Kavanaugh Testifies After Ford's Questioning On Sex Assault Allegations
Judge Brett Kavanaugh is next in the hot seat where he will be questioned by lawmakers on allegations of sexual assault immediately after his accuser faced an emotionally grueling morning session before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.
In her first public statements, Christine Blasey Ford recounted details from her alleged encounter with the Supreme Court nominee when they were both teenagers. She claims he sexually assaulted her at a party during their high school years in the early 1980s.
Ford at times appeared to fight back tears recalling her alleged assault. She testified that she felt it was her "civic duty" to come forward publicly. She told the body that she was "100 percent" sure Kavanaugh had assaulted her. Kavanaugh will now face similar questions into his past by Senate Democrats and outside prosecutor Rachel Mitchell, who was selected by Republican members to handle posing their questions.
What Ford has alleged:
- Ford claims that Kavanaugh in the 1980s unsuccessfully attempted to force himself on her at a high school party when she was a 15-year-old sophomore. Kavanaugh would have been 17 at the time.
- Ford alleges that Kavanaugh pinned her to the bed and groped her, trying to remove her clothing
- When she tried to scream, Ford said Kavanaugh held his hand over her mouth
Follow live updates from the Kavanaugh hearing below:
The hearing ended at approximately 6:45 p.m. Republican senators will be convening this evening to discuss next steps.
President Donald Trump tweeted a shortly after the hearings ended, praising Kavanaugh's testimony.
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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 27, 2018
Kavanaugh denies all allegations in final testimony
Sen. John Kennedy asked Kavanaugh if Ford's allegations were true.
"They're not accurate as to me," Kavanaugh said, although he said that he did not doubt Ford may have been assaulted. "I've never done this. Never."
"I'm 100 percent certain, senator. I swear to God," he said.
Kavanaugh says that he did not watch Ford's testimony
Kavanaugh told Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris that he had not watched Ford's testimony, although he planned to do so.
Feinstein discusses her decision not to go forward earlier
Feinstein, the ranking member of the committee, has been repeatedly hit during the debate for not coming forward earlier with Ford's allegations. Feinstein claimed that she was keeping it confidential, as Ford has requested, and came forward with the allegations after Ford had been hounded by members of the press. She denied that she or her staff had initially leaked Ford's allegations to the press in September.
Sen. Ted Cruz asked Chairman Chuck Grassley if there could have been an internal, confidential investigation by the committee, which Grassley confirmed.
Feinstein also said that Ford had talked to friends about the allegations, and that a friend may have leaked the information.
Republicans will meet after the hearing
Reporting by Ed O'Keefe
CBS News has confirmed that Republican senators are set to meet later Thursday evening to discuss the day's hearings, although when and where they will do so is unclear.
The meeting comes as at least five GOP senators have not yet committed to supporting Brett Kavanaugh. In a chamber divided between 51 Republicans and 49 members of the Democratic caucus, the GOP can afford to lose just one vote from their side if all Democrats vote against the Supreme Court nominee.
Booker asks Kavanaugh about Ford's credibility
Democratic Sen. Cory Booker asked Kavanaugh if he believed Ford was a political operative. Kavanaugh reiterated that his family has know "ill will" towards Dr. Ford.
"I said all allegations should be taken seriously," Kavanaugh said.
Booker asked Kavanaugh to say if he believed that people who believed Ford were part of a political conspiracy. Kavanaugh deflected, saying that there was no corroborative evidence from anyone who was there.
Kavanaugh defends his "credibility, character and candor"
Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono asked about the characteristics Kavanaugh believes are important in a Supreme Court nominee. She specifically asked whether "credibility, character and candor" were important to him.
"I think my whole life is subject to consideration," Kavanaugh said. He also said that he believed temperament was important, and "for twelve years everyone who's appeared before on the D.C. Circuit has praised my judicial temperament."
She also questioned Kavanaugh about his college life. He said that he studied and he played basketball, which consumed much of his social life.
Sasse, a key GOP senator, questions Kavanaugh
Sasse -- who has largely remained silence throughout the allegations against Kavanaugh -- severely criticized Democrats for handling the allegations.
