ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Now underway, Judge Brett Kavanaugh and professor Christine Blasey Ford face questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday.
The stakes are high: a lifetime appointment to the swing seat on the Supreme Court. And with just 40 days until the 2018 midterm elections, Democrats and Republicans in Congress know that Americans will be watching.
In the time since Ford's story was made public, two other women have also come forward with allegations. Kavanaugh has swiftly and repeatedly denied the allegations.
Follow along with ABC News as the high stakes hearing unfolds.
12:52 p.m.: Here’s what happening on the sidelines
On the sidelines of the high stake hearing, Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch opined on Ford credibility saying: “I don’t find her un-credible. I think she’s an attractive, Good witness.”
When pressed further by ABC News’ Ben Siegel, about what he means by “attractive,” he responded, “In other words, pleasing … she’s attractive, a nice person. I wish her well.”
His spokesman, Matt Whitlock later sought to clarify the remarks.
"Hatch uses 'attractive' to describe personalities, not appearances," he said. "If you search his past quotes you’ll see he’s used it consistently for years for men and women he believed has compelling personalities."
Earlier in the week, Hatch challenged Ford’s account telling CNN on Monday he believed she must be "mistaken" about Kavanaugh as the accuser.
The president might be keeping silent (at least publicly) on the ongoing hearing, but his son, Donald Trump Jr. took to Twitter to challenge Ford’s claim that she has a fear of flying.
This fear, she said, was why she was adverse to coming to Washington to testify.
ABC News’ Mary Bruce caught up with a few senators in the halls of the Dirksen building on Capitol Hill, as they filed out of the hearing room one-by-one.
“Just in the last hour, three different women have reached out to me who I know from Delaware to share with me their stories of surviving sexual assault,” Sen. Coons said. “I've heard from other senators this is also happening to their offices and to them personally. So first, it is striking how many survivors of sexual assault are watching and are choosing this moment to come forward with their accounts. I think that speaks to what a public service is being done here by having a measured and respectful hearing of Dr. Ford's allegations.”
Sen. Klobuchar’s take on her GOP counterparts?
“I think that they look muted,” the Minnesota senator said. “They're sitting there, they look like they want to respond, but they made a decision not to really do their constitutional duty and participate in this hearing. That's their choice. What I think the big lesson that came out of this is that this woman is extraordinary. She's calm. She's honest. And I think that's what our colleagues on the other side of the aisle are seeing today.”
Sen. Blumenthal reaffirmed those sentiments, telling ABC News, “In my view, Dr. Blasey Ford has been highly believable, and there's a burden now on Judge Kavanaugh to rebut these serious and credible allegations.”
Among those watching history from inside the room are two students in uniform from Holton Arms — the same school that Ford attended at the time of the alleged incident, ABC News’ Tara Palmeri reports.
The two high school seniors have been rotating in and out of the hearing with one ticket. They wouldn’t make any political comments or talk about a culture of partying at Washington D.C.’s elite private schools but said they are there to support their alumna.
12:44 p.m.: GOP raises question on polygraph test
Before the committee recessed for lunch, as they entered hour three of the hearing, Mitchell, the counselor for Republicans on the committee, spent a full five minutes questioning with precision the validity of the polygraph test.
Here is the exchange:
Mitchell: "Why was that location chosen for the polygraph?"
Ford: "I had left my grandmother's funeral in Fort Lincoln cemetery that day and was on a tight schedule to get a plane to Manchester, New Hampshire. So he was willing to come to me, which was appreciated."
Mitchell: "So he administered a polygraph on the day you attended your grandmother's funeral?"
Ford: "Correct. Or it might have been the next day. I spent the night in the hotel. I don't remember the exact day."
Mitchell: "Have you ever had discussions with anyone besides your attorneys on how to take a polygraph?"
Mitchell: "And I don't just mean countermeasures but I mean just any sort of tips or anything like that?"
Ford: "No. I was scared of the test itself but was comfortable that I could tell the information and the test would reveal whatever it was going to reveal. I didn't expect it to be as long as it was going to be so it was a little bit stressful."
Mitchell: "Have you ever given tips or advice to somebody who is looking to take a polygraph test?"
Eight Republican senators have now yielded questioning to Mitchell.
12:37 p.m.: ‘A teaching moment’: Connecticut Sen. Blumenthal
Quoting an excerpt from a 2015 book written by his colleague Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, who also sits on the committee, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, read to the hearing room: “Of his prosecutions of rape cases, 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. I learned how much courage from a deep and hidden place it takes for a rape victim or sexually abused child to testify against their assailant."
He called the hearing “a teaching moment” and praised Ford for her bravery in coming before the committee to publicly testify against her alleged assailant.
“You have given America an amazing teaching moment and you may have other moments in the classroom, but you have inspired and you have enlightened America,” he said. “You have inspired and given courage to women. You have inspired and enlightened men in America to listen respectfully to women survivors and men who have survived sexual attack, that is a profound public service regardless of what happens with this nomination.”
