Christine Blasey Ford Concludes Testimony, '100 Percent' Sure Kavanaugh Assaulted Her

Thursday, September 27th 2018, 11:13 am
By: News 9

Christine Blasey Ford -- in testimony that left the hearing room silent for much of four hours -- told the Senate Judiciary Committee she is "100 percent" certain Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh assaulted her when they were in high school.

Ford, offering measured testimony that was at times emotional -- her voice cracked as she detailed the allegations and how the assault affected her afterward -- laid out the alleged assault that she says happened at a suburban home in the D.C. area when she was 15 and Kavanaugh 17. Ford described how she remembers Kavanaugh allegedly pushing her into a bedroom and pinning her to a bed, attempting to remove her clothing, grinding into her, and covering her mouth. There is one memory of that alleged incident that stands out, she said, when Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy asked her what her strongest memory was.

"Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter," Ford replied. "The uproarious laughter between the two, and their having fun at my expense."

READ: Kavanaugh Testifies After Ford's Questioning On Sex Assault Allegations

The all-male Republican members of the panel allotted their time to Rachel Mitchell, a veteran prosecutor who has worked with victims of sex crimes. Mitchell probed Ford's story, pointing out some apparent gaps in memory. Ford, for instance, did not say exactly how she arrived home the night of the alleged assault.

Mitchell also asked her about her fear of flying and questioned how it was that she could fly to Delaware to visit her family and Hawaii and the South Pacific but was reluctant to travel to Washington. Some reports had said that she was anxious about flying and wanted Senate investigators to interview her at her home in California, and Ford said she had hoped to avoid flying to Washington to testify.

At the end of the hearing, Mitchell suggested that today's hearing had not been the best approach to elicit the most from Ford's memory of that afternoon 35 years ago.

"Did you know that the best way to recount memories is in a private setting?" she asked Ford and wryly noted, "Five minutes at a stretch in public is not the right way."

Kavanaugh is testifying after Ford in what is, undeniably, an historic day on Capitol Hill. The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a vote for Friday on Kavanaugh's nomination, and it is unclear yet if that will change after Thursday.

Kavanaugh has vehemently and repeatedly denied the multiple allegations against him, including Ford's, telling Fox News that he's "never sexually assaulted anyone" and would not withdraw his nomination.

Below are key moments of Ford's testimony below:

Ford testimony concludes, ahead of Kavanaugh's

Ford's testimony wrapped up at roughly 2:14 p.m., after roughly four hours of testimony, not including breaks.

Kavanaugh is expected to testify later.

Angry Graham suggests Republicans might make up accusation against Democrats if Kavanaugh nomination fails

Sen. Lindsey Graham, speaking to people outside the hearing room during the break, threatened that if the nomination goes down, Republicans will gin up accusations against Democrats, claiming Democrats are never accused of and held accountable for sexual assault.

Former Democratic Sen. Al Franken, however, was a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and left the Senate earlier this year over sexual misconduct allegations.

Ford's lawyers say they're representing her pro bono

Mitchell asked Ford whether anyone is paying for her expenses. Ford said she believed her lawyers were doing some of the work pro bono. At that point, one of Ford's lawyers stepped in to say her lawyers are representing her pro bono.

Ford's lawyers paid for her polygraph

Ford's representatives seated next to her on either side said her lawyers have paid for her polygraph, as is routine.

Ford testimony resumes

"I'm ready," she said, as Grassley gaveled the hearing back into session.

Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, berated Grassley for ceding senators' time to the prosecutor on their behalf.

"This is not a criminal proceeding. It is a confirmation proceeding," Hirono said.

Trump-Rosenstein meeting postponed

President Trump has postponed his meeting with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters Thursday.

"The president spoke with Rod Rosenstein a few minutes ago and they plan to meet next week," Sanders said. "They do not want to do anything to interfere with the hearing."