Sasse has spent much of his career in the Senate recently emphasizing the importance of civility, and has yet to say definitively whether he will support Kavanaugh.
Coons questions Kavanaugh's drinking habits
Coons questioned Kavanaugh's drinking habits, as alleged by contemporaries of his.
Kavanaugh forcefully defended himself.
Hearing resumes with Hatch: "This is not a monster"
Sen. Orrin Hatch has the next set of questioning, saying it's time to be fair to Kavanaugh.
Hatch emphasized that those who know Kavanaugh love him.
"This man is not a monster," Hatch said.
Committee recesses for 15 minutes
At approximately 5:09 p.m., the Senate took a recess for 15 minutes.
Klobuchar and Kavanaugh discuss allegations of alcohol issues
Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Kavanaugh had a more polite exchange than with many other Democrats. Klobuchar asked about allegations from his college roommate that he was a heavy drinker.
Kavanaugh denied his former roommate's account, referring to redacted testimony in a phone call with Senate staff about the former roommate.
Kavanaugh also denied that he had ever blacked out. He asked Klobuchar if she had blacked out.
"I don't have a drinking problem," Klobuchar said.
"Neither do I," Kavanaugh said.
Cornyn compares hearing to the McCarthy hearings
Republican Sen. John Cornyn cast doubt on the multiple allegations against Kavanaugh, particularly those by Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick.
"I can't think of the most embarrassing scandal for the United States since the McCarthy hearings," Cornyn said. Kavanaugh agreed that this episode had deeply affected him and his family.
"My life is totally and permanently altered," Kavanaugh said.
"Don't give up. The American people are listening to this, and they'll make their decision, and I think you'll come out on the right side of this," Cornyn said in response.
Lindsey Graham unloaded on his Democratic colleagues for what he sees as an illegitimate process. He chastised them for not coming to Republicans earlier with the allegations and asking for an FBI investigation at that point.
"I would never do them what you've done to this guy," Graham said. "If you really wanted the truth, you sure has as well wouldn't have done what you did to this man."
He also offered support for Kavanaugh, and expressed disgust with people he said he once called his friends.
"You're looking for a fair process, you came to the wrong town at the wrong time, my friend," Graham said.
"This is going to destroy the ability of good people to come forward before of this crap," Graham said of the allegations. "You're supposed to be Bill Cosby when you're a junior and senior in high school!"
He said at the end of his speech that he would be voting for Kavanaugh.
"I hope that the American people will see through this charade," Graham said.
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted support for Graham afterwards.
Kavanaugh declines to say whether he would like an FBI investigation
Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin suggested that Kavanaugh turn to White House Counsel Don McGahn and ask the White House to call for an FBI investigation. Grassley suspended the hearing and chastised Durbin for the suggestion.
"This committee is running this hearing. Not the White House, not Don McGahn, not even you as a nominee," Grassley said in return. He added that the committee would not suspend for an FBI investigation.
"I'm innocent," Kavanaugh said. He said that the FBI doesn't reach conclusions. "I will do whatever the committee wants."
"Personally, do you think that's the best thing for the committee to do?" Durbin asked Kavanaugh about calling for an FBI investigation. Kavanaugh sat silently for a few seconds, and then repeated that he had previously wanted a hearing.
Kavanaugh discusses his calendar
Mitchell asked Kavanaugh about his high school calendar, specifically an event on the night of July 1 that included people named by Ford in her allegation.
Kavanaugh said that he would have documented a party like the one where Ford alleged the misconduct occurred.
He also said that he had never been accused of sexual misconduct previously.
Hearing resumes, Leahy asks Kavanaugh about Mark Judge
The hearing resumed at approximately 4:27 p.m.
Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy asked Kavanaugh if he would want Judge to come forward as witnesses.
Kavanaugh repeatedly interrupted Leahy, saying that Judge has "provided sworn testimony." He added that the allegation was "sprung" on him.
