the kavanaugh hearings

The Most Important Moments From the Kavanaugh Sexual-Assault Hearing

Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh.
Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh. Photo: Getty Images

On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing on Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a house party when they were both teenagers. Ford confidentially brought her accusation to the attention of her senator, Dianne Feinstein, in July, and only went public with it after it began to leak in the press. Since then, Kavanaugh has been the subject of two additional misconduct allegations — from Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick — and Ford has received threats and harassment.

Here are the most important moments from the hearing, which we will be continually updating throughout the day.

Chuck Grassley started out by lecturing Feinstein and Ford on not coming forward sooner.

Committee chairman Senator Chuck Grassley started out the day much as expected: by lecturing Senator Dianne Feinstein and Christine Blasey Ford for not coming forward with Ford’s allegation sooner. Ford had written a letter to Feinstein detailing her account back in July, but requested confidentiality at the time as she feared what might happen if she came forward. Feinstein granted her request.

During Thursday’s hearing, Grassley chastised Feinstein for holding onto the letter. “Only at an eleventh hour, on the eve of Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination vote, did the ranking member refer the evidence to the FBI,” Grassley said in his lecture. “Then, sadly, the allegations were leaked to the press, and that’s where Dr. Ford was mistreated.”

He then proceeded to quote former vice-president Joe Biden, the former committee chairperson who has been widely criticized for his mishandling of the 1991 Anita Hill hearing.

Grassley interrupted Feinstein as she tried to introduce Ford.

As she began her opening statement, Feinstein took a moment to introduce Ford. “Before you get to your testimony and the chairman chose not to do this, I think it’s important to make sure you are properly introduced,” she said. Grassley interrupted, “I was going to introduce her.” After he told Feinstein, “I will be glad to have you do that,” she replied, “Thank you.”

Feinstein’s powerful statement touched on the importance of the #MeToo movement and how women are mistreated in the United States.

Feinstein talked about the current #MeToo movement, versus the so-called “Year of the Woman,” which occurred in 1992. “While young women are standing up and saying ‘no more,’ our institutions have not progressed in how they treat women who come forward,” the senator said. “Too often, women’s memories and credibility come under assault. In essence, they are put on trial and forced to defend themselves.”

Christine Blasey Ford held back tears as she delivered her powerful testimony.

Ford read from her prepared statement — a powerful and heartbreaking testimony in which she detailed her alleged assault by Kavanaugh. She started out by speaking of how “terrified” she felt, and by stating that she was only speaking out of civic duty. Her voice cracked as she spoke of the impact the assault has had on her life: anxiety, trauma, and the need for a second front door in her home. Her testimony was incredibly moving, and her voice audibly cracked as she held back tears.

Ford, a psychology professor, spoke eloquently of how the sound of Kavanaugh and Mark Judge’s laughter is seared in her memory.

In her testimony, Ford said she remembered Kavanaugh and his friend, conservative writer Mark Judge, laughing during her assault. During her questioning by Senator Leahy, she said, “Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter. The uproarious laughter of the two, and their having fun at my expense … I was underneath one of them while the two laughed. Two friends having a really good time together.”

Rachel Mitchell, the special counsel brought in by GOP members of the committee, attempted to poke holes in Ford’s story.

In one of her (many) lines of questioning, Mitchell asked Ford specific questions about her account, in a clear attempt to poke holes in her story. She asked repeatedly about the music Ford said was playing during the assault, including when exactly it was playing and whether it had been turned down at some point. She also asked Ford whether she had been drinking or on medication.

Ford says she is “100 percent” sure it was Kavanaugh who assaulted her.

One of the theories posed by Kavanaugh supporters is that perhaps Ford was assaulted by a different guy. When asked by Senator Dick Durbin of her degree of certainty that Kavanaugh was the person who assaulted her — he prefaced his question by saying, “A polished liar can create a seamless story, but a trauma survivor cannot be expected to remember every detail” — Ford replied, “100 percent.”

Grassley continually went off on angry tangents in which he complained about the handling of Ford’s allegation and her request for an FBI investigation. At one point, Senator Amy Klobuchar interrupted him with a correction.

Chuck Grassley was clearly unhappy during the hearing, and he made it known with his repeated complaints about the handling of the Ford allegation and her request for a FBI investigation. Senator Amy Klobuchar interrupted him at one point to remind Grassley that in the instance of Anita Hill’s claim, “George Bush ordered that the investigation be opened again.”

Ford explained how anxiety and PTSD work.

Ford is a professor of psychology at Palo Alto University and a researcher at Stanford University. She holds numerous degrees, including a Ph.D. When asked by Mitchell about the anxiety and PTSD she says she has suffered since the alleged attack by Kavanaugh, and whether anything else may have contributed to those things, Ford explained exactly how anxiety and PTSD work. “The etiology of anxiety and PTSD is multi-factorial, so that was certainly a critical risk — we would call it a ‘risk factor’ in science — so that would be a predictor of the symptoms that I now have,” she said. “It doesn’t mean that other things that have happened in my life would make it better or worse.” She then talked of biological and environmental risk factors that can contribute to a person’s anxiety or PTSD.

Blumenthal uses Graham’s words against him — and then joins the many supporters (including female politicians) saying they believe Ford.

Republican senator Lindsey Graham, who has expressed his support of Kavanaugh, previously wrote about his experience prosecuting sexual-assault cases earlier in his career. During his questioning, Senator Richard Blumenthal used Graham’s words against him, quoting: “I learned how much unexpected courage from a deep and hidden place it takes for a rape victim or sexually abused child to testify against their assailant.”