12:27 p.m.: Ford says alleged sexual assault has ‘impacted me’ for years
Like many sexual assault survivors, Ford described in exacting detail how the incident has impacted her throughout her life, especially during her first few years at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
“It's impacted me at different stages of the development of my life,” she said in response to a question from Sen. Chris Coons, D-Delaware. “The immediate impact was probably the worst.
"I think I described earlier a fairly disastrous first two years of undergraduate studies at the University of North Carolina," she said.
She added that once she was "finally able to pull myself together" and cope with the immediate impacts of short-term impacts she experienced "longer-term impacts of anxiety and relationship challenges.”
Coons then proceeded to ask for her response to a frequently used defense by her critics, “that this was a high school incident and boys will be boys.”
“I can only speak for how it has impacted me greatly for the last 36 years,” she said. “Even though I was 15 years old at the time. I think, you know, the younger you are when these things happen, it can possibly have worse impacts than … when your brain is fully developed and you have better coping skills that you developed.”
12:15 p.m.: The first contentious moment of the day
After Sen. Klobuchar asked to submit Ford's polygraph test results to the record, Ford’s lawyer interjected to tell the committee chairman that the legal team proposed having the polygraph examiner testify, a request he rejected.
“We'll accept, without objection, what you have asked to include,” Grassley stated. “We're also requesting and expect the other materials I stated.”
Klobuchar noted, “Mr. Chairman, you wouldn't allow the underlying witness who performed the polygraph test to testify, nor would you allow mark judge to testify. So I would just like to point out, thank you for allowing the report in the record but that is the reason that we don't have the underlying information for you.”
“You got what you wanted and I think you would be satisfied,” Grassley said.
“I am satisfied,” Klobuchar replied.
12:14 p.m.: Trump ponders prosecutor's effectiveness: Source
A source close to Trump says they’re not sure this prosecutor is being effective as they hoped, according to ABC News John Santucci.
11:47 a.m.: The hearing resumes
The Republicans, still yielding to Mitchell, begin their questioning after the brief break about where the location of the gathering was relative to her house, and how Ford returned home after the alleged incident.
Displaying a map of the distance between her parent’s home and the Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, Mitchell asked: “We calculated the distance from the closest point to your house from a mile radius of the country club, and then the farthest point. You can see it's 6.2 and of course 8.2 miles. And you've described this as being near the country club, wherever this house was. Is that right?”
“I would describe it as somewhere between my house and the country club in that vicinity that's shown in your picture.”
After confirming that it would be “fair to say” that someone drove her to or from the party, as Mitchell put it, Ford admitted that no one came forward as the person who drove her.
11:45 a.m.: Trump, along with the rest of the country, is watching
Upon landing in Washington, press secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed that the president was watching Ford’s testimony.
She added that the president has not spoken to Kavanaugh today.
A close ally and friend of the president tells ABC News’ Jonathan Karl, "If you want her to be compelling, I guess it is."
11:30 a.m.: Committee enters 15-minute break
Before gavelling for a 15-minute break, Grassley’s anger towards how Ford’s allegation was handled by Democrats was apparent.
“I cannot let it go by what you've heard me say so many times that between July 30th and September 13th there were 45 days this committee could have been investigating this situation and her privacy would have been protected,” he said.
When asked by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., “With what degree of certainty do you believe Brett Kavanaugh assaulted you?”
Ford responded: “100 percent.”
Leaving the committee room, Grassley was asked if he finds Ford to be credible, he told reporters I know we need to “take her very seriously.
We will resume after the break.
11:09 a.m.: ‘The laughter’ is seared in Ford’s memory
Two powerful moments emerged amid questioning from Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy.
Recalling the parallels from a hearing over two decades ago during then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas’ confirmation hearing, Leahy said the Senate “failed” Anita Hill.
“Chairman, you and I were both here 27 years ago,” he said. “At that time the Senate failed Anita hill. I said I believed her, but I'm concerned that we're doing a lot less for these three women today. That's my personal view.”
“Now, Dr. Ford, no matter what happens with this hearing today, no matter what happens to this nomination, I know and I hear from my own state of Vermont, there are millions of victims and survivors out there who have been inspired by your courage … We owe you a debt of gratitude for that, doctor.”
Shortly after, Leahy asked her, “What is the strongest memory you have, the strongest memory of the incident, something that you cannot forget?”
A poignant moment arose as Ford responded: “The laughter, the uproarious laughter between the two, and they're having fun at my expense.”
“You never have forgotten that laughter,” he posed.
“They were laughing with each other,” she reiterated.
11:07 am:‘Absolutely not’: Ford tackles questions of her account
After coming forward, Ford contended with questions of the accuracy of her memory, and if this could be a case of mistaken identity.
When asked directly by Feinstein, “What you are telling us is this could not be a case of mistaken identity?"
Ford asserted: “Absolutely not.”
11:00 a.m.: Democrats begin questions, with Feinstein at the helm
Sen. Feinstein in her questions to Ford asked the college professor to describe why she wanted to keep her claims out of the public sphere and initially and what prompted that change.
Her first question: “Why have you held it to yourself all these years?”
