California professor Christine Blasey Ford plans to tell senators Thursday that she is “no one’s pawn” and that an alleged 1982 sexual assault by now-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has “been seared into my memory and ... haunted me episodically as an adult.”
In her opening statement for the high-stakes hearing, released Wednesday, Ford said a drunken Kavanaugh, then 17, pinned her to a bed at a party, groping her, trying to remove her clothes and placing his hand over her mouth when she tried to yell for help.
“This was what terrified me the most, and has had the most lasting impact on my life,” she said. “I thought that Brett was accidentally going to kill me."
Ford’s dramatic testimony came as a third woman, Julie Swetnick, 55, accused Kavanaugh of being present at another 1982 party at which she alleges she was gang raped, according to a statement released by attorney Michael Avenatti.
Swetnick did not accuse Kavanaugh of participating in the assault, but described drunken, aggressive behavior by Kavanaugh and his high school friend, Mark Judge.
Both Kavanaugh and Judge have denied all of the allegations against them.
As the potentially pivotal moment in the nomination fight approached, President Trump weighed in as well, saying for the first time publicly that accusations of sexual misconduct against him — from more than a dozen women — have colored his perception of the Kavanaugh allegations.
“It does impact my opinion. You know why? Because I’ve had a lot of false charges made against me,” Trump said at a news conference in New York.
“I know friends that have had false charges. People want fame. They want money. They want whatever. So when I see it, I view it differently than somebody sitting home watching television.”
In the sometimes rambling, 80-minute session with reporters — only the third full-scale news conference of his presidency — Trump denounced the New York Times as “fake,” said Democrats would oppose George Washington if he were before them, and quoted Elton John’s advice about how to end a performance: “When you hit that last tune and it's good, don't go back.”
He insisted he would watch the hearing with an open mind, adding at one point that if the testimony convinced him that Kavanaugh was guilty, he would withdraw the nomination.
But he repeatedly portrayed the women’s allegations as part of a “big, fat con job” orchestrated by Democrats, who, he said, “laugh like hell on what they pulled off on you and on the public.” And he praised Kavanaugh as a “great intellect, a brilliant man.”
Earlier in the day, at the United Nations, Trump said he wished the confirmation process had moved more quickly.
“They could have pushed it through 2½ weeks ago and you wouldn’t be talking about it right now, which is frankly what I would have preferred,” Trump said. "But they didn't do that."
In his own opening statement, released Wednesday by the Senate Judiciary Committee, Kavanaugh plans to tell senators that he is the victim of a “grotesque and obvious character assassination.”
Previously Kavanaugh has denied the allegations, but expressed empathy with Ford. His statement, however, took a harder line.
“There has been a frenzy to come up with something — anything, no matter how far-fetched or odious — that will block a vote on my nomination,” Kavanaugh plans to say. “These are last-minute smears, pure and simple. They debase our public discourse.”
His comments are reminiscent of the response by then-nominee Clarence Thomas in 1991, who forcefully dismissed Anita Hill’s claims of sexual harassment as a “high-tech lynching.”
The committee also released transcripts of interviews with its staff. In one, Kavanaugh told the committee that he never drank to excess to the point of blacking out. That interview, on Sept. 17, came shortly after the Ford allegations were published in the Washington Post.
“I drank beer and [the amount] would depend on the time of year, whether we were in football season, things like that,” Kavanaugh said. He also said that while in high school he attended unsupervised parties where alcohol was present.
Kavanaugh appeared more frustrated when committee staff followed up a week later, asking him about a second allegation, which was made by Deborah Ramirez. She said a drunken Kavanaugh exposed himself to her when both were drunk at Yale University.
He called the claim an “outrageous,” “thin, uncorroborated, 35-year-old accusation.”
In that telephone call on Sept. 25, committee staff members also asked Kavanaugh about two previously undisclosed allegations of sexual misconduct, one said to have occurred in Washington in 1998, and another in Newport, R.I., in 1985. Both were lodged by third parties, one who would not provide a name and the other who asked that their name not be released.
The allegation about the 1998 incident came in a letter received by Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.). A spokesperson for the senator said the letter “contained no names, no address, and no contact information.” The senator’s staff turned it over to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the spokesperson said.
Ford, in her statement, repeated the account she first made to the Washington Post: The assault occurred on a summer evening after swimming with friends at the Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, Md., she said. She had met Kavanaugh through friends previously, but did not know him well, she added.
She and a small group of friends went to a gathering at someone’s home. “I drank one beer that evening,’’ she said. She said Kavanaugh and Judge pushed her into a bedroom when she went upstairs to use the bathroom.
“I yelled, hoping someone downstairs might hear me, and tried to get away from him, but his weight was heavy,” Ford’s statement said. “Brett groped me and tried to take my clothes off. 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,” she said.
She escaped when Judge jumped on the bed, allowing her to break free. She acknowledged that many details about that day and night remain unclear.
“I truly wish I could provide detailed answers to all of the questions that have been and will be asked about how I got to the party, where it took place, and so forth. 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,” the statement says.
“I tried to convince myself that because Brett did not rape me, I should be able to move on and just pretend that it had never happened,” it adds.
Ford says she told her husband before they married that she had been sexually assaulted, but didn’t talk about the details until a 2012 couples therapy session that included a discussion about how to remodel their home.
“I insisted on a second front door, an idea that he and others disagreed with and could not understand,” Ford’s statement says. “In explaining why I wanted to have a second front door, I described the assault in detail. I recall saying that the boy who assaulted me could someday be on the U.S. Supreme Court and spoke a bit about his background. My husband recalls that I named my attacker as Brett Kavanaugh.”
In a separate affidavit from Russell Ford, he said, “I remember her saying that the attacker’s name was Brett Kavanaugh, that he was a successful lawyer who had grown up in Christine’s hometown and that he was well known in the Washington, D.C., community.”
Ford told two additional friends about the incident in 2016 and 2017, according to their affidavits. But only Ford’s husband knew Kavanaugh’s name. The friends were told only that the alleged attacker was a federal judge.
Ford says in her statement that after that session she tried to repress the memories because they caused anxiety and panic attacks, and despite occasionally mentioning the assault to friends, she did not tell anyone else Kavanaugh’s name until this summer.
She adds that she faced a terrible choice between sharing the facts with the Senate and putting her family in the public spotlight, or preserving their privacy and allowing the Senate to make a decision without knowing about Kavanaugh’s past behavior. Since her name became public, her family has had to move repeatedly amid threats of harm and her personal information has been shared on the internet, she says.
"I have had to relive my trauma in front of the entire world, and have seen my life picked apart by people on television, in the media, and in this body who have never met me or spoken with me."
She will emphasize that she doesn't have political motives in coming forward, but as a citizen, she wanted senators to have relevant information necessary to make a decision.
"It is not my responsibility to determine whether Mr. Kavanaugh deserves to sit on the Supreme Court. My responsibility is to tell the truth," Ford will say.
Retiring Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who is one of a handful of senators who have not yet declared a position, said in a Senate floor speech that he did not believe Ford was part of an orchestrated smear campaign.
Flake said he wouldn’t decide how to vote until after Thursday’s hearing and called on colleagues to scale back the “toxic” partisanship around the confirmation.
“Up or down, yes or no, however this vote goes, I am confident in saying that it will forever be steeped in doubt,” he said. “This doubt is the only thing of which I am confident in this process.”