As an extraordinary series of uncorroborated, lurid last-minute allegations threatens to derail his confirmation to the Supreme Court, nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Ford, the California professor accusing him of sexually assaulting her more than three decades ago, are set to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday morning.
The proceedings may be upended by late-breaking developments: Wednesday evening, Judiciary Committee Republicans revealed that on Monday, they conducted their “first interview with a man who believes he, not Judge Kavanaugh, had the encounter with Dr. Ford in 1982 that is the basis of his complaint.” They conducted a second interview the next day.
On Wednesday, Republicans said, they received a “more in-depth written statement from the man interviewed twice previously who believes he, not Judge Kavanuagh, had the encounter in question with Dr. Ford.” GOP investigators also spoke on the phone with another man making a similar claim.
Ford has previously said there is “zero chance” she would have confused Kavanaugh for anyone else.
Key swing-vote senators have said Thursday’s hearing, which will begin at 10:00 a.m. ET, presents a pivotal opportunity to assess Ford’s credibility and determine whether to advance Kavanaugh to the nation’s highest court.
It will also be a chance for the public to see Ford, in person, explain in detail what she claims happened at the Maryland house party in 1982 where Kavanaugh allegedly jumped on top of her and tried to muffle her screams — and why she didn’t tell anyone about the episode until 2012.
The proceedings will commence with opening statements from Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and ranking committee member Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. After taking an oath, Ford will deliver the prepared remarks she has already provided publicly, according to a schedule provided by the committee. Each senator on the committee will then be afforded a single five-minute round of questions, with the opportunity to ask questions alternating between Democrats and Republicans.
Republicans have retained Rachel Mitchell, an experienced sex-crimes prosecutor, to handle some of their questioning, saying it will help avoid an overtly political atmosphere. Grassley has hammered Democrats, including Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., for “grandstanding” during the confirmation hearings earlier this month.
Democrats have indicated they intend to ask their own questions. After Ford’s testimony is completed, the process will repeat for Kavanaugh.
In her prepared remarks, which Ford’s attorney’s released in advance on Wednesday, Ford will tell senators that she “thought that Brett [Kavanaugh] was accidentally going to kill me,” and “I believed he was going to rape me.”
She will explain that she remembers “four boys” being at the party, including one “whose name I cannot recall.” The people she did name — Kavanaugh and his classmates Mark Judge and P.J. Smyth — have denied under penalty of felony knowing anything about the alleged episode.
Ford will also describe one girl, “my friend Leland Ingham,” as also in attendance. Ingham, in a previously released statement, has also denied knowing Kavanaugh or having information about the alleged assault.
“It’s bad — it’s doing damage to the Supreme Court.”
Ford’s letter to Feinstein in July, however, gave a different tally, saying that the gathering “included me and 4 others.”
Additionally, in a handwritten statement she provided the former FBI agent who administered her polygraph exam in August , Ford wrote “there were 4 boys and a couple of girls” at the party — again apparently contradicting her letter to Feinstein.
Republicans, through Mitchell, are expected to question Ford on the apparent discrepancies.
Ford is also expected to tell senators that she finally decided to disclose the alleged assault during a therapy session in 2012 because during a remodeling of her house that year, she insisted on installing a “second front door” — leaving her husband and others wondering why.
Additionally, questions have surfaced concerning the credibility of some of Kavanaugh’s other accusers, who will not be present Thursday.
For example, Julie Swetnick, who emerged Wednesday to accuse Kavanaugh of participating in “gang rapes” and rape “trains” in the 1980s, had a restraining order filed against her by an ex-boyfriend, Politico reported.
“Right after I broke up with her, she was threatening my family, threatening my wife and threatening to do harm to my baby at that time,” Richard Vinneccy told Politico. “I know a lot about her. … She’s not credible at all. Not at all.”
Swetnick is represented by anti-Trump lawyer Michael Avenatti. Wednesday afternoon, 60 men women who attended Kavanaugh’s high school or sister schools signed a letter saying they had never heard of Swetnick or anything like the overt, systemic gang raping that she described.
According to The Washington Post, both the state of Maryland and the federal government have filed since-resolved liens on her property in recent years for unpaid taxes totalling tens of thousands of dollars. She has reportedly held multiple security clearances relating to her work with the government.
None of the sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh has first-hand corroboration. In The New Yorker on Sunday, former Kavanaugh classmate Deborah Ramirez claimed that Kavanaugh had exposed his penis to her at a party decades ago, even as her close college friend denied ever hearing about the episode and suggested she was making the claim for political reasons.
Ramirez has acknowledged not being sure whether Kavanaugh had assaulted her until last week, after she spent days consulting with her attorney.
“It’s bad — it’s doing damage to the Supreme Court,” Kavanaugh told congressional investigators this week. “It’s doing damage to the country. It’s doing damage to this process. It’s become a total feeding frenzy, you know? Every — just unbelievable.”