Blumenthal also joined the many people who have already expressed their support online — as well as Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who said this Wednesday on the Senate floor — in stating that he believes Ford.

Hirono calls out the GOP committee members’ tactic of using Mitchell, a sex-crimes prosecutor, to ask all of their questions.

Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii asked whether the GOP members of the committee — other than Grassley — would only use Mitchell to ask their questions. She then proceeded to call out the tactics being employed. “We all know that the prosecutor, even though this clearly is not a criminal proceeding, is asking Dr. Ford lots of questions about what happened before and after, but not during the attack,” she said. “The prosecutor should know that sexual-assault survivors often do not remember … information such as what happened before or after the event, and yet she will persist in asking these questions all to undermine the memory and the credibility of Dr. Ford.”

Ford breaks down in tears as Booker speaks of her heroism and all of the people who support her.

Senator Cory Booker told Ford that she is going beyond the scope of civic duty. He then said, “How we deal with survivors who come forward right now is unacceptable, and the way we deal with this unfortunately allows for the continued darkness of this culture to exist. And your brilliance, shining a light onto this and speaking your truth, is nothing short of heroic.”

Grassley says, “Let’s just be nice to her” — and Ford’s attorney throws up her hands.

After Ford endured hours of questions from Mitchell and Democratic senators, in addition to complaints from Grassley, the committee chairperson said, “Let’s just be nice to her.” Ford’s attorney Debra Katz immediately flung up her hands in exasperation.

Kavanaugh cried throughout his opening statement, as he denied the allegation, accused Democratic committee members of conspiring against him, and spoke of his love of beer and his support of women.

Kavanaugh delivered a passionate opening statement. He started out angry, calling the confirmation process “a national disgrace” and suggesting that anonymous allegations that emerged were part of an “orchestrated political hit.” (The Senate Judiciary Committee released a transcript with the new, anonymous allegations on Thursday night).

He then repeatedly cried as he spoke of the way the accusation has impacted his life — including his fears of the way it may impact his career should he not be confirmed — and said that his young daughter prayed “for the woman” before the hearing. Kavanaugh also touched on his high-school activities, his high-school calendar, love of beer, and his support of women. He also denied that he assaulted Ford, but said he does not doubt that she was assaulted by someone else.

Kavanaugh yelled at Feinstein about having to wait ten days for the hearing, and then interrupted her.

When asked by Feinstein why he had not requested an FBI investigation, Kavanaugh said he would do anything the committee wants. He then began to yell, “I wanted a hearing the day after the allegation came up. I wanted to be here that day. Instead, ten days passed where all this nonsense is coming out.” He also told her that his family has been “destroyed by this.”

He went on to say, “It’s an outrage that I was not allowed to come and immediately defend my name and say I didn’t do this and give you all this evidence.” When Feinstein began speaking about not receiving any facts from the FBI, Kavanaugh interrupted her: “You’re interviewing me.”

Kavanaugh shouted at Leahy and accused the senator of mocking him.

Senator Patrick Leahy asked Kavanaugh about his yearbook entries, and the nominee proceeded to speak of his high-school achievements. Leahy interrupted him, and Kavanaugh yelled that he was going to speak. “I’m going to talk about my high-school record if you’re going to sit here and mock me,” he said.

Durbin challenged Kavanaugh to call for an FBI investigation, which prompted Graham to ask for recognition and furiously yell that the hearing was “hell.”

Senator Dick Durbin urged Kavanaugh to turn to White House counsel Don McGahn to ask for the hearing to be suspended to allow for a FBI investigation, and repeatedly asked whether the nominee would welcome an investigation. Kavanaugh refused to answer the question, saying he would be happy with whatever the committee wants to do.

This prompted Senator Lindsey Graham to ask Grassley for recognition, despite the Republicans having agreed to yield their time to Mitchell. Graham then proceeded to yell vehemently, chastising his colleagues for the handling of the sexual-assault allegation, telling Kavanaugh that he will vote for him, and saying that the hearing “is hell.”

After a period of in-fighting about the FBI between the committee members, Hirono brought the conversation back to Ford and her testimony.

The committee members went back and forth for a while about whether there should be a FBI investigation. Finally, once it was Senator Mazie Hirono’s turn to question Kavanaugh, she focused back on Ford’s earlier testimony. “What happened here this morning is that we heard from Dr. Christine Ford who spoke to us with quiet, raw, emotional power of what happened to her,” she said. She also asked Kavanaugh whether he agreed that “credibility, character, and candor,” as well as “temperament” are important qualities to consider in a person who may sit on the Supreme Court.

Feinstein defended her decision to keep Ford’s letter confidential, saying she was following Ford’s wishes.

Senator Dianne Feinstein was consistently criticized throughout the hearing for not revealing Ford’s allegation the moment she received her letter. Towards the end of the hearing, Feinstein took a moment to defend her actions. “I did not hide Dr. Ford’s allegations. I did not leak her story,” she told the committee. Feinstein went on to say, “I was given some information by a woman who was very much afraid, who asked that it be held confidential, and I held it confidential until she decided that she would come forward.”

Harris asked Kavanaugh, point blank, whether he watched Ford’s testimony. He said no.

Senator Kamala Harris asked Kavanaugh several tough questions through her allotted time, but her last question was the most succinct. She asked Kavanaugh directly whether he watched Ford’s testimony. He replied that he did not, as he was busy preparing his own.

This is a live post, and we are continually updating it throughout the day.

The Key Moments From the Kavanaugh Sexual-Assault Hearing