Everything you need to know ahead of the hearing on sexual assault claims against Kavanaugh

"I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanaugh and I were in high school.”

by David Gilbert
Sep 27 2018, 11:53am

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Christine Blasey Ford will tell Congress Thursday about how the alleged sexual assault by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh “haunted” her adulthood and even left her feeling unsafe in her own home.

Ford will speak publicly for the first time about the disputed attack that “drastically altered” her life when she gives evidence in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee at 10 a.m. Thursday.

Her testimony will be followed by that of Kavanaugh, who will strongly deny Ford’s claims.

“I categorically and unequivocally deny the allegation against me by Dr. Ford,” Kavanaugh wrote in prepared remarks. “I never had any sexual or physical encounter of any kind with Dr. Ford.”

But Ford’s is not the only allegation Kavanaugh will face. In the last five days, four more allegations of sexual misconduct have been levied against the judge. Two of the women — Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick — have given detailed accounts of the alleged assaults, while two others have made anonymous allegations against Kavanaugh.

“There has been a frenzy to come up with something — anything, no matter how far-fetched or odious — that will block a vote on my nomination,” Kavanaugh will tell the committee. “These are last-minute smears, pure and simple.”

The Committee released details Wednesday about claims they had from two men that they were Ford’s assailant, though the Committee has not named either man and there are no details of their allegations.

Kavanaugh’s claim that the accusations are part of a coordinated attack on his character echo the words of Donald Trump, who Wednesday labeled them “a big fat con job.”

How the hearing will work?

Following opening statements from the committee chair, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Ford will be the first to testify. She will read her prepared remarks before facing questions from senators, with each allocated five minutes.

Senators can give their time to another senator or outside counsel. Republicans announced Tuesday they had hired Rachel Mitchell, an experienced sex crimes prosecutor, to ask questions on behalf of the senators — though some may opt to ask their own questions.

Following Ford’s testimony, Kavanaugh will face the panel and the same procedure will start again. It is unclear how long the hearing will last.

What happens next?

Despite the high-stakes hearing, Republican Senate leaders plan to hold a floor vote on Kavanagh’s appointment as soon as Monday or Tuesday.

“We need to have a mark up and my hope would be we could have that mark up as early as Friday and be on the floor this weekend," Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican member of the committee, told reporters this week.

Republicans are still thought to be short of the 50 votes they need to get Kavanaugh over the line. While 8 GOP senators have said they will only decide on Kavanaugh’s nomination after the hearing, the leadership is most worried about the decision of four senators: Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Jeff Flake (R-Arizona), and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.).

What is Kavanaugh accused of?

  • Ford says Kavanaugh, together with his schoolfriend Mark Judge, pushed her into an upstairs bedroom at a house party in 1982 when he was 17 and she was 15. She claims Kavanaugh pinned her down on the bed and “ groped me and tried to take off my clothes.” She says he covered her mouth to stop her screaming and she believed he was going to rape her, and possibly even accidentally kill her. Ford says she escaped when Judge, who witnessed the attack, jumped onto the bed and knocked Kavanaugh off her.
  • Ramirez, speaking to the New Yorker, claims Kavanaugh shoved his penis in her face during a drunken dorm party while the pair were classmates in Yale University in the 1980s.
  • Swetnick claims that Kavanaugh along with his group of high school friends — including Judge — spiked the drinks of girls at parties in the 1980s to make it easier for them to be “gang raped.” Swetnick claims that Kavanaugh was present when she was the victim of such an ordeal. “I witnessed Brett Kavanaugh consistently engage in excessive drinking and inappropriate contact of a sexual nature with women during the early 1980s,” Swetnick said.
  • Anonymous allegations: Two anonymous and unsubstantiated allegations were raised in a phone call with Kavanaugh Tuesday. The first relates to an attack on a woman Kavanaugh was allegedly dating in 1998 while he was working with prosecutor Ken Starr. The other allegation was raised by a Rhode Island man in a call to the office of Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and concerned a rape on a boat in August of 1985.

Kavanaugh dismissed these latest claims as ludicrous.

“We're dealing with an anonymous letter about an anonymous person and an anonymous friend,” Kavanaugh said according to a transcript of the phone call. "It's ridiculous. Total Twilight Zone. And no, I've never done anything like that.”

What will Ford say?

Ford has submitted a detailed and emotive account of the attack and its impact on her life.

“I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified. I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanaugh and I were in high school.”

Ford will give a detailed description of the attack that she says happened at some point during the summer of 1982. She has been attacked by conservatives over her inability to recall the exact date and location of the attack.

“I truly wish I could provide detailed answers to all of the questions that have been and will be asked about how I got to the party, where it took place, and so forth,” Ford will say. “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.”

Ford says the fear of being trapped in the room with no way to escape surfaced when she was remodeling her house and she insisted on a second front door being built.

Ford will also talk about her decision to go public, and the fact that it has led to a constant barrage of death threats and harassment for her and her family, who have been forced to move out of their home. Last Tuesday, Ford’s work email account was hacked and messages were sent out claiming she was recanting her description of the sexual assault.

“I have been called the most vile and hateful names imaginable,” Ford says, adding: “It is not my responsibility to determine whether Mr. Kavanaugh deserves to sit on the Supreme Court. My responsibility is to tell the truth.”

What Kavanaugh will say?

In his prepared remarks, Kavanaugh will flatly deny all the allegations against him, and reaffirm that he “will not be intimidated into withdrawing from this process.”

Kavanaugh will say that most of his time in high school was focused on “academics, sports, church, and service” but he will admit that he was not perfect.

READ: Trump just called the accusations against Kavanaugh a “big, fat con job”

“I drank beer with my friends, usually on weekends. Sometimes I had too many. In retrospect, I said and did things in high school that make me cringe now. But that’s not why we are here today,” Kavanaugh wrote. “What I’ve been accused of is far more serious than juvenile misbehavior. I never did anything remotely resembling what Dr. Ford describes.”

What is the President saying?

Trump has consistently backed his nominee. Trump initially resisted commenting directly about Ford’s claims, but in the last week he has lashed out at what he believes is a coordinated hit on Kavanaugh by the Democrats.

During an off-the-rails press conference Wednesday, Trump said of the accusations, “These are all false to me.”

Trump also claimed that women were “very angry” with the allegations leveled at Kavanaugh. “I have men that don’t like it, but I have women that are incensed,” Trump said.

Cover image: Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh looks over notes as he testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the third day of his confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill September 6, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)