Debra Katz and Michael Bromwich, told Mitchell they were working pro-bono. Ford added that she was aware of some GoFundMe accounts set up with the intent of assisting with costs associated with her testimony. She said her home community had helped with the cost of her security detail. — Erica Hendry
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., notes the outpouring of survivors’ stories that has followed Ford’s allegations. “You are opening up, to open air, hurt and pain that goes on across this country,” Booker tells Ford. “It’s nothing short of heroic.”
Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, criticizes Mitchell for asking Ford detailed questions about her memories before and after the alleged attack. “Sexual assault survivors often do not remember peripheral information such as what happened before or after the event,” she said. “We all know Dr. Ford’s memory of the assault is very clear.”
Hirono added that the hearing was not a criminal proceeding — it was a hearing.
Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, is weighing in on Ford’s testimony via Twitter.
Earlier in the hearing, prosecutor Mitchell asked Ford about her fear of flying. Ford said she isn’t comfortable flying but was “able to get up the gumption” to travel to testify Thursday with the help of friends. Ford said she had in the past taken flights for vacations.
“I’m no psychology professor but it does seem weird to me that someone could have a selective fear of flying,” Trump Jr. tweeted in response. “Can’t do it to testify but for vacation, well it’s not a problem at all.” — Erica Hendry
Why did Ford take a polygraph test? She tells Mitchell her attorney advised her to. “I found it extremely stressful. Much longer than I anticipated. I told my whole life story I felt like,” she said.
Between questions from Democratic senators, Phoenix prosecutor Rachel Mitchell is questioning Ford on behalf of Republicans, asking her to recall the night of the alleged assault by Kavanaugh, along with how it has affected her life and the events that led her to alert lawmakers and the Washington Post to her story.
Mitchell has been limited to five minutes of questioning at a time, per committee rules, which at times has created a disjointed accounting of events. Chairman Chuck Grassley has stopped the clock to allow Ford to reference documents, including maps of her childhood neighborhood and WhatsApp exchanges with the Post. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., has asked for other members of the committee to be granted access to those documents. — Erica Hendry
Sen. Christopher Coons, D-Del., is doubling down on the point that Ford tried to make her allegations known while Kavanaugh was still on the shortlist for the Supreme Court nomination.
“I felt it was very important to get the information to you, but I didn’t know how to do it while there was still a shortlist of candidates,” Ford said.
Coons asked for Ford’s reaction to the attitude that “boys will be boys” as a way of excusing assault and sexual misconduct. “I can only speak to how it has impacted me greatly,” she said. “The younger you are when these things happen, it can possibly have a worse impact than when your brain is fully developed and you have better coping skills.”
Phoenix prosecutor Rachel Mitchell said a Washington Post story over Christine Blasey Ford’s sexual assault allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh mentioned that the incident “contributed” to her PTSD-like symptoms. Mitchell asked if anything else in Ford’s life could have contributed to the health problems.
Ford said the incident was a “critical” risk factor that would have been considered a predictor for the symptoms she has now. She said that doesn’t mean there couldn’t be more risk factors that contributed as well, including a biological predisposition that could contribute to her anxiety. “Certainly nothing as striking as that event” with Kavanaugh, Ford added. — Joshua Barajas
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., said the lack of an FBI investigation is a “grave disservice” to Ford, who has requested such an investigation. “It’s wildly unusual and out of character,” he said.
Whitehouse said he would do “whatever’s in my power” to make sure Ford’s claims were fully investigated.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., asked Ford if she was certain that Kavanaugh was the person who attacked her. “100 percent,” she answered.
The panel is comprised of 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats. Each senator will have five minutes to question both Ford and Kavanaugh separately. Republicans are expected to yield their time to Rachel Mitchell, who was chosen to question Ford. She heads the Special Victims Division at the district attorney’s office in Maricopa County, Arizona.
Christine Blasey Ford said that her strongest memory of the alleged assault was the “uproarious laughter between the two” who were having fun at her expense. Ford was referring to Brett Kavanaugh, Supreme Court nominee, and Mark Judge, his high school friend.
