A “terrified” Christine Blasey Ford described in graphic detail how she says Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a party when the two were teenagers, telling the Senate Judiciary Committee she “believed he was going to rape me” at an extraordinary hearing Thursday as the nation watched.
Ford said that at a party when she was 15 and Kavanaugh was 17, the two were at a house party in Maryland. She said she was pushed into a bedroom where Kavanaugh “began running his hands over my body and grinding into me.”
In the room, with Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge, she said, a drunk Kavanaugh “groped me and tried to take off 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 yelling,” she said. “This is what terrified me the most and 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.”
She also said she didn’t tell her parents what had happened immediately because she didn’t want to reveal that she was at a house party where alcohol was present and because Kavanaugh hadn’t raped her. She said she described the specific details for the first time in a May 2012 couples’ counseling session.
Ford told the committee that what happened with Kavanaugh has “haunted me episodically as an adult.”
Until July 2018, Ford said, she had never named Kavanaugh as her attacker outside of therapy. She said seeing Kavanaugh’s name on the short list of candidates for a Supreme Court appointment made her feel it was her “civic duty” to share what had happened.
“It was an extremely hard thing to do, but I felt that I couldn’t not do it,” she said.
She told the committee that 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.”
President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee will later attempt to convince majority Republicans on the committee to confirm him despite Ford’s allegations — and as other accusations of sexual misconduct emerge from Kavanaugh’s youth.
Partisan barbs from Grassley, Feinstein
The hearing opened with partisan barbs before either Ford or Kavanaugh testified.
The committee’s chairman, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, opened the hearing by pointing out that Kavanaugh had been through six FBI background checks with no hint of sexual assault allegations emerging. He called Democratic calls for an FBI investigation into the accusations “obstruction.”
Grassley repeated his assertion that he has no authority to force the FBI to investigate the allegations, and said “it was easy to identify all the alleged witnesses and conduct our own investigations.”
He also criticized the committee’s top-ranking Democrat, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, for failing to immediately share Ford’s claim when she received Ford’s letter detailing her allegation in July.
“Every step of the way, the Democratic side refused to participate in what should have been a bipartisan investigation,” Grassley said.
Feinstein took a shot at Grassley, telling Ford that “the chairman chose not to do this — but I think it’s appropriate that you’re properly introduced,” and then running through Ford’s resume, which includes two master’s degrees.
“I am very grateful to you for your strength and your bravery in coming forward. I know it’s hard,” she said.
Mistaken ID? ‘Absolutely not,’ Ford says
Asked by Feinstein how she is sure it was Kavanaugh who assaulted her, Ford said: “The same way that I’m sure that I’m talking to you right now.”
When Feinstein asked if there is any chance she has mistakenly identified Kavanaugh, Ford said “absolutely not.”
Instead of questioning Ford themselves, Republicans hired Rachel Mitchell, the Arizona sex crimes prosecutor, to question Ford.
In her first questions, Mitchell repeatedly used the word “correction” when going through a series of minor clarifications in Ford’s letters and comments.
Trump, Pence call Kavanaugh
Trump and Vice President Mike Pence both phoned Kavanaugh to voice their support for him ahead of Thursday’s hearing. Trump’s message when he spoke with Kavanaugh, a source familiar with the call said, was to be aggressive and forceful in his denials, and not afraid to push back on the allegations.
Ford’s husband, Russell Ford, is in California with their two children and is not present, Ford’s team tells CNN.
Kavanaugh planned to watch at least the first part of Ford’s testimony from Pence’s ceremonial office on the Senate side of the Capitol, a source familiar with the plan said. As Ford’s legal team requested, Kavanaugh will never be in the same room as Ford.
According to his prepared testimony, Kavanaugh plans to tell senators that he “said and did things in high school that make me cringe now” — but that he “never did anything remotely resembling what Dr. Ford describes.” Earlier this month, he told Judiciary Committee staffers he didn’t recall ever meeting Ford.
The Supreme Court nominee has been “incandescent” — as in extremely angry — according to one person involved in his preparation. For Kavanaugh, his supporters say, it’s not as much about a Supreme Court seat now but defending his name. He vehemently denies Ford’s allegations and says that perhaps she was sexually assaulted by someone in some place but it wasn’t him.
Thursday’s hearing comes as two other named individuals have levied allegations against Kavanaugh. Democrats are pushing Grassley to subpoena Mark Judge, the Kavanaugh friend who Ford says was in the room with him when she was assaulted.
Regarding other allegations — some of which have been anonymous — that have come to the committee since Ford came forward, Kavanaugh has called some of them “ridiculous,” his supporters tell CNN.