Senate panel to vote Friday on Kavanaugh after emotional, contentious hearing

By Danielle Haynes and Sam Howard
Brett Kavanaugh, Christine Blasey Ford testify in Senate
Judge Brett Kavanaugh testifies to the Senate judiciary committee during his Supreme Court confirmation hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Photo by Erin Schaff/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 27 (UPI) -- Republicans on the Senate judiciary committee said Thursday they'll hold a vote Friday morning on the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh after a day of emotional testimony from the Supreme Court nominee and his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford.

The senators made the announcement Thursday night after meeting in the wake of a Capitol Hill hearing on Ford's allegations that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers decades ago.


Sens. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Bill Cassidy, R-La., told reporters the full Senate was expected to hold its first procedural vote on Kavanaugh on Saturday.

During the hearing earlier in the day, Kavanaugh condemned the confirmation process as a "circus" and "a calculated and orchestrated political hit" by Democrats who wanted to block his appointment at any cost.


"This confirmation process has become a national disgrace," he told senators in testimony that was at times tearful, his voice breaking.

Kavanaugh's remarks followed a morning of testimony from Palo Alto University professor Christine Blasey Ford. She described for the committee how a "drunk" Kavanaugh attacked her at a house party when they were teenagers in 1982.

In his opening remarks, Kavanaugh said Ford may be the victim of a sexual assault, but he disputed her memory, saying he was not her attacker and has no plans to withdraw his nomination.

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"You sowed the wind for decades to come," Kavanaugh told Senate Democrats. "I fear the whole country will reap the whirlwind."

Ford's testimony

Appearing publicly for the first time since her sexual allegations against Kavanaugh came to light, Ford reiterated her account of the night she, Kavanaugh and at least four others were at a house near Bethesda, Md.

Speaking before senators and prosecutor Rachel Mitchell, her voice at times breaking, Ford said Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge "were visibly drunk" and attacked her in one of the bedrooms at the house. Ford said Kavanaugh and Judge were "extremely inebriated ... and the other people at the party were not."


"I was pushed onto the bed and Brett got on top of me," she told the panel, adding she believed he was going to rape her.

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"I tried to yell for help. When I did, Brett put his hand over my mouth to stop me from screaming. It was hard for me to breathe, and I thought that Brett was accidentally going to kill me."

She said she's never forgotten Kavanaugh and Judge's "uproarious laughter ... and their having fun at my expense."

Ford said Judge jumped onto the bed, knocking her and Kavanaugh over, at which point she ran from the room and locked herself in a bathroom across the hall. After hearing Kavanaugh and Judge go back downstairs, Ford said she left the house.

The Senate committee enlisted Mitchell, a prosecutor in Maricopa County, Ariz., to question Ford and Kavanaugh at the hearing. Mitchell has worked with the Maricopa County Attorney's Office since 1993 and led the office's Special Victims Division before going on leave to work with the Senate, The Arizona Republic reported. She is a Republican, but the newspaper said she is "widely known as apolitical."

Mitchell's questioning largely focused on Ford's path toward coming forward and her preparations ahead of the committee hearing. Responding to Mitchell's questions, Ford said one of her attorneys came from a firm recommended by the office of Feinstein.


Ford said she decided it was her "civic duty" to raise her concerns about Kavanaugh to lawmakers, even though she and her family have been harassed and threatened since.

Although Ford said she cannot remember certain aspects of the 1982 incident, when Feinstein asked her if she could be mistaking Kavanaugh for another individual, Ford answered, "absolutely not."

When Mitchell asked about alleged attendees of the 1982 party who said they cannot remember the event, Ford said, "I don't expect that [they] would remember this evening. It was a very unremarkable party."

She said the attack produced lifelong problems -- anxiety, claustrophobia and symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder.

Ahead of the hearing, Ford's legal team released to the committee results of a polygraph test. A letter accompanying the results indicated Ford's responses to questions about the alleged attack were "not indicative of deception."

Ford's attorneys also submitted to the committee the sworn and signed declarations from four people Ford said she told about the assault.

Kavanaugh's denial

The circuit court judge has issued multiple statements and gave an interview to Fox News earlier this week categorically denying any misconduct with Ford and two other women who have accused him of inappropriate behavior.


In his Thursday testimony, Kavanaugh called sexual assault "horrific" and "morally wrong." He asked for due process.

"Due process is a foundation of the American rule of law," Kavanaugh said. "Due process means listening to both sides."

He called the scandal "grotesque" and an "obvious character assassination." Kavanaugh acknowledged drinking beer with friends during his school days, but says, "I never did anything remotely resembling what Dr. Ford describes."

"There is no corroboration and indeed it is refuted by the people allegedly there," he said.

Kavanaugh pointed to multiple background checks he's cleared through his work in the public sector, saying he has been in "extreme public scrutiny for decades."

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., pushed Kavanaugh to request an FBI probe into Ford's claims. At one point committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, intervened, and Kavanaugh said he would "do whatever" the committee wants to investigate. Kavanaugh didn't explicitly ask for an FBI investigation, saying, "they don't reach conclusions."

Photo by Andrew Harnik/UPI

Though the GOP members of the committee asked a prosecutor from Arizona to question Ford on their behalf, some Republican senators used their time during Kavanaugh's questioning to express dismay over the proceedings. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., gave a particularly fiery speech.


Graham said Kavanaugh was just as much a victim as Ford, blaming Democrats of a "sham."

"Boy, you all want power. God, I hope you never get it. I hope the American people can see through this sham that you knew about it and you held it," he said, referring to a letter Ford wrote to the committee's ranking member, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

"What you want to do is destroy this guy's life, hold this seat open and hope you win in 2020," he said.

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who was expected to be a swing vote on Kavanaugh's nomination, chose to forgo questioning the nominee. He spoke for about 1 minute during the hearing.

"In the end we are 21 very imperfect senators trying to do our best to provide advice and consent, and in the end there's likely to be as much doubt as certainty going out of this room today," he said, giving no indication of how he plans to vote.

President Donald Trump has supported Kavanaugh on multiple occasions, and during a Wednesday news conference called all the accusations "false to me."


"This is one of the highest quality people that I've ever met. And everybody that knows him says the same thing. And these are all false to me," Trump said. "These are false accusations in certain cases, and certain cases even the media agrees with that. I can only say that what they've done to this man is incredible."

The hearing

Thursday's hearing began with opening remarks from Grassley and Feinstein.

Ford presented her prepared remarks first and then each member of the committee had five minutes to ask questions. Kavanaugh's session began after lunch with his remarks, followed by remarks and questions from the senators.

Though at least two other women have accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct, neither are testifying at Thursday's hearing. Grassley said in his opening remarks that his staff contacted the two women's respective attorneys multiple times, but those lawyers did not make their clients available.

Democrats on the committee criticized Republicans for not opening an FBI probe, but Grassley said after the Washington Post published a report on Ford's claim, he "immediately directed my staff to investigate."

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