Kavanaugh during hearing: ‘This has destroyed my family’
ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Now underway, Judge Brett Kavanaugh and professor Christine Blasey Ford face questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday.
The stakes are high: a lifetime appointment to the swing seat on the Supreme Court. And with just 40 days until the 2018 midterm elections, Democrats and Republicans in Congress know that Americans will be watching.
In the time since Ford’s story was made public, two other women have also come forward with allegations. Kavanaugh has swiftly and repeatedly denied the allegations.
Follow along with ABC News as the high stakes hearing unfolds.
3:14 p.m.: Kavanaugh: “frenzy on the left’ to block his confirmation
With his wife sitting behind him, Kavanaugh was sworn in under oath before the committee, sat down and began to speak loudly and defiantly, as Ashley Kavanaugh, his wife, held back tears.
A visibly agitated Kavanaugh read from remarks he said he wrote the night before and defended his character against what he says has been a full-on attempt on the left to block his confirmation.
“There has been a frenzy on the left to come up with something, anything to block my confirmation,” he said.
Kavanaugh laid out what he sees as the months-long character assassination by Democrats who he accused of seizing on the opportunity, sacrificing Ford’s privacy and his own reputation to further a political agenda ahead of the midterms.
“This has destroyed my family and my good name,” he said, adding: “This has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit.”
3:10 p.m.: Kavanaugh is sworn in, reads statement he says only one other person has seen
With his wife sitting behind him, Kavanaugh was sworn in under oath before the committee, sat down and began to speak. He spoke loudly and defiantly, as Ashley Kavanaugh, his wife, held back tears.
He said he wrote his statement Wednesday afternoon and evening, and that no one had seen a draft except for one of his former law clerks.
“This has destroyed my family and my good name,” Kavanaugh said. He spoke of the “frenzy on the left to come up with something, anything, to block my confirmation.”
Here’s an excerpt:
“Shortly after I was nominated, the Democratic Senate Leader said he would, quote, ‘oppose me with everything he’s got.’ A Democratic senator on this committee publicly referred to me as ‘evil.’ Evil. Think about that word. And said that those who supported me were, quote, ‘complicit in evil’.”
“Another Democratic senator on this committee said, quote, ‘Judge Kavanaugh is your worst nightmare.’ A former head of the democratic national committee said, quote, ‘Judge Kavanaugh will threaten the lives of millions of Americans for decades to come’.”
“I understand the passions of the moment. But I would say to those senators, your words have meaning,” he said. “Millions of Americans listened carefully to you. Given comments like those, is it any surprise that people have been willing to do anything, to make any physical threat against my family, to send any violent email to my wife, to make any kind of allegation against me and against my friends, to blow me up and take me down.”
3:10 p.m.: Kavanaugh sworn in
Kavanaugh was sworn in shortly after 3 pm.
2:41 p.m.: Mood in the West Wing
It is raining at the White House right now – and the president is holed up inside the residence. He is not watching this from the Oval Office in the West Wing.
“It’s not playing well for Kavanaugh,” one senior official there tells ABC News’ Jordyn Phelps.
A source close to the White House tells Katherine Faulders of the early reaction from Trumpland: “It’s still been quiet. Everyone is locked away. The next four hours will decide the Supreme Court and possibly the midterms.”
All the TVs in the West Wing are tuned to Fox News –the volume turned up loud. So loud that when ABC News walked into one office area, an aide had to get up to turn down the TV.
“Watching, just watching,” said senior WH adviser Mercedes Schlapp who was hunkered in her office – the only one with the door open.
Vice President Mike Pence, who had been closely involved with Trump’s selection of Kavanaugh, canceled a planned appearance at a White House economic summit this morning to focus on the hearing, his office tells us.
He is glued to the TV as well.
ABC News’ Meridith McGraw, Alexander Mallin, Katherine Faulders and Jordin Phelps reported.
2:31 p.m.: Alyssa Milano “I’m hoping to hear honesty, but I don’t know if that’s what we’re gonna get”
Alyssa Milano, the actress and activist who has vocally spoken out about sexual assault, spoke with ABC News’ John Parkinson just outside of the hearing room about why she felt it was important to be present in the hearing.
“It was important for me to be here,” she said. “It took me a long time as a survivor to be public and come to terms with my own assault.”
While she says she’s eager to hear Kavanaugh’s testimony she said she doubts those listening will hear the truth from the nominee.
“I’m hoping to hear honesty, but I don’t know if that’s what we’re gonna get,” she said.
2:31 p.m.: Sen. Graham on the case for Kavanaugh
Sen. Lindsey Graham, during the hearing recess, gave a forceful defense of the case for Kavanaugh and the case against Ford.