Kavanaugh also denied that he was the "Bart O'Kavanaugh" named in Judge's memoir, "Wasted: Tales of a Gen X Drunk." He said that it was a "fictionalized" account.
"You'd have to ask him," Kavanaugh said, when Leahy asked if he was specifically the "Bart O'Kavanaugh."
"I agree with you there," Leahy he said.
Kavanaugh also said some of the yearbook was "farce" and "exaggeration."
Committee recesses for 15 minutes
The committee went into recess for 15 minutes at approximately 4:10 p.m.
Kavanaugh denies blacking out while drinking, engaging in sexual behavior with Ford
Kavanaugh denied ever passing out while drinking, although he did say that he would occasionally "fall asleep."
He also denied to Mitchell that he ever passed out while drinking and woke up somewhere else. He said that no one had ever told him that he did something inappropriate that he did not remember while drinking.
He also said that he never "ground" or rubbed his genitals on Ford, nor did he try to cover her mouth.
He also said that he had never engaged in any sexual behavior with Ford.
Kavanaugh says Swetnick allegation is a "joke"
When asked by Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein whether he would want an FBI investigation, as Ford does, Kavanaugh deflected. He said that he wanted to testify before the Senate immediately.
"Instead, ten days passed, where all this nonsense is coming out," he said, referring to additional allegations since Ford came forward. "It's an outrage that I was not allowed to come immediately."
He also said that an FBI investigation would not be able to come to any specific conclusions. He also denied allegations by Julie Swetnick of sexual misconduct.
"The Swetnick thing is a joke," Kavanaugh said.
"Would you like to say more about it?" Feinstein asked.
"No," Kavanaugh replied.
Committee begins asking Kavanaugh questions
After Kavanaugh gave his opening statement for approximately 45 minutes, Mitchell began asking Kavanaugh questions. CBS News has confirmed that Ford is not watching the hearing.
Mitchell asked Kavanaugh about Mark Judge, whom Ford listed as being present during the alleged assault. He called Judge a "friend" who "developed a serious addiction problems that lasted decades." Judge has denied the allegations, as have other people allegedly involved.
Kavanaugh on drinking, sexual history
"I drank beer with my friends, sometimes I had too beers, sometimes others did, I liked beer, I still like beer, but did not drink beer to the point of blacking out and I never sexually assaulted anyone," said Kavanaugh of his past experiences of drinking in high school.
On his behavior, namely his yearbook references to keg parties and alleged sexual encounters, Kavanaugh suggested it was emblematic of the times where movies like Animal House, Caddy Shack and Fast Times at Ridgemont High were popular.
On his sexual past, Kavanaugh said "this is not a topic I'd ever imagine would come up in a judicial confirmation hearing." Kavanaugh maintained he never had sexual intercourse "or anything close to it" during high school or many years after that. He considered himself to be "outwardly shy about my inexperience" which he said he tried to hide. "I was inwardly proud of it" citing his commitment to his faith.
Kavanaugh chokes up about calendars
"My dad kept keeping detailed calendars of his life in 1978. He did so as a calendar and a diary. He's a very organized guy to put it mildly," he explained, fighting back tears.
He said that he's kept calendars for over 30 years. Kavanaugh said his record-keeping in high school shows that he was not present at a party on a weekend, if that is what Ford is alleging. He maintained that his timeline, compared to Ford's, does not match up in placing him at a party.
Kavaunagh conceded, however that that calendars are "not dispositive on their own."
Emotional Kavanaugh breaks down in tears over daughters
Recounting his daughter asking her father to include Dr. Ford in their prayers, Kavanaugh broke down in tears in the hearing. CBS News' Jack Turman reports that Republican senators in the room, namely Cornyn and Graham, looked distraught as Kavanaugh became emotional.
Kavanaugh: "This is a circus"
Kavanaugh called the allegations against him a "grotesque and coordinated character assassination" that will "dissuade competent and good people from all persuasions" from serving the country.
The judge suggested that the last two weeks of the confirmation process has been a "calculated and orchestrated political hit" that he claims is out of outrage over the 2016 presidential election.