Committee recesses for lunch

The committee has recessed for lunch. Grassley gaveled the recess at around 12:40 p.m. The hearing is expected to resume 30 minutes later, after 1:10 p.m.

Ford says polygraph was "extremely stressful"

"I found it extremely stressful, much longer than I anticipated, I told my whole life story I felt like, but I endured it," Ford said of the polygraph test she took shortly after penning a letter to Sen. Feinstein.

She said that no one had assisted her in writing her statement for the test. She said she remembered taking the test and crying a lot, but that she was not listening to every detail about whether it was audio or video recorded.

Ford addresses "boys will be boys" mentality

Democratic Sen. Chris Coons asked Ford what she thought of Kavanaugh defenders using the concept of "boys will be boys" to explain his behavior.

Ford said that she could only speak to how this experience had affected her, both in the short term and the long term. In the short term, it affected her studies in college. She also said that it had long-term impacts on her anxiety and her relationships.

"The younger you are when these things happen, it can possibly have worse impact than when your brain is fully developed," she said.

Ford talks about why she went to the Washington Post

Mitchell, speaking on behalf of Sen. Ted Cruz, asked Ford why she had contacted the Washington Post in July with her story. She said that she wanted to talk to senators, but she wasn't sure how to do so.

"I was panicking because I knew the timeline was short on the decision" to choose Kavanaugh as the Supreme Court nominee, so she contacted the Post on July 6.

She also called her congressional representative, Rep. Anna Eshoo. She said that she was hoping to go "the civic route," but that neither the Post nor Eshoo's office got back to her in time.

"Unfortunately neither got back to me before the selection of the nominee," she said.

Ford says what she remembers about the night

Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar said that a lot had been discussed about what Ford had forgotten about the night, but she asked Ford what she specifically remembered.

Ford said that she remembered the specifics of the house where the party was held, including "the stairwell, the living room, the bedroom." She also said that she remembered "the laughter, the uproarious laughter," as well as "the multiple attempts to escape and the final ability to do so."

Klobuchar and Grassley sparred briefly over admitting Ford's polygraph results as evidence. The evidence was subsequently accepted.

Ford discusses her post-traumatic stress symptoms

Ford told Mitchell that the symptoms of post-traumatic stress that she had experienced 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.

Ford also discussed her fear of flying with Mitchell. She said that she had initially hoped for the hearings to c come to her, but she realized that was an "unrealistic request."

"I eventually was able to get up the gumption with the help of some friends and get on the plane," she said.

Committee returns from recess

The committee returned from recess at approximately 11:46 a.m. Questioning will resume until 12:40 without a break, according to Grassley.

Questioning resumed with Mitchell asking about where Blasey, Kavanaugh and Judge lived, in reference to the country club to which they all belonged.

Ford said that the house where the party was held was somewhere between her house and the club.


The map of the area where Ford and Kavanaugh lived provided by Mitchell. / JACK TURMAN

Committee in recess for 15 minutes

A 15-minute break was called just before 11:30.

After the break, Mitchell and the Democrats will continue their five-minute rounds of questioning.

Ford recalls seeing Judge weeks later

Ford recalled running into Judge at a grocery store roughly six to eight weeks after the alleged assault. Ford said she went in one door and came across Judge. She recalled saying hello -- he said hello back, but his "face was white" and he looked "ill," she said.

Judge has not been called to testify, although Democrats have suggested he be subpoenaed.

Ford: I remember the "uproarious laughter" of Kavanaugh and Judge

Ford explained how one of the most impressing memories from the night of her alleged assault was the laughter shared between Judge and Kavanaugh.

Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont asked what she most remembers from that incident.

"Well, then let's go back to the incident," Leahy sad. "What is the strongest memory you have, the strongest memory of the incident? Something that you cannot forget," Leahy asked. "Take whatever time you need."

"Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter," Ford replied. "The uproarious laughter between the two, and their having fun at my expense."

She recalled they were "laughing with each other."

