Christine Blasey Ford has entered the room, flanked by her legal team, taking her seat at the witness table she appears calm and composed as the sound of clicking cameras fills the room.
Senate judiciary committee chair Chuck Grassley brings the session to order. He thanks Kavanaugh and Ford for appearing before the committee.
He says that both “they and their families have received vile threats” which are “unacceptable and a poor reflection on the state of civility in our democracy.”
“I want to apologize to both of you for the treatment you’ve received,” he says
Grassley: ‘I look forward to a fair and respectful hearing’
Grassley defends his decision not to refer Ford’s allegations to the FBI to investigate. He says: “Now it’s up to the senate to assess their credibility.”
He adds: “I look forward to a fair and respectful hearing.”
Once again, Grassley moves to lambast his Democrats on the committee, defending his decision to introduce an expert counsel to question Ford.
“This will be a stark contrast to the grandstanding chaos we saw from the other side,” he says of Mitchell’s appointment.
Ranking Democrat Dianne Feinstein is now making opening remarks. She moves to rebut some of the partisan criticism leveled at her by Grassley, who argued she delayed sending details of Ford’s allegations to the committee.
She says she handled Ford’s letter with extreme care due to the sensitivity of the allegations.
She says: “How women are treated in the United States with this kind of concern is really wanting a lot of reform.”
She then thanks Dr Ford for “coming forward and being willing to share your story with us”. She introduces Ford to the committee, as Grassley forgot to do so in his opening remarks. “When I saw your CV I was extremely impressed,” she says of Ford’s academic credentials.
Feinstein heralds her “strength and bravery in coming forward.” She adds: “I know it’s hard.”
Feinstein: ‘The entire country is watching’
Feinstein continues: “The entire country is watching how we handle these allegations.”
“We are here for one reason to determine whether Judge Kavanaugh should be elevated to one of the powerful positions in this country.”
Ford speaks: ‘It is my civic duty to tell you what happened’
Christine Blasey Ford is now reading her opening her remarks. Before she begins, she tells Grassley: “I anticipate needing some caffeine if that’s available” after reading her opening remarks.“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,” she says.
Ford: ‘I believed he was going to rape me’
Ford continues, giving details of the evening she says she was sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh. She takes her time, her voice cracking on occasion:
Brett groped me and tried to take off my clothes. He had a hard time because he was so drunk, and because I was wearing a one-piece bathing suit under 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 screaming. This was what terrified me the most, and has 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.
‘Brett’s assault on me drastically altered my life’
Dr Ford continues:
Brett’s assault on me drastically altered my life. For a very long time, I was too afraid and ashamed to tell anyone the details. I did not want to tell my parents that I, at age 15, was in a house without any parents present, drinking beer with boys. I convinced myself that because Brett did not rape me, I should be able to move on and just pretend that it had never happened. Over the years, I told very, very few friends that I had this traumatic experience. I told my husband before we were married that I had experienced a sexual assault. I had never told the details to anyone until May 2012, during a couples counseling session.
Dr Ford now describes how and why she decided to tell the Senate about the allegations after his nomination to the supreme court was announced:
I was conflicted about whether to speak out.
On July 9, I received a call from the office of Congresswoman Anna Eshoo after Mr Kavanaugh had become the nominee. I met with her staff on July 11 and with her on July 13, describing the assault and discussing my fear about coming forward. Later, we discussed the possibility of sending a letter to Ranking Member Feinstein, who is one of my state’s senators, describing what occurred.
My understanding is that Representative Eshoo’s office delivered a copy of my letter to Senator Feinstein’s office on July 30, 2018. The letter included my name, but requested that the letter be kept confidential.
Dr Ford is now talking about the recent weeks leading up to today’s hearing. She describes the anxiety she went through and how she changed her mind a number of times about whether to take her allegations public:
As the hearing date [Kavanaugh’s] got closer, I struggled with a terrible choice: Do I share the facts with the Senate and put myself and my family in the public spotlight? Or do I preserve our privacy and allow the Senate to make its decision on Mr. Kavanaugh’s nomination without knowing the full truth about his past behavior? I agonized daily with this decision throughout August and early September 2018.
The sense of duty that motivated me to reach out confidentially to The Washington Post, Representative Eshoo’s office, and Senator Feinstein’s office was always there, but my fears of the consequences of speaking out started to increase. During August 2018, the press reported that Mr. Kavanaugh’s confirmation was virtually certain.
His allies painted him as a champion of women’s rights and empowerment. I believed that if I came forward, my voice would be drowned out by a chorus of powerful supporters. By the time of the confirmation hearings, I had resigned myself to remaining quiet and letting the Committee and the Senate make their decision without knowing what Mr. Kavanaugh had done to me.
During August 2018, the press reported that Mr. Kavanaugh’s confirmation was virtually certain. His allies painted him as a champion of women’s rights and empowerment. I believed that if I came forward, my voice would be drowned out by a chorus of powerful supporters. By the time of the confirmation hearings, I had resigned myself to remaining quiet and letting the Committee and the Senate make their decision without knowing what Mr. Kavanaugh had done to me.