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Confirmation HEADLINE IS HERE AND HERE

September 28, 2018

WASHINGTON — Sen. Richard Blumenthal didn’t hesitate to pick sides in the dramatic accounts Thursday of what happened — or did not happen — between Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford in the summer of 1982.

“I have found your testimony powerful and credible and I believe you,” Blumenthal, D-Conn., told Ford after her emotionally charged recounting of Kavanaugh’s alleged assault on her at an informal gathering of friends in D.C.’s Maryland suburbs. “You have given America an amazing teaching moment.”

Blumenthal is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which held a follow-up hearing to hear Ford tell the story that at least temporarily derailed Kavanaugh’s bid to win confirmation to the seat vacated by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court’s frequent swing vote.

Ford was followed Thursday by Kavanaugh, who offered an angry rebuttal of her allegations.

Ford’s accusation is one of several from women claiming that Kavanaugh was sexually abusive in his high school and college years. Among his accusers is Deborah Ramirez, who grew up in Shelton and said Kavanaugh exposed himself when the two were classmates at Yale in the 1980s.

Dramatic testimony

Blumenthal and other Democrats on the panel asked few questions of Ford on Thursday, preferring to use their allotted time to extol what they described as her “courage” to leave her life of anonymity as a psychologist in California and accuse Kavanaugh in a taut hearing broadcast live on TV.

“You have inspired and given courage to women to come forward,” Blumenthal said.

Among the letters submitted for the record Thursday was one from 50 faculty members of Yale Law School requesting an FBI investigation. President Trump so far has refused to authorize one, although Kavanaugh said Thursday that he would be “all in” for an FBI probe.

Ford spoke in a soft voice that was at times hard to hear. She was close to tears when she recounted her version of the events of that night in 1982, about how she was pushed down on a bed on the second floor of a house as she went to use the restroom.

“I tried to yell for help,” Ford said. “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.”

With Republicans suggesting the assault may be a case of mistaken identity, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., asked Ford if she was certain the teenage Kavanaugh was her attacker.

“One-hundred percent,” she replied.

Friday vote

The encounter has caused her lasting psychological damage, requiring therapy and couples counseling, Ford said. It even manifested itself in her wanting two front doors to the house she was remodeling with her husband.

“In explaining why I wanted a second front door, I began to describe the assault in detail,” she said. “I recall saying that the boy who assaulted me could someday be on the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Democrats believe a sufficient delay or possible defection of Republican moderates such as Sens. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. (a Judiciary member), Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, could stall Kavanaugh’s confirmation until after Election Day.

If Democrats succeed in taking back the Senate — still considered a long shot — the Kavanaugh nomination could be scuttled.

Republicans, on the other hand, are eager to push the confirmation through. The committee was scheduled to hold a vote on the confirmation on Friday, which could pass the nomination to the Senate floor. If so, a full-Senate confirmation could occur next week.

On Thursday, Kavanaugh forcefully denied Ford’s accusations.

“My family and my name have been totally and permanently destroyed by these false and vicious allegations,” he said.

The process of Senate confirmation of Supreme Court justices “has become a national disgrace,” Kavanaugh said, turning his head toward Blumenthal and the rest of the Democrats on the panel.

Citing the Constitution’s requirement that high-court confirmations require the “advice and consent” of the Senate, Kavanaugh said, “You have replaced ‘advice and consent’ with ‘search and destroy.’ ”

The he-said, she-said testimony evoked the confirmation hearings of Justice Clarence Thomas in 1991, which were turned upside down by allegations from law professor Anita Hill. Thomas, a nominee of Republican President George H.W. Bush, ultimately won confirmation in a Democratic-controlled Senate.

Kavanaugh referred to his calendar from 1982, insisting that he was rarely in Washington for weekends in June of that year, and that he had notations of his social engagements with specific friends when he was in the D.C. suburban area in and around Bethesda, Md.

He also said that a friend of Ford’s, Leland Keyser, whom Ford said was at the gathering, had denied knowing Kavanaugh and being at the event.

The all-male Republican-majority side of the Judiciary Committee took the unusual step of deferring questions to a hired counsel, Rachel Mitchell, a veteran prosecutor of sexual crimes in and around Phoenix, Ariz.

The fact-finding prosecutorial nature of her questioning was a stark contrast to Blumenthal and the other Democrats.

In polite but firm terms, Mitchell attempted to pin Ford down on inconsistencies in her statements to her local and state lawmakers — Rep, Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the committee’s senior Democrat — the Washington Post and during a polygraph test she underwent.

Mitchell also distributed maps of the suburban area where Ford, Kavanaugh, Mark Judge (whom Ford said also was involved in the attack) and others lived, in an apparent effort to cast doubt on her account.

And Mitchell questioned Ford on her alleged fear of flying, getting her to acknowledge flights to far-away destinations while claiming her fear made it difficult for her to travel to Washington for questioning.

Blumenthal, himself a veteran prosecutor as Connecticut attorney general and U.S. Attorney in the state, said he was scratching his head over the Republicans’ tactics.

“It’s been completely ineffective,” Blumenthal said. “So far, reliance on a prosecutor to cross examine (Ford) has failed to undermine her story.”

dan@hearstdc.com

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