Christine Blasey Ford alleged in detail to a U.S. Senate committee how, in 1982, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh threw her on a bed, and then tried to pull off her clothes and stifled her when she tried to call for help, in riveting testimony on Thursday.
“Brett put his hand over my mouth to stop me from screaming,” she said. “It was hard for me to breathe, and I thought that Brett was accidentally going to kill me.”
Prof. Blasey Ford said she is “100-per-cent” sure the person who assaulted her 36 years ago was Justice Kavanaugh. Some Republican operatives had been floating the theory that Prof. Blasey Ford had been assaulted, but not by Justice Kavanaugh.
Justice Kavanaugh denied Prof. Blasey Ford’s allegation and angrily claimed it was part of a political plot to derail his confirmation.
“This confirmation process has become a national disgrace,” he said, appearing before the committee after the California university professor’s testimony. “This has destroyed my family and my good name.”
The hearing marked a collision between the reckoning over sexual-assault accusations against powerful men, and the Republicans’ desire to fulfill their long-held goal of securing a conservative majority on the country’s highest court.
“I am not here because I want to be. I am terrified,” Prof. Blasey Ford told the committee at the start of her testimony. "I am here because I believe it is my civic duty.”
Despite her words, some Republicans insisted what they had heard would not give them any pause in confirming Justice Kavanaugh. And President Donald Trump insisted there be no delay.
“Judge Kavanaugh showed America exactly why I nominated him. 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!” Mr. Trump tweeted.
The committee is due to vote on Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation on Friday and will try to move the vote to the full Senate on the weekend or early next week.
The GOP is pulling out all the stops to tip the court decisively to the right for the first time in 80 years ahead of midterm elections in November that could rob the party of control of the Senate. The Republican base has long wanted a conservative court that would overturn abortion and same-sex-marriage legislation.
The White House has refused to request the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) probe into Prof. Blasey Ford’s accusations. And the Republican majority on the committee has insisted it will not call any additional witnesses or hear testimony from two other women who have accused the judge of sexual aggression.
Prof. Blasey Ford told the Senators that she knew Justice Kavanaugh when the pair attended different high schools in the Maryland suburbs. At a party in the summer of 1982, she said, a heavily drunk Justice Kavanaugh and his friend, Mark Judge, pushed her into a bedroom and locked the door. Justice Kavanaugh attacked her and Mr. Judge egged him on, she said.
When Mr. Judge jumped on the bed, Prof. Blasey Ford said she was able to flee. Asked if she was certain it was Justice Kavanaugh who attacked her, she replied “100 per cent.” Asked if there was any possibility of mistaken identity, she responded “absolutely not.”
Two other women have also made allegations of sexual aggression against Justice Kavanaugh. Deborah Ramirez, in an interview with The New Yorker magazine, alleged Justice Kavanaugh pulled out his penis and tried putting it in her face at a drunken party in a Yale University dorm room. Julie Swetnick, in a sworn declaration, alleged Justice Kavanaugh and Mr. Judge were present when she was “gang-raped” at a party in Maryland in 1982. Ms. Swetnick did not identify Justice Kavanaugh or Mr. Judge as her attacker in that incident, but said the pair was involved in targeting and drugging girls at parties.
Alternating between shouting and crying, Justice Kavanaugh denied all of it, claiming the allegations are a “calculated and orchestrated political hit” and “revenge on behalf of the Clintons.”
Justice Kavanaugh pointed to statements from other people Prof. Blasey Ford identified as having been at the party who said they were not there. He produced letters from high-school friends and female law clerks vouching for his character. He rhymed off the names of women he was close with in high school and he showed copies of his calendar from that summer, arguing that it did not show any party matching the one Prof. Blasey Ford described.
Prof. Blasey Ford, for her part, was cross-examined by a Rachel Mitchell, a prosecutor hired by the Republicans on the committee. Ms. Mitchell tried to suggest that Prof. Blasey Ford had been coached by the Democrats in handling her complaint. Prof. Blasey Ford responded that she had tried to keep the allegation private, and that the staff of Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein had advised her on hiring a lawyer, but that she felt compelled to go public when the media learned of her complaint and reporters began showing up at her house and work place.
Whether any of Thursday’s testimony will matter in the confirmation, however, is an open question. Three Republican senators – Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins and Jeff Flake – remained on the fence; it would take only two of them voting with the Democrats to block Mr. Kavanaugh’s nomination.
But GOP senators lined up during the hearing to affirm their support for Justice Kavanaugh.
Senator Lindsay Graham called the allegations against the judge “a charade.” John Cornyn told the nominee “don’t give up,” because he would “come out on the right side of this.”
Committee Democrats, meanwhile, told Prof. Blasey Ford that they believed her testimony and berated the Republicans for charging ahead with Justice Kavanaugh’s nomination.