Ford says this is "absolutely not" a case of mistaken identity

Pressed by Feinstein why she believes it was Kavanaugh who held his hand over her mouth, Ford explained scientifically how the brain encodes memories of trauma.

Could this have been a case of mistaken identity? Feinstein probed.

"Absolutely not," Ford responded.

Ford says she worried she would be "personally annihilated" if she came forward

Ford described to Feinstein how she ultimately reached her decision to speak out.

Ford said she hoped to stay quiet, knowing she could get "personally annihilated" for her testimony, testimony that might not stop Kavanaugh's nomination anyways.

Ultimately, Ford said she spoke because reporters were sitting outside her home, trying to calm her dog. And one day, a reporter approached her in her graduate classroom, and Ford thought she was a student.

The "mounting pressure" made her decide to speak out, she said.

Ford explains how alleged assault has affected her life

Ford, asked by Feinstein why she held onto the allegations for so long, said she didn't keep them to herself. Ford said she told a therapist.

But she explained she has experienced anxiety, phobia, and "PTSD-like" symptoms. Particularly in the four years after the alleged assault, Ford said she experienced academic problems and had trouble forming friendships -- especially with males.

Ford clarifies the scene on the night of the alleged assault

Ford, under questioning by Mitchell, clarified that there were at least four other individuals present at the suburban home that night, and it's possible that Mark Judge, the friend of Kavanaugh who was also present, might have helped Kavanaugh push her into the bedroom.

Rachel Mitchell begins questioning Ford

Rachel Mitchell, the prosecutor Republicans chose to question Ford as the Judiciary Committee Republican Special Counsel, began questioning Ford.

Mitchell began by going through statements, including communications with a Washington Post reporter and the letter written to Feinstein. Mitchell asked Ford for any clarifications.

Republicans listen intently to Ford's testimony

CBS News' Jack Turman reports that during Ford's testimony, all senators were listening intently to Dr. Ford's opening remarks.

While Dr. Ford was describing the alleged incident at the party with Judge Kavanaugh, Senators Sasse, Crapo, Lee and Graham leaned forward. Sen. Cruz leaned back in his chair the entire time. Turman adds that Flake appeared to be struggling, sad and disgusted. Flake constantly looked down and had his chin resting on his hand on a few occasions.

Ford says threats have "rocked me to my core"

"The reality has been far worse than what I expected. My family and I have been the target of constant harassment and death threats. I have been called the most vile and hateful names imaginable. These messages, while far fewer than the expressions of support, have been terrifying to receive and have rocked me to my core. People have posted my personal information on the internet. This has resulted in additional emails, calls, and threats. My family and I were forced to move out of our home," Ford said, describing the aftermath of coming forward with her assault allegations.

She said she is being forced to relive her trauma in front of the world. To those who have claimed that Ford's story was politically motivated, Ford testified "I am an independent person an I am no one's pawn."

Ford on stepping forward: "I couldn't not do it"

"I tried to convince myself that because Brett 4 did not rape me, I should be able to move on and just pretend that it had never happened," Ford testified.

Ford said that she felt compelled to step forward after seeing reports that Kavanaugh was on President Trump's short list of Supreme Court nominees.

"I thought it was my civic duty to relay the information I had about Mr. Kavanaugh's conduct so that those considering his potential nomination would know about the assault. On July 6, 2018, I had a sense of urgency to relay the information to the Senate and the President as soon as possible before a nominee was selected," she said.

An emotional Ford: "I'm terrified"

A clearly emotional Ford began her opening statement to the committee saying she is "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."

"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," Ford testified.

Fighting back moments of tears, Ford detailed her account with Kavanaugh which can be read in full here.

Ford swears in

Shortly after 10:30 a.m., Ford is formally sworn in by Chairman Grassley.

Feinstein draws comparisons to Anita Hill

Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein drew comparisons to the Anita Hill hearings in the 1990's to that of Ford's testimony. She said what she finds "most inexcusable is this rush to judgment" and an "unwillingness to take these kind of allegations at face value."

