On Thursday, Sept. 27, Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford both testified on Capitol Hill about allegations of sexual assault stemming from almost 30 years ago. The hearings came at the end of a tumultuous few weeks after the allegations from Ford were publicized. On Friday, Kavanaugh was advanced from the Senate Judiciary Committee in a 11-0 vote, and is now facing the full Senate. And, in a late-breaking twist, a limited, week-long FBI investigation into Ford’s allegations, as well as those of at least one other woman, has been launched.
Ford, a Palo Alto University psychology professor and Stanford research psychologist, wrote a letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein — Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee — dated July 30 detailing her allegation of sexual assault by Kavanaugh at a gathering in an affluent Washington, D.C. suburb in the early 1980s. She alleged that Kavanaugh and friend Mark Judge were severely inebriated and locked her in a bedroom, and then Kavanaugh proceeded to pin her to a bed and attempted to rape her. Kavanaugh denies these allegations.
This letter became the focal point of the ensuing weeks’ drama, with its existence and content being withheld from other Congressional leaders and the public. After several weeks, a tentative deal was reached between the Senate Judiciary and Ford to have her and Kavanaugh testify in front of the committee on Sept. 24. Ford stated that she would not be ready at the time. The two parties renegotiated through tense, public talks and an eleventh-hour agreement was reached to have both of them testify on September 27.
The hearings were a play in two acts, with Ford testifying first in the morning and Kavanaugh later in the afternoon. Ford opened her testimony by saying, “I am 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.” After finishing her statement, Ford, who was accompanied by several lawyers, fielded questions from Democratic committee members. Notably, she was asked by Senator Dick Durbin to what degree of certainty she believed it was Kavanaugh who assaulted her and she responded with “100 percent.”
After a 45-minute recess, Kavanaugh took to the Senate floor to testify. In his opening statement, he denied the allegations and said, “This onslaught of last-minute allegations does not ring true. I’m not questioning that Dr. Ford may have been sexually assaulted by some person in some place at some time. But I have never done this. To her or to anyone. That’s not who I am. It is not who I was. I am innocent of this charge.” After his opening remarks, Kavanaugh, who was not accompanied by legal counsel, took questions from both Republican and Democratic committee members. One moment that garnered significant attention when he was asked by Senator Amy Klobuchar if he had ever drank alcohol to the point of memory loss and he responded with, “I don’t know. Have you?”
Many were quick to note the similarities between these hearings and the ones that took place with then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas and law professor Anita Hill. In 1991, Hill accused Thomas of sexual harassment over a period of several years. Like Kavanaugh and Ford, both gave heated testimonies to Congress. However, there were no women on the Senate Judiciary Committee when Hill testified, and in an effort to avoid these optics again, committee Republicans hired Arizona-based sex crimes prosecutor, Rachel Mitchell.
Each Republican committee member yielded their allotted five minutes for questions to Mitchell for Ford’s testimony. She asked Ford to recount her memories of the day of the alleged assault, and to discuss how she went about writing and communicating her story to lawmakers. Because of the staccato fashion of the questioning, Ford and Mitchell were frequently unable to finish their conversations. Mitchell was also present for the commencement of Kavanaugh’s testimony, and did manage to ask several questions before she was effectively cut from the team and not given any more opportunities to engage with Kavanaugh.
Several times throughout the hearings, committee Democrats called for an FBI investigation into the alleged assault, and this call was echoed by Republican Senator Jeff Flake, a key swing vote. In a sudden reversal from the White House, this call was answered. On Friday afternoon, Trump ordered an FBI probe into the alleged incident. However, he mandated that its scope be limited and completed in one week. On Saturday, it was announced that a second accuser, Deborah Ramirez, had been contacted by the FBI and agreed to cooperate. Ramirez was a classmate of Kavanaugh while the two were at Yale, and she alleged in an interview with the New Yorker that he exposed himself to her and thrust his genitals in her face at a dormitory party.
Olivia Bortner is a fourth-year student majoring in marketing. OB876952@wcupa.edu.