He was fiery and seemed like he was delivering a speech to rally the Republican troops, ABC News’ Justin Fishel reports.
“We are going to hear from Mr. Kavanagh, Judge Kavanaugh. I have been a judge, prosecutor, and a defense attorney. When it comes to where it happened, I still don’t know. I don’t know whether it happened. She says she is 100 percent certain it did happen. I bet you judge Kavanaugh will say I’m 100% sure I didn’t do it.” Graham said.
“The people named say they don’t know what Ms. Ford is talking about. She can’t tell us how she got home and how she got there. That is the facts I’m left with, a nice lady…. who has come forward to tell a hard story that is uncorroborated,” he said. “This is enough, based on what I heard today you cannot get a search warrant or an arrest warrant because you don’t know the location, time and you don’t have corroboration. As to Ms. Mitchell, that is what I hoped she would do.”
2:08 p.m.: Hearing in recess
The hearing concluded for an hour-long recess after a line of questioning where Mitchell pointed out the best practices for interviewing “victims of trauma.”
Here’s the full exchange.
Mitchell: “Are you aware that – and you know I’ve been really impressed today because you’ve talked about norepinephrine and cortisol, and what we call in the profession, basically the neurobiological effects of trauma. Have you also educated yourself on the best way to get to memory and truth in terms of interviewing victims of trauma?”
Ford: “For me, interviewing victims of trauma?”
Mitchell: “No. The best way to do it. The best practices for interviewing victims of trauma.”
Ford: “Would you believe me if I told you that there’s no study that says this setting in five-minute increments is the best way to do that?”
Laughter from the senators ensues.
Mitchell: “Did you know that the best way to do it is to have a trained interviewer talk to you one-on-one in a private setting and to let you do the talking. Just let you do a narrative. Did you know that?”
Ford: “That makes a lot of sense.”
Mitchell: “It does make a lot of sense doesn’t it.”
Mitchell: “To follow up, to fill in the details and ask for clarification. Does that make sense as well?”
Mitchell: “And the research is done by a lot of people in the child abuse field, two of the more prominent ones in the sexual assault field are Geisel and Fisher who have talked about it and its called a cognitive interview. This is not a cognitive interview. Did anybody ever advise you from senator Feinstein’s office or from representative Eshoo’s office to go get a forensic interview?”
Mitchell: “Instead, you were advised to get an attorney and take a polygraph? Is that right?”
Ford: “Many people advised me to get an attorney. Once I had an attorney, my attorney and I discussed using the polygraph.”
Mitchell: “And instead of submitting to an interview in California, we’re having hearing here today in five-minute increments, is that right?”
Ford: “I agree that’s what was agreed upon by the collegial group here.”
Mitchell: “Thank you. I have no further questions.”
1:36 p.m.: The hearing continues
The hearing is now back from recess, and first up to resume questioning is Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono.
The Hawaiian senator called the hearing “a moment for our country.”
Prior to the hearing, Hirono was a vocal critic of the Republican committee leadership for procedural decisions regarding Ford’s claims.
“I would like to have us come together and figure out what is the best way to proceed,” she said. “Not this seat of the pants stuff, and the latest being a letter from the chairman to the Democrats saying we have done everything we can to contact her—that is such bullshit I can hardly stand it.”
Before sitting back down for the rest of Ford’s questioning, Feinstein told ABC News’ Ali Rogin that seeing Ford now sheds light on the way this alleged incident has impacted her life for the past 30 years.
“I think she’s 100 percent credible and believable, and when you look at her as she how she must have been when she was 15, you see the enormity of what happened to her,” Feinstein said.
1:31 p.m.: The hearing watched around the country
Americans are watching.
Glued to their TVs, laptops and phone screens as the watch Ford’s testimony and the ongoing hearing, some Americans are watching on planes, some from classrooms, and others in conference rooms. Here is a look at audiences from across the country.
12:52 p.m.: Here’s what happening on the sidelines
On the sidelines of the high stake hearing, Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch opined on Ford credibility saying: “I don’t find her un-credible. I think she’s an attractive, Good witness.”
When pressed further by ABC News’ Ben Siegel, about what he means by “attractive,” he responded, “In other words, pleasing … she’s attractive, a nice person. I wish her well.”
His spokesman, Matt Whitlock later sought to clarify the remarks.
“Hatch uses ‘attractive’ to describe personalities, not appearances,” he said. “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.”
Earlier in the week, Hatch challenged Ford’s account telling CNN on Monday he believed she must be “mistaken” about Kavanaugh as the accuser.