"This is not a trial of Dr. Ford, it's a job interview of Brett Kavanaugh," said Feinstein. "Is he the best we can do?"

Grassley says he's "attempted" to have other accusers testify

Grassley said that the committee has made 8 requests to Deborah Ramirez's attorneys and 6 requests for Julie Swetnick's, Kavanaugh's two other accusers that have stepped forward with sexual assault allegations but they have not responded.

Chairman Grassley apologizes to Ford in opening statement

Grassley gaveled in at 10:05 a.m. to begin his opening statements. He apologized directly to both Ford and Kavanaugh, saying they and their families have been through a "terrible couple of weeks."

He said the process "ought to be considered as unacceptable and a poor reflection the state of civility in our democracy."

Ford takes seat at witness table

Shortly after 10:00 a.m., Ford took her seat at the witness table, seated beside her attorneys. Dressed in a navy blue suit jacket, this is the first time the public has seen Ford since stepping forward.

GOP prosecutor arrives

Shortly after 9:45 a.m., attorney Rachel Mitchell arrived at the hearing room. She will be conducting much of the questioning for the Republican side. Mitchell is currently seated at a desk of her own situated adjacent to the committee panel.

Ford arrives at hearing

Ford arrived in the building shortly before 9:30 a.m., according to a spokeswoman. CBS News' Ed O'Keefe reports that Ford's husband will not be in attendance at the hearing but is with the couple's children in California, according to a spokeswoman. She is here with friends who made the cross-country trek with her.

Trump says he could change his mind on Kavanaugh

During his press conference in New York on Wednesday, President Trump suggested that he could change his mind on Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court, if the allegations can be proven true.

Asked if he would be willing to withdraw Kavanaugh's nomination, Mr. Trump replied: "If I thought he was guilty of something like this, sure." He added, "I can always be convinced, I have to hear it."

Top White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, however, told reporters at the White House on Thursday that the president stands by Judge Kavanaugh and is not looking at any list of replacements.

"The president is not looking at any list. He's watching the hearing," said Conway.

Pressed on his own cases of allegations against him, Mr. Trump on Wednesday said his past experiences have influenced his opinion of the Kavanaugh claims because "I've had a lot of false charges against me, I'm a very famous person unfortunately."

He added, "People want fame, they want money, they want whatever so when I see it, I view it differently."

Abortion rights activists plan to confront Senate Judiciary Republicans

Activists with NARAL, the abortion-rights group, plan to confront Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee before they enter the hearing.

CBS News' Alan He reports a group of roughly 40 women with NARAL were in the Hart Senate office building before 9 a.m. The activists say they plan to break up into small groups and head to the offices of all Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans to confront them as they walk to the hearing.

Abortion-rights activists have opposed Kavanaugh's nomination over concerns that he might curb or even eliminate abortion rights in the U.S.

Mr. Trump himself has declined to weigh in on whether he would support the overturn of Roe v. Wade.

Julie Swetnick says Kavanaugh doesn't belong on the Supreme Court

In her first public appearance since coming forward with allegations against Kavanaugh, accuser Julie Swetnick told "The Circus" that she came forward so close to the hearing because it's been on her mind ever since her claim of assault occurred.

"Brett Kavanaugh is going for a seat where he's going to have that seat on the Supreme Court for the rest of his life," she said.

"If he's going to have that seat legitimately, all of these things should be investigated because from what I experienced firsthand, I don't think he belongs on the Supreme Court and I just want the facts to come out and I want it to be just and I want the American people to have those facts and judge for themselves."

Judicial crisis network releases two new ads in hours before hearing

The conservative-leaning Judicial Crisis Network released two new national ads late Saturday evening in a final effort to push the narrative that the allegations against Kavanaugh are unsubstantiated and a "smear" against the judge.

"It never happened," says one voice over in an ad featuring female Kavanaugh supporters making the rounds on cable news networks dubbed, "Good Man."