“You sharing your story is going to have a lasting positive impact” for other survivors who want to tell their stories, said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. — Larisa Epatko
In an emotional but unwavering opening statement, Ford said she and several other students had gathered in someone’s house, where she drank one beer while Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge were “visibly drunk.”
When she left the group to use an upstairs bathroom, she said, she was pushed into a bedroom, then onto a bed, as Kavanaugh and Judge followed her. She described Kavanaugh holding her down as he grinded himself against her while trying to remove her clothes. When she tried to scream, he put his hand over her mouth.
“This was what terrified me the most, and has had the most lasting impact on my life. It was hard for me to breathe, and I thought that Brett was accidentally going to kill me,” she said, adding that Kavanaugh and Judge laughed together during the attack. She was able to escape after Judge jumped on top of them and they toppled over, she said.
In July, as Kavanaugh’s name emerged on a possible shortlist for the Supreme Court, Ford contacted the Washington Post’s tip line. She also sent a letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein detailing the allegations and asking to remain anonymous. Feinstein in mid-September passed the letter to the FBI, who redacted Ford’s name before sending it to the White House.
Ford described a mounting internal turmoil in the days before Kavanaugh was nominated to the Supreme Court as she debated whether to come forward. Initially, she hoped providing the information confidentially would be sufficient.
But she said she felt a civic responsibility to go public with her story and give an account in her own words after some details leaked to reporters who began contacting her.
“I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t remember as much as I would like to. But the details about that night that bring me here today are ones I will never forget. They have been seared into my memory and have haunted me episodically as an adult,” she said.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, noted that both Kavanaugh and Ford have received threats over the last several weeks. “What they have endured ought to be considered by all of us as unacceptable and a poor reflection on the state of civility in our democracy,” he said.
Grassley said the committee has tried to request evidence from attorneys representing two other women who have accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct, and that attorneys have not cooperated.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., criticized the committee’s Republicans for scheduling the hearing without an investigation from the FBI. “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 asking for a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court,” she said.
READ: Christine Blasey Ford’s prepared testimony on Kavanaugh: ‘I believed he was going to rape me’
Feinstein noted the challenges that women face in coming forward with stories of sexual assault. “While young women are standing up and saying no more, our institutions have not progressed in how they treat women who come forward,” she said. “Too often, women’s memories and credibility come under assault. In essence, they are put on trial and forced to defend themselves, and often re-victimized in the process.”
Watch Sen. Feinstein’s opening remarks.
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is testifying Thursday in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee to share more about her allegation that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in the 1980s while they were both high school students.
Ford, who attended the all-girls Holton-Arms School in Bethesda, Maryland, said the assault occurred at a party in the summer of 1982 while Kavanaugh was attending Georgetown Prep, a nearby all-boys school.
Kavanaugh, who will appear before the committee later Thursday, has unequivocally and categorically denied the allegation.
In a conversation with Senate Judiciary Committee investigators on Sept. 17, Kavanaugh said he recognized Ford’s name but did not recall ever meeting her. The White House has defended Kavanaugh.
A week after the Washington Post reported Ford’s identity for the first time, the New Yorker published allegations by another woman, Deborah Ramirez, who said that Kavanaugh exposed his penis to her at a dorm party during their freshman year at Yale. And on Wednesday, lawyer Michael Avenatti posted on Twitter a statement by his client Julie Swetnick, who alleged that she attended parties in high school where male students spiked punch with alcohol or drugs to incapacitate women, who were sometimes “‘gang raped’ in a side room or bedroom by a ‘train’ of numerous boys.” Kavanaugh was present at those parties, Swetnick wrote in a sworn declaration, including at one where she was a victim of a gang rape.
Kavanaugh has repeatedly denied all allegations.
Erica Hendry contributed reporting.
Corinne is the Senior Multimedia Web Editor for NewsHour Weekend. She serves on the advisory board for VIDA: Women in Literary Arts.
Support Provided By:
Support PBS NewsHour:
Subscribe to Here’s the Deal, our politics newsletter for analysis you won’t find anywhere else.
Thank you. Please check your inbox to confirm.