The president might be keeping silent (at least publicly) on the ongoing hearing, but his son, Donald Trump Jr. took to Twitter to challenge Ford’s claim that she has a fear of flying.
This fear, she said, was why she was adverse to coming to Washington to testify.
ABC News’ Mary Bruce caught up with a few senators in the halls of the Dirksen building on Capitol Hill, as they filed out of the hearing room one-by-one.
“Just in the last hour, three different women have reached out to me who I know from Delaware to share with me their stories of surviving sexual assault,” Sen. Coons said. “I’ve heard from other senators this is also happening to their offices and to them personally. So first, it is striking how many survivors of sexual assault are watching and are choosing this moment to come forward with their accounts. I think that speaks to what a public service is being done here by having a measured and respectful hearing of Dr. Ford’s allegations.”
Sen. Klobuchar’s take on her GOP counterparts?
“I think that they look muted,” the Minnesota senator said. “They’re sitting there, they look like they want to respond, but they made a decision not to really do their constitutional duty and participate in this hearing. That’s their choice. What I think the big lesson that came out of this is that this woman is extraordinary. She’s calm. She’s honest. And I think that’s what our colleagues on the other side of the aisle are seeing today.”
Sen. Blumenthal reaffirmed those sentiments, telling ABC News, “In my view, Dr. Blasey Ford has been highly believable, and there’s a burden now on Judge Kavanaugh to rebut these serious and credible allegations.”
Among those watching history from inside the room are two students in uniform from Holton Arms — the same school that Ford attended at the time of the alleged incident, ABC News’ Tara Palmeri reports.
The two high school seniors have been rotating in and out of the hearing with one ticket. They wouldn’t make any political comments or talk about a culture of partying at Washington D.C.’s elite private schools but said they are there to support their alumna.
12:44 p.m.: GOP raises question on polygraph test
Before the committee recessed for lunch, as they entered hour three of the hearing, Mitchell, the counselor for Republicans on the committee, spent a full five minutes questioning with precision the validity of the polygraph test.
Here is the exchange:
Mitchell: “Why was that location chosen for the polygraph?”
Ford: “I had left my grandmother’s funeral in Fort Lincoln cemetery that day and was on a tight schedule to get a plane to Manchester, New Hampshire. So he was willing to come to me, which was appreciated.”
Mitchell: “So he administered a polygraph on the day you attended your grandmother’s funeral?”
Ford: “Correct. Or it might have been the next day. I spent the night in the hotel. I don’t remember the exact day.”
Mitchell: “Have you ever had discussions with anyone besides your attorneys on how to take a polygraph?”
Mitchell: “And I don’t just mean countermeasures but I mean just any sort of tips or anything like that?”
Ford: “No. I was scared of the test itself but was comfortable that I could tell the information and the test would reveal whatever it was going to reveal. I didn’t expect it to be as long as it was going to be so it was a little bit stressful.”
Mitchell: “Have you ever given tips or advice to somebody who is looking to take a polygraph test?”
Eight Republican senators have now yielded questioning to Mitchell.
12:37 p.m.: ‘A teaching moment’: Connecticut Sen. Blumenthal
Quoting an excerpt from a 2015 book written by his colleague Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, who also sits on the committee, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, read to the hearing room: “Of his prosecutions of rape cases, 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 assailant. I learned how much courage from a deep and hidden place it takes for a rape victim or sexually abused child to testify against their assailant.”
He called the hearing “a teaching moment” and praised Ford for her bravery in coming before the committee to publicly testify against her alleged assailant.
“You have given America an amazing teaching moment and you may have other moments in the classroom, but you have inspired and you have enlightened America,” he said. “You have inspired and given courage to women. You have inspired and enlightened men in America to listen respectfully to women survivors and men who have survived sexual attack, that is a profound public service regardless of what happens with this nomination.”
12:27 p.m.: Ford says alleged sexual assault has ‘impacted me’ for years
Like many sexual assault survivors, Ford described in exacting detail how the incident has impacted her throughout her life, especially during her first few years at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
“It’s impacted me at different stages of the development of my life,” she said in response to a question from Sen. Chris Coons, D-Delaware. “The immediate impact was probably the worst.
“I think I described earlier a fairly disastrous first two years of undergraduate studies at the University of North Carolina,” she said.
She added that once she was “finally able to pull myself together” and cope with the immediate impacts of short-term impacts she experienced “longer-term impacts of anxiety and relationship challenges.”
Coons then proceeded to ask for her response to a frequently used defense by her critics, “that this was a high school incident and boys will be boys.”
“I can only speak for how it has impacted me greatly for the last 36 years,” she said. “Even though I was 15 years old at the time. I think, you know, the younger you are when these things happen, it can possibly have worse impacts than … when your brain is fully developed and you have better coping skills that you developed.”