"What comes around comes around. I am an optimistic guy. I always try to be on the sunrise side of the mountain, to be optimistic about the day that is coming," Kavanaugh said. "But today I have to say that I fear for the future."
Kavanaugh denies Ford's account in opening statements
Kicking off his opening statements, a charged Kavanaugh flatly denied Ford's allegations against him.
"My name and my family have been permanently destroyed by vicious accusations," Kavanaugh said. He said the process and the Supreme Court have been damaged in the process, slamming the confirmation as a "disgrace."
Kavanaugh and wife enter hearing chamber
Shortly after 3:05 p.m. Kavanaugh is escorted into the hearing chamber with his wife Ashley to begin his own testimony before the committee.
Kavanaugh's family present for hearing
CBS News' Bo Erickson reports that Judge Brett Kavanaugh's parents have entered the hearing chamber just before 3:00 p.m.
Will Republicans ask questions?
A senator on the committee told CBS News' Ed O'Keefe that GOP prosecutor Rachel Mitchell will question Kavanaugh for the first 20 minutes then some Republican senators will potentially ask him questions themselves.
Sen. Orrin Hatch meanwhile told reporters, according to Politico, "The more we stay out of it the better."
Graham, Cornyn blast Democrats for hearing process
Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and John Cornyn left the Ford testimony blasting Democrats for the process of the Kavanaugh hearing. Graham told reporters that he believes now more than ever that Democrats deployed a strategy to have accusers step forward to "lay this pat the midterms so they can win the Senate."
"I feel ambushed as the Majority," said a flustered Graham.
Cornyn meanwhile said most comments made by his Democratic colleagues "struck me as more political" claiming that they didn't ask probing questions of Ford.
Both lawmakers commended the prosecutor, saying she did "exactly what they hoped she'd do" in her questioning of Ford.
Hearing breaks for 45 minutes
The committee is taking a 45-minute break between testimonies as Ford completed over 4-hour long session of questioning. Kavanaugh will take the witness chair afterwards.
Kavanaugh to be pressed on history of drinking, sexual past
Kavanaugh is expected to once again be pressed on his history of drinking during high school and college as well as his past encounters with women. Kavanaugh has publicly stated that he was a virgin and remained so "well after."
How did Ford's testimony end?
Ford 's emotionally-charged testimony concluded with her recounting details of her alleged assault and providing lawmakers insight into why she chose to come forward.
Ford at one point explained how one of the most impressing memories from the night of her alleged assault was the laughter shared between Judge and Kavanaugh.
"Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter," Ford explained of her memory from the encounter. "The uproarious laughter between the two, and their having fun at my expense."
In questioning, Ford said she took a polygraph test just after a family member had passed away, calling the entire process "extremely stressful." GOP prosecutor Rachel Mitchell pressed Ford on just who paid for the polygraph exam, to which her lawyers, who are representing Ford pro-bono, said that they had footed the bill.
The prosecutor and Chairman Grassley also pressed Ford on past claims that she was unable to travel to Washington due to an anxiety about flying.
Asked about newspaper reports that she had anxiety about flying and wanted Senate investigators to interview her at home in California, Ford said she was hoping to avoid a flight to Washington. "I eventually was able to get up the gumption with the help of some friends and get on the plane," she said.
Ford also told Mitchell that the symptoms of post-traumatic stress that she had experienced as a result of her alleged assault were "multi-factorial," and many things may have contributed to it.
However, she said that "biological predispositions" could have intensified her symptoms, but that she had never experienced anything as "striking" as the alleged assault that would contribute to the symptoms.
Who is the female prosecutor?
Rachel Mitchell, a career prosecutor with decades of experience prosecuting sex crimes, comes from the Maricopa County Attorney's Office in Phoenix, Arizona where she heads the Special Victims Division, which covers sex crimes and family violence.
A GOP lobbyist familiar with the process told CBS News that Mitchell was "a Jon Kyl suggestion." Kyl was described as Kavanaugh's "Sherpa" during his confirmation process, before Kyl was tapped to fill the late John McCain's Senate seat.