For the second time this month, the Senate Judiciary Committee convened hearings on the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court. The hearings that took place today had a very specific purpose: to investigate Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s claim that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in the summer of 1982. Dr. Ford is one of three women to publicly say that Brett Kavanaugh either sexually assaulted them or was present while they were sexually assaulted.
Many Americans drew comparisons to similar hearings that took place in 1991, when Dr. Anita Hill presented her claims of sexual harassment against then-Judge Clarence Thomas. Thomas was confirmed to the Supreme Court after Dr. Hill’s testimony failed to convince the all-male Judiciary Committee and an overwhelmingly male United States Senate.
In Dr. Ford’s opening statement, she presented her testimony as a “civic duty” rather than a personal choice. She said she battled with whether or not to go public with her experience with Judge Kavanaugh for weeks but decided that it was her duty to do so, regardless of the personal impact it had on her and her family. “I am terrified,” she admitted to the Committee.
Dr. Ford provided the Committee with a detailed account of the incident as she says it happened. The Hilltopper has chosen to publish in her own words to avoid mischaracterizing Dr. Ford’s comments:
“Brett [Kavanaugh] and Mark [Judge] came into the bedroom and locked the door behind them. There was music already playing in the bedroom. It was turned up louder by either Brett or Mark once we were in the room. 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. 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. 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. It was hard for me to breathe, and I thought that Brett was accidentally going to kill me. Both Brett and Mark were drunkenly laughing during the attack. They both seemed to be having a good time. Mark was urging Brett on, although at times he told Brett to stop. A couple of times I made eye contact with Mark and thought he might try to help me, but he did not. During this assault, Mark came over and jumped on the bed twice while Brett was on top of me. The last time he did this, we toppled over and Brett was no longer on top of me. I was able to get up and run out of the room. Directly across from the bedroom was a small bathroom. I ran inside the bathroom and locked the door. I heard Brett and Mark leave the bedroom laughing and loudly walk down the narrow stairs, pin-balling off the walls on the way down.”
The all-male Republican caucus chose to hire Arizona prosecutor Rachel Mitchell to cross-examine Dr. Ford. A sticking point for Mitchell was Dr. Ford’s fear of flying, which led to Mitchell to ask how Dr. Ford travelled for vacation, for work, and to the hearing. Dr. Ford acknowledged she had a fear of flying but that she had to put it aside to attend the hearing, as she did not think it was feasible for the Judiciary Committee to travel to California to meet with her in her home state. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, pointed out that they had extended that offer to her; Dr. Ford said she was unclear what the offer had been.
Another line of questioning from Mitchell related to a 2018 polygraph test that Dr. Ford took, the summary results of which were presented to the Committee. Further documentation of the results could not be released because Senator Grassley, Chairman of the Committee, denied Dr. Ford’s request that the polygraph technician be questioned as an expert witness.
Mitchell wanted to find out who paid for the polygraph test. Dr. Ford was initially unsure as to who paid for it but, after a lunch break, her counsel said that they paid for the polygraph “as is routine” and that they were working pro bono for Dr. Ford.
Democratic senators questioned Dr. Ford themselves. Other than Dr. Ford’s opening statement, when she described in detail the sexual assault claim, the biggest moment of the hearing came when Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) asked Dr. Ford how certain she was that it was Judge Kavanaugh who assaulted her, as two separate men have come forward to say that it was them, not Judge Kavanaugh, who assaulted her in 1982. She said she was “100%” sure it had been Kavanaugh.
Dr. Ford also spoke at length that she tried to make her story known before Judge Kavanaugh was nominated. Reporters and members of Congress, she said, did not respond to her comments and tips in time. This is contrary to the Republican narrative that the allegations were “sprung” upon them at the last minute to try and stop Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination, to use language Judge Kavanaugh himself used repeatedly in his afternoon testimony.
During her testimony, Dr. Ford was collected and calm for the entirety of her time in the hot seat. Her voice wavered and, at times, she blinked back tears, but she maintained her composure. At points, she appeared genuinely sorry she could not be more specific for the Committee. CNN Political Commentator Chris Cillizza described her as “decidedly credible.” He continued, “She struck me as a normal person thrust into an impossible situation. Someone who was doing what she believed to be the right thing.”
When the Committee took a lunch break, Fox News’ distinguished senior journalist, Chris Wallace, said “This was extremely emotional, extremely raw and extremely credible and nobody could listen to her deliver those words and talk about the assault and the impact it had had on her life and not have your heart go out to her. She was obviously traumatized by an event.”