12:15 p.m.: The first contentious moment of the day
After Sen. Klobuchar asked to submit Ford’s polygraph test results to the record, Ford’s lawyer interjected to tell the committee chairman that the legal team proposed having the polygraph examiner testify, a request he rejected.
“We’ll accept, without objection, what you have asked to include,” Grassley stated. “We’re also requesting and expect the other materials I stated.”
Klobuchar noted, “Mr. Chairman, you wouldn’t allow the underlying witness who performed the polygraph test to testify, nor would you allow mark judge to testify. So I would just like to point out, thank you for allowing the report in the record but that is the reason that we don’t have the underlying information for you.”
“You got what you wanted and I think you would be satisfied,” Grassley said.
“I am satisfied,” Klobuchar replied.
12:14 p.m.: Trump ponders prosecutor’s effectiveness: Source
A source close to Trump says they’re not sure this prosecutor is being effective as they hoped, according to ABC News John Santucci.
11:47 a.m.: The hearing resumes
The Republicans, still yielding to Mitchell, begin their questioning after the brief break about where the location of the gathering was relative to her house, and how Ford returned home after the alleged incident.
Displaying a map of the distance between her parent’s home and the Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, Mitchell asked: “We calculated the distance from the closest point to your house from a mile radius of the country club, and then the farthest point. You can see it’s 6.2 and of course 8.2 miles. And you’ve described this as being near the country club, wherever this house was. Is that right?”
“I would describe it as somewhere between my house and the country club in that vicinity that’s shown in your picture.”
After confirming that it would be “fair to say” that someone drove her to or from the party, as Mitchell put it, Ford admitted that no one came forward as the person who drove her.
11:45 a.m.: Trump, along with the rest of the country, is watching
Upon landing in Washington, press secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed that the president was watching Ford’s testimony.
She added that the president has not spoken to Kavanaugh today.
A close ally and friend of the president tells ABC News’ Jonathan Karl, “If you want her to be compelling, I guess it is.”
11:30 a.m.: Committee enters 15-minute break
Before gavelling for a 15-minute break, Grassley’s anger towards how Ford’s allegation was handled by Democrats was apparent.
“I cannot let it go by what you’ve heard me say so many times that between July 30th and September 13th there were 45 days this committee could have been investigating this situation and her privacy would have been protected,” he said.
When asked by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., “With what degree of certainty do you believe Brett Kavanaugh assaulted you?”
Ford responded: “100 percent.”
Leaving the committee room, Grassley was asked if he finds Ford to be credible, he told reporters I know we need to “take her very seriously.
We will resume after the break.
11:09 a.m.: ‘The laughter’ is seared in Ford’s memory
Two powerful moments emerged amid questioning from Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy.
Recalling the parallels from a hearing over two decades ago during then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas’ confirmation hearing, Leahy said the Senate “failed” Anita Hill.
“Chairman, you and I were both here 27 years ago,” he said. “At that time the Senate failed Anita hill. I said I believed her, but I’m concerned that we’re doing a lot less for these three women today. That’s my personal view.”
“Now, Dr. Ford, no matter what happens with this hearing today, no matter what happens to this nomination, I know and I hear from my own state of Vermont, there are millions of victims and survivors out there who have been inspired by your courage … We owe you a debt of gratitude for that, doctor.”
Shortly after, Leahy asked her, “What is the strongest memory you have, the strongest memory of the incident, something that you cannot forget?”
A poignant moment arose as Ford responded: “The laughter, the uproarious laughter between the two, and they’re having fun at my expense.”
“You never have forgotten that laughter,” he posed.
“They were laughing with each other,” she reiterated.
11:07 am:‘Absolutely not’: Ford tackles questions of her account
After coming forward, Ford contended with questions of the accuracy of her memory, and if this could be a case of mistaken identity.
When asked directly by Feinstein, “What you are telling us is this could not be a case of mistaken identity?”
Ford asserted: “Absolutely not.”
11:00 a.m.: Democrats begin questions, with Feinstein at the helm
Sen. Feinstein in her questions to Ford asked the college professor to describe why she wanted to keep her claims out of the public sphere and initially and what prompted that change.
Her first question: “Why have you held it to yourself all these years?”
Followed by: “Can you tell us, is there any other way this has affected your life?”
“The primary impact was in the initial four years after the event,” Ford responded. “I struggled academically. I struggled very much in Chapel Hill and in college when I was 17 and went off to college, I had a very hard time, more so than others, forming new friendships, especially friendships with boys, and I had academic problems.”
