In a long and emotional day of testimony, senators considering Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court heard for the first time on Thursday from the woman who has accused him of sexual assault and then from a fiery Kavanaugh denying the allegations.
Kavanaugh told the Senate Judiciary Committee that his family and his name had been ruined, and he accused Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee of lying in wait to upend his nomination.
“This confirmation process has become a national disgrace,” he said in his opening statement. “The Constitution gives the Senate an important role in the confirmation process, but you have replaced ‘advise and consent’ with ‘search and destroy.’”
Kavanaugh had been on what seemed to be a sure path to the U.S. Supreme Court when Christine Blasey Ford alleged that he had sexually assaulted her while they were teenagers in the Washington, D.C., area. Since then he has been accused of sexual misconduct by three other women, which he denies. One accusation from 1998 is anonymous.
Speaking in a loud, angry voice, and at times tearing up, he said Ford’s allegation had unleashed a long series of last-minute smears that he repeatedly said were untrue.
Earlier Ford recounted the alleged attack on her, telling senators that she remembered Kavanaugh and another boy laughing with each other while she feared that Kavanaugh was going to rape her at a gathering at a suburban Washington, D.C., home.
Democrats questioned Ford themselves but Republicans on the committee, all men, had hired a lawyer to do the questioning for them: Rachel Mitchell, an experienced sex crimes prosecutor.
Here are some notable moments from the hearing, which has threatened to derail Kavanaugh's nomination.
“This Is a Circus”
Kavanaugh insisted that he had never assaulted Ford or any other woman and accused Democrats of trying to destroy him and his family. In the 10 days it took for the hearing to be held, his name had been ruined, he said.
“As was predictable, and as I predicted, my family and my name have been totally and permanently destroyed by vicious and false additional accusations,” he said. “The 10-day delay has been harmful to me and my family, to the Supreme Court, and to the country.”
Kavanaugh said he had wanted to address the allegations immediately and launched into an unusually partisan attack for a Supreme Court nominee against Democrats on the committee. He accused them of trying to derail his nomination as they did Robert Bork’s in 1987 and, when that failed, of bringing forward Ford’s allegations after keeping them secret.
“This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election,” he said. “Fear that has unfairly been stoked about my judicial record. Revenge on behalf of the Clintons, and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups. This is a circus.”
During the investigation of President Bill Clinton by the independent counsel, Ken Starr, Kavanaugh wrote notably explicit questions intended to force Clinton to describe his sexual relations with then-intern Monica Lewinsky.
“I’m never going to get my reputation back,” Kavanaugh said later in the hearing.
Blacking Out From Alcohol?
Asked about his drinking, which some have described as exceptionally heavy, he denied he had ever passed out, but he conceded, “I've gone to sleep.”
He said that he had never woken up with his clothes disarranged or failed to remember something that occurred.
One of his college friends, Liz Swisher, told The Washington Post, “Brett was a sloppy drunk, and I know because I drank with him. I watched him drink more than a lot of people. He’d end up slurring his words, stumbling,” Swisher said.
Kavanaugh said the description was unfair, and referred instead to a comment from another friend from Yale University, former NBA center Chris Dudley, who told the Post: “I went out with him all the time. He never blacked out. Never even close to blacked out.”
Questioned about how much alcohol was too much, Kavanaugh referred to blood alcohol levels, typically used to determine drunk driving charges.
"I don't know," he said. "Whatever the chart says."
Later, when Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota who had talked about her father's alcoholism, again asked if he had ever blacked out, he responded, “Have you?” After a break, he apologized for the quip.
“I'm sorry I did that,” he said. “This is a tough process. I'm sorry about that.”
“I appreciate that,” Klobuchar said. “I would like to add, when you have a parent that's an alcoholic, you're pretty careful about drinking.”
Who Is Bart O'Kavanaugh?
Kavanaugh also did not directly answer a question about whether he was “Bart O'Kavanaugh” in a book written by a former school mate Mark Judge, whom Ford identified as having been in the room when Kavanaugh allegedly assaulted her.
In the book, “Wasted: Tales of a GenX Drunk,” “Bart O'Kavanaugh” was described as vomiting and passing out in a car. Judge writes that his book "is based on actual experiences. In some cases, the names and details have been changed to protect the privacy of the people involved."
Kavanaugh described Judge as a friend who developed a serious drinking problem and who wrote a fictionalized book as part of his therapy to come to grips with his sobriety.
“So you don't know whether that's you or not,” Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Democratic senator from Vermont, asked.
“We can sit here and make fun of some guy who has an addiction, but I don’t think that really...” Kavanaugh said.
“I’m not making fun of anybody,” Leahy said. "I’m trying to get a straight answer from you under oath.”
An FBI Investigation
Democrats repeatedly pressed Kavanaugh to request an FBI investigation, but without success.
Illinois Democrat Sen. Dick Durbin urged him to turn to the White House counsel, Don McGahn, seated in the front row, and ask for an investigation to clear his name.
“I’ve got a suggestion for you,” Durbin said. “Ask him to suspend this hearing and nomination process until the FBI completes its investigation of the charges made by Dr. Ford and others.”
The Republican chairman of the committee, Sen. Chuck Grassley, broke in to say, “This committee is running this hearing. Not the White House. Not Don McGahn. Not even you as a nominee.”
Kavanaugh said that the FBI would not offer conclusions, a point repeatedly made by Republicans, and staring at Durbin in silence refused to answer whether he thought a FBI investigation would be the best step for the committee.