“I don’t think we can disregard Christine Blasey Ford and the seriousness of this,” Wallace said.
Judge Kavanaugh began his testimony just before 5 PM Eastern. Whereas Dr. Ford was calm, Judge Kavanaugh was indignant with rage, shouting most of his opening statement, banging his hand on the table, and breaking down in tears several times.
In his opening statement, Judge Kavanaugh said that Dr. Ford’s claim was a “calculated and orchestrated political hit.” He went on to say, “I will not be intimidated by withdrawing from this process. Your coordinated and well-funded effort to destroy my good name and destroy my family will not drive me out. You may defeat me in the final vote, but you’ll never get me to quit. Ever.”
Judge Kavanaugh added that he felt the allegations had “destroyed my family and my good name. This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election.”
Republican members of the Committee relied on Mitchell to question Judge Kavanaugh just once. She pursued a line of questioning relating to the July 1, 1982 entry on Judge Kavanaugh’s calendar, which he submitted to the Committee as evidence of his innocence.
The calendar entry says, “Go to Timmy’s for skis w/ Judge, Tom, PJ, Bernie, and Squi.” The final name, “Squi,” is the nickname for another of Kavanugh’s friends. These are all individuals that Dr. Ford said were present at the party where she was assaulted, and the location of “Timmy’s” corresponds with her statement that the assault occurred at a home “without any parents present.”
After Mitchell’s questioning of the July 1st entry, Republican Senators chose to question Judge Kavanaugh themselves, instead of using the special counsel and sexual assault prosecutor they hired to, as Senator Grassley said, “de-politicize the process and get to the truth, instead of grandstanding.”
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was the first Republican Senator to question a nominee directly today. He used his time to attack the Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee for orchestrating “a sham” and hoping to “destroy” Judge Kavanaugh’s life, as well as telling Republicans “if you vote ‘no’, you’re legitimizing the most despicable thing that I have seen in my time in politics.” He continued by saying that Judge Kavanaugh was as much a victim as Dr. Ford.
The remaining Republican Senators scarcely questioned Judge Kavanaugh, instead expressing their sympathies for having to face such allegations.
Judge Kavanaugh sparred with the Democratic members of the Committee, shouting at Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Senator Durbin, and Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) as they attempted to question him about the FBI potentially reopening an investigation into his background to flesh out Dr. Ford’s claims. Judge Kavanaugh said that he believed that there had been enough of a delay in the process and that the Committee was doing an investigation.
When Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) asked whether or not he had ever drunk to the point of blacking out, Judge Kavanaugh replied by asking the same question of the senator.
Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) noted the fact that Dr. Ford’s friend Leland Keyser, whom Judge Kavanaugh used as an example of someone who said that the assault never happened, actually said that, while she did not remember the evening specifically, she believes Dr. Ford.
Many students across the campus watched the hearings today. In the Gallo Café of the Roger and Francine Jean Student Center Complex, both televisions were on news coverage of the hearings and many students, administrators, professors, and members of the monastic community, made note of the proceedings. Walking across campus this afternoon, many students could be overheard discussing the hearings, or recent Tweets about the hearings.
The Hilltopper reached out to many students for comments, but most declined to comment, citing the personal nature of the topic.
One student who did choose to comment was Ed Frankonis, ’19. Frankonis said that he watched Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony and that he “was not impressed by how emotionally charged [Judge Kavanaugh] was.”
Nicolette Theroux, ’19, said that she only saw a few minutes of the hearing and didn’t feel informed enough to comment on their substance but added: “All I know is it took a lot of strength and courage for Dr. Ford to take the stand today and I’m grateful she did so.”
The Hilltopper reached out to Timothy Madsen, ’19, Chairman of the Saint Anselm College Republicans for a comment. Madsen replied that neither he nor the College Republicans “have any comment to make.” The Hilltopper also reached out to Olivia Teixiera, ’20, President of the Saint Anselm College Democrats, but she did not return the request by the time of publishing.
A vote is expected on Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination from the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow. A nomination does not have to receive a favourable recommendation from the Committee in order to proceed to a vote before the full Senate, which is expected to occur early next week. Justice Thomas, for example, did not receive a favourable recommendation in 1991 but was confirmed to the Supreme Court in a 52-48 vote.
Many reports indicate that there are four Republicans who are undecided on Judge Kavanaugh: Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ), and one Democratic Senator, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV).
Of them, only Senator Flake serves on the Judiciary Committee. Senator Bob Corker was thought to be undecided but declared that he would vote for Judge Kavanaugh.
Senator Flake is scheduled to speak at the NHIOP on Monday, October 1.