10:52 a.m.: Grassley yields to prosecutor Rachel Mitchell
The stage now belongs to former sex crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell, who is tasked with questioning Ford on behalf of the Republicans.
“I just wanted to tell you the first thing that struck me from your statement this morning was that you were terrified, and I just wanted to let you know I’m very sorry,” she began.
Her first question: “Are those three comments accurate?”
She’s referring to text messages sent on July 6 and July 10 over Whatsapp.
10:52 a.m.: GOP Senators riveted by Ford’s testimony
“Sexual assault victims should be able to decide for themselves when and whether their private experience is made public,” Ford said.
As she makes public the most traumatic moment of her life, you could hear a pin drop in the hearing room.
Senators – in particular, Republicans – are listening intently to Ford. Senators Ben Sasse and Mike Lee are pitched forward on the edge of their seats.
Sasse looks particularly emotional, with a furrowed brow and sometimes squinting.
Sen. Orrin Hatch visibly cringed when the heated details of the assault were recounted.
Sen. Jeff Flake is sitting backhand on chin – listening intently.
This isn’t your average hearing where members are doing other things. They are listening to every word.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar nodded her head when the awful details were recounted.
“Mr. Kavanaugh’s confirmation was virtually certain, persons painted him as a champion of women’s rights and empowerment,” Ford said, taking a brief pause before she continued. “And I believed that if I came forward, my single voice would be drowned out by a chorus of powerful supporters.”
ABC News’ Trish Turner reports from inside the hearing room.
10:40 a.m.:‘I thought that Brett was accidentally going to kill me’: Ford
For the first time, a packed hearing room on Capitol Hill, and the rest of the country heard Ford deliver the intimate details of the sexual assault she alleges Kavanaugh committed.
“I was pushed onto the bed and Brett got on top of me,” she began. “He began running his hands over my body and grinding his hips into me. I yelled, hoping someone downstairs might hear me, and tried to get away from him, but his weight was heavy. Brett groped me and tried to take off my clothes.”
“I believed he was going to rape me,” Ford continued. “I tried to yell for help. When I did, Brett put his hand over my mouth to stop me from yelling. This is 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.”
“Brett’s assault on me drastically altered my life. For a very long time, I was too afraid and ashamed to tell anyone the details.”
10:37 a.m.: Ford sworn in
Ford took the stand and began to lay out for lawmakers the world she came of age in: a bucolic suburban and upper middle-class Maryland setting.
“It is where I met Brett Kavanaugh”, she said.
As she continued, her voice trembling, Ford continued: “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.”
10:27 a.m.: Feinstein rebuffs Grassley’s criticisms in opening remarks
Invoking the rallying cry of the #MeToo movement, Feinstein offered a sharp rebuke of Grassley’s criticism of her handling of Ford’s sexual assault allegation, saying any reticence to push forward initially was “because [of] how women are treated in the United States.”
The ranking Democrat on the committee devoted a significant portion of her remarks to underscore the epidemic of sexual violence in this country.
“Sexual violence is a serious problem, and one that largely goes unseen,” she said.
“There’s been a great deal of public discussion about the #MeToo movement today versus the year of the woman almost 27 years ago,” she continued. “But while young women are standing up and saying no more, our institutions have not progressed in how they treat women who come forward. Too often, women’s memories and credibility come under assault. In essence, they are put on trial and forced to defend themselves and often revictimized in the process. ”
10:15 a.m.: Grassley apologizes to Ford and Kavanaugh for ‘vile threats’
Grassley delivered his opening remarks, spending most of his time recounting the process that culminated in the hearing, criticizing Feinstein for her handling of the allegation of sexual assault by Ford “at the 11th hour.”
He apologized for the treatment Ford and Kavanaugh have both endured since the allegation emerged.
“Both Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh have been through a terrible couple weeks,” Grassley said in his opening remarks. “They and their families have received vile threats. 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. So I want to apologize to you both for the way you’ve been treated.”
“Now it’s up to the Senate to assess their credibility,” he added. “Which brings us to this very time … The testimony we will hear today concerns allegations of sexual assault, very serious allegations. This is an incredibly complex and sensitive subject to discuss and it’s not an easy one to discuss. That is why the senators on this side of the Diaz believe that an expert who has training in interviewing victims of sexual assault and investigating sexual assault allegations should be asking questions. This will be a stark contrast to the grandstanding and chaos that we saw from the other side during the previous four days in this hearing process.”
10:05 a.m.: The hearing is now underway
The hearing that could decide the fate of the Supreme Court is now underway.
Chairman Grassley opened the hearing with remarks, to be followed by ranking member Feinstein.
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