Followed by: "Can you tell us, is there any other way this has affected your life?"
“The primary impact was in the initial four years after the event,” Ford responded. “I struggled academically. I struggled very much in Chapel Hill and in college when I was 17 and went off to college, I had a very hard time, more so than others, forming new friendships, especially friendships with boys, and I had academic problems.”
10:52 a.m.: Grassley yields to prosecutor Rachel Mitchell
The stage now belongs to former sex crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell, who is tasked with questioning Ford on behalf of the Republicans.
“I just wanted to tell you the first thing that struck me from your statement this morning was that you were terrified, and I just wanted to let you know I'm very sorry,” she began.
Her first question: “Are those three comments accurate?”
She’s referring to text messages sent on July 6 and July 10 over Whatsapp.
10:52 a.m.: GOP Senators riveted by Ford’s testimony
“Sexual assault victims should be able to decide for themselves when and whether their private experience is made public,” Ford said.
As she makes public the most traumatic moment of her life, you could hear a pin drop in the hearing room.
Senators – in particular, Republicans – are listening intently to Ford. Senators Ben Sasse and Mike Lee are pitched forward on the edge of their seats.
Sasse looks particularly emotional, with a furrowed brow and sometimes squinting.
Sen. Orrin Hatch visibly cringed when the heated details of the assault were recounted.
Sen. Jeff Flake is sitting backhand on chin – listening intently.
This isn’t your average hearing where members are doing other things. They are listening to every word.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar nodded her head when the awful details were recounted.
“Mr. Kavanaugh's confirmation was virtually certain, persons painted him as a champion of women's rights and empowerment,” Ford said, taking a brief pause before she continued. “And I believed that if I came forward, my single voice would be drowned out by a chorus of powerful supporters.”
ABC News’ Trish Turner reports from inside the hearing room.
10:40 a.m.:‘I thought that Brett was accidentally going to kill me’: Ford
For the first time, a packed hearing room on Capitol Hill, and the rest of the country heard Ford deliver the intimate details of the sexual assault she alleges Kavanaugh committed.
“I was pushed onto the bed and Brett got on top of me,” she began. “He began running his hands over my body and grinding his hips into me. I yelled, hoping someone downstairs might hear me, and tried to get away from him, but his weight was heavy. Brett groped me and tried to take off my clothes.”
“I believed he was going to rape me,” Ford continued. “I tried to yell for help. When I did, Brett put his hand over my mouth to stop me from yelling. This is 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. For a very long time, I was too afraid and ashamed to tell anyone the details.”
10:37 a.m.: Ford sworn in
Ford took the stand and began to lay out for lawmakers the world she came of age in: a bucolic suburban and upper middle-class Maryland setting.
"It is where I met Brett Kavanaugh", she said.
As she continued, her voice trembling, Ford continued: “I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t remember as much as I would like to. But the details about that night that bring me here today are ones I will never forget. They have been seared into my memory and have haunted me episodically as an adult.”
10:27 a.m.: Feinstein rebuffs Grassley’s criticisms in opening remarks
Invoking the rallying cry of the #MeToo movement, Feinstein offered a sharp rebuke of Grassley’s criticism of her handling of Ford’s sexual assault allegation, saying any reticence to push forward initially was “because [of] how women are treated in the United States.”
The ranking Democrat on the committee devoted a significant portion of her remarks to underscore the epidemic of sexual violence in this country.
“Sexual violence is a serious problem, and one that largely goes unseen,” she said.
“There's been a great deal of public discussion about the #MeToo movement today versus the year of the woman almost 27 years ago,” she continued. “But while young women are standing up and saying no more, our institutions have not progressed in how they treat women who come forward. Too often, women's memories and credibility come under assault. In essence, they are put on trial and forced to defend themselves and often revictimized in the process. ”
10:15 a.m.: Grassley apologizes to Ford and Kavanaugh for 'vile threats'
Grassley delivered his opening remarks, spending most of his time recounting the process that culminated in the hearing, criticizing Feinstein for her handling of the allegation of sexual assault by Ford “at the 11th hour.”
He apologized for the treatment Ford and Kavanaugh have both endured since the allegation emerged.
"Both Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh have been through a terrible couple weeks," Grassley said in his opening remarks. "They and their families have received vile threats. What they have endured ought to be considered by all of us as unacceptable and a poor reflection on the state of civility in our democracy. So I want to apologize to you both for the way you've been treated."
“Now it's up to the Senate to assess their credibility,” he added. “Which brings us to this very time … The testimony we will hear today concerns allegations of sexual assault, very serious allegations. This is an incredibly complex and sensitive subject to discuss and it's not an easy one to discuss. That is why the senators on this side of the Diaz believe that an expert who has training in interviewing victims of sexual assault and investigating sexual assault allegations should be asking questions. This will be a stark contrast to the grandstanding and chaos that we saw from the other side during the previous four days in this hearing process.”
10:05 a.m.: The hearing is now underway
The hearing that could decide the fate of the Supreme Court is now underway.
Chairman Grassley opened the hearing with remarks, to be followed by ranking member Feinstein.
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