Throughout the hearing, Kavanaugh would say only that he would do whatever the committee wanted him to do. The Republican majority on the committee has declined to call for an investigation.
A Tweet From the President
As soon as the hearing concluded, President Donald Trump tweeted his continuing support for Kavanaugh.
“Judge Kavanaugh showed America exactly why I nominated him,” the president wrote. “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!”
An Angry Sen. Graham
In a body once known for its collegiality, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina shouted at his fellow senators and accused Democrats of wanting “to destroy this guy’s life.”
“This is the most unethical sham since I’ve been in politics,” he said. “If you really wanted to know the truth, you sure as hell wouldn’t have done what you’ve done to this guy!”
Earlier in the day Ford described the alleged attack in her opening statement, and then was asked for her strongest memory of what had happened at the gathering.
“Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter, the uproarious laughter between the two and their having fun at my expense,” she answered.
“They were laughing with each other,” Ford said of Kavanaugh and Judge, the second man she said was in the bedroom when Kavanaugh pushed her onto a bed, began grinding his body against her, tried to undress her and covered her mouth to stifle her screams.
“And you were the object of the laughter?” Leahy asked.
“I was underneath one of them while the two laughed — two friends having a really good time with one another,” Ford said.
Ford is now a 51-year-old professor of psychology at Palo Alto University and a research psychologist at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
Meeting Mark Judge Again
Ford testified that she encountered Judge, now an author and journalist, after the attack while at the Potomac Village Safeway with her mother. Because she was a teenager, she wanted to enter through a different door than her mother, she said.
“I chose the wrong door,” she said, and she met Judge, then a store employee, arranging the shopping carts.
She said hello and noted that he was very uncomfortable saying hello back.
“His face was white,” she said.
Ford, whose account has been criticized because of a lack of some details, said she thought she could better try to determine when the attack occurred if she knew when Judge had worked at the Safeway.
Democrats on the committee have demanded that Judge testify before the committee but they have been rebuffed by the majority of Republican members.
“Mark Judge should be subpoenaed from his Bethany Beach hideaway,” Durbin, the Democrat from Illinois, said.
A Washington Post reporter this week tracked down Judge to a friend’s house in Bethany Beach, Delaware.
“How’d you find me?” Judge asked the reporter.
Judge’s lawyer told the Post that Judge was a recovering alcoholic under unbelievable stress who for the sake of his health needed to get away and take care of himself.
Charges of a Cover-Up
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, the Connecticut Democrat, asked Ford about her assessment that she could better determine when the gathering took place if she knew when Judge worked at the Safeway grocery store.
“Would you like Mark Judge to be interviewed in connection with the background investigation and the serious credible allegations that you make?” he asked.
“That would be my preference,” she said. “I’m not sure it’s really up to me but I certainly would feel like I could be more helpful to everyone if I knew the date that he worked at the Safeway so I could give a more specific date of the assault.”
“Well it’s not up to you,” Blumenthal said. “It’s up to the president of the United States and his failure to ask for an FBI investigation in my view is tantamount to a cover-up.”
Taking a Lie Detector Test
Ford took a polygraph as part of her allegations against Kavanaugh and the location for the test, the Baltimore Washington International Airport, became the subject of one line of questioning.
“Why was that location chosen for the polygraph?” Mitchell asked.
“I had left my grandmother's funeral at Fort Lincoln Cemetery that day and was on tight schedule to get a plane to Manchester, New Hampshire,” Ford answered. “So he was willing to come to me, which was appreciated.”
“So he administered a polygraph on the day you attended your grandmother's funeral?” Mitchell asked.
“Correct,” she answered. “Or it might have been the next day. I spent the night in the hotel so I don't remember the exact day.”
Her lawyers said that they had paid for the polygraph, as was routine, and were working pro bono, but Ford could not say whether costs would be eventually passed on to her.
“I'm not sure yet,” Ford said. “I haven't taken a look at all of the costs involved in this. We've relocated now twice so I haven't kept track of all of that paperwork, but I'm sure I have a lot of work to do to catch up on all of that later.”
She said as part of another exchange with Mitchell that she was aware some GoFundMe accounts had been created but did not know how to access them.
“Several what?” Mitchell asked.
“GoFundMe sites that have raised money primarily for our security detail so I'm not even quite sure how to collect that money or how to distribute it yet,” Ford said. “I haven't been able to focus on that.”
“When we left off…”
The hearing’s format was less than conducive for smooth questioning by Mitchell. Initially all Republican senators had turned over their five minutes to Mitchell, but because Republicans and Democrats alternated, Mitchell had to repeatedly break off to allow a Democrat to go. Democrats, meanwhile, stressed repeatedly that the hearing was not a trial.
At the end, Mitchell asked Ford if she was aware of the best way to interview victims of trauma.
“Would you believe me if I told you that there’s no study that says this setting, in five-minute increments, is the best way to do that?” Mitchell asked to laughter.
Mitchell said that the recommended approach was one-on-one with a trained interviewer in a private setting, and asked whether anyone had advised such an interview. Ford said no one had.
“Instead, you were advised to get an attorney and take a polygraph, is that right?” Mitchell asked.
“Many people advised me to get an attorney,” Ford said. “Once I had an attorney, my attorney and I discussed using the polygraph.”
“And instead of submitting to an interview in California, we're having a hearing here today in five-minute increments, is that right?”
“I agree that's what was agreed upon by the collegial group here,” Ford said, and with that the questioning came to a conclusion.
Emilie Mutert contributed to this article.