Another ad, titled "Unblemished" the video describes Kavanaugh as being dedicated to a lifetime of service to his community, church and family. The ad slams Democrats for "disgusting" and "discredited" accusations against Kavanaugh, and urges viewers not to let a "last-minute smear campaign negate a lifetime of excellence."

Ford explains why she wants to testify in public

"It is not my responsibility to determine whether Mr. Kavanaugh deserves to sit on the Supreme Court. My responsibility is to tell the truth," Ford wrote in prepared testimony before the Senate.

In her remarks, Dr. Ford details her encounter with Kavanaugh once again but also provides background into her decision making process as to how she came to decide to testify in a public setting on her allegations.

"All sexual assault victims should be able to decide for themselves whether their private experience is made public," she wrote in her testimony. Ford said she agonized daily with her decision to speak before the committee and the mounting pressure she was under after her letter to Feinstein went public.

"I have had to relive my trauma in front of the entire world, and have seen my life picked apart by people on television, in the media, and in this body who have never met me or spoken with me. I have been accused of acting out of partisan political motives," Ford said.

She added, "Those who say that do not know me. I am a fiercely independent person and I am no one's pawn. My motivation in coming forward was to provide the facts about how Mr. Kavanaugh's actions have damaged my life, so that you can take that into serious consideration as you make your decision about how to proceed."

Kavanaugh slams allegations as "last-minute smears"

In prepared remarks, Kavanaugh is prepared to testify before the committee that the allegations of sexual assault are "last-minute smears" against him.

Such grotesque and obvious character assassination--if allowed to succeed--will dissuade competent and good people of all political persuasions from serving our country, he claimed.

Kavanaugh maintains that the efforts to "destroy my good name" will not drive him out or intimidate him to withdraw from the confirmation process.

Kavanaugh slams sexual assault as "morally wrong" and "contrary to my religious faith" and once again denies ever sexually assaulting "anyone--not in high school, not in college, not ever."

The remarks also mark the first time Kavanaugh has admitted he often drank in excess, saying he was "not perfect in those days."

"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. What I've been accused of is far more serious than juvenile misbehavior. I never did anything remotely resembling what Dr. Ford describes," Kavanaugh wrote in his remarks.

He added, "The allegation of misconduct is completely inconsistent with the rest of my life. The record of my life, from my days in grade school through the present day, shows that I have always promoted the equality and dignity of women."

READ: Kavanaugh's full prepared testimony

Senate still aims for confirmation vote Friday

While the allegations against Kavanaugh mount, with two other women alleging similar acts of sexual assault in the early 80s, the Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled its potential final vote on Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court for Friday, September 28th -- the day after Ford testifies.

Republican Chairman Chuck Grassley can, however, decide to postpone the vote to late Thursday or early Friday if senators aren't ready.

Sen. Feinstein slammed the current plan, calling the move to schedule a Friday vote "outrageous."

"First Republicans demanded Dr. Blasey Ford testify immediately. Now Republicans don't even need to hear her before they move ahead with a vote. It's clear to me that Republicans don't want this to be a fair process," Feinstein said.

Republicans had long-pushed for Kavanaugh to be confirmed in time for the start of the Supreme Court's fall session, which starts on Monday.

Should they vote on Friday, Republicans could move to keep the Senate in session over the weekend in order to bring Kavanaugh's nomination to the senate floor for a vote by next Tuesday, Oct. 2 -- the second day of the Supreme Court's term.

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.

What to expect for Thursday's hearing

According to Democrats and Republicans familiar with the plans, Thursday's hearing will begin with opening statements from Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ranking Member Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

The two witnesses can speak as long as they'd like in their opening statements, and then senators will get 5 minutes each to question the witnesses. Dr. Ford will testify first with Judge Kavanaugh testifying second.

Senators can yield their time to a special counsel or different senator. Democrats plan to ask their own questions, but Republicans are expected to yield to recently-hired female prosecutor Rachel Mitchell.