During a lunch recess in the Brett Kavanaugh-Christine Blasey Ford hearing, CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin appeared flummoxed by the tactics of outside counsel Rachel Mitchell as she questioned Ford. Mitchell, a sex-crimes prosecutor from Maricopa County, Ariz., is serving as a proxy for male Republican senators who declined to question Ford directly about her allegations that Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge sexually assaulted her in 1982.
“I can’t figure out what she’s getting at,” said Toobin. “It’s CSI, Chevy Chase.”
He was referring to Mitchell’s tactics in the second and third hour of the hearing, when she asked Ford about her admitted fear of flying, and then brought up several incidents in which she took airline trips.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) praised Christine Blasey Ford on Thursday, telling her that she had enlightened both men and women by her testimony. Ford alleges Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh assaulted her decades ago when they were in high school.
Asked as he left for the lunch break if he has found professor Christine Blasey Ford to be credible, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) said: “It’s too early to say. I don’t think she’s uncredible, I think she’s an attractive, good witness.”
Asked to clarify what he meant by attractive, Hatch said “in other words, she is pleasing.”
“I can tell you this, she’s attractive and she’s a nice person,” Hatch said. “And I wish her well.”
Hatch has been a strong defender of Kavanaugh and has scowled off and on as the hearing has gone on.
Hatch said he’s not going to second-guess having prosecutor Rachel Mitchell do the questioning for Republicans.
“I think it’s a good format. We’re in the early throes of this and it’s pretty hard to make any kind of determination at this point,” Hatch said.
Christine Blasey Ford came across in her hearing Thursday as nervous and unfamiliar with congressional hearings, but fully confident that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh assaulted her at a party in the early 1980s.
Her obvious lack of familiarity with the ways of Washington could boost her credibility with undecided lawmakers and the public. It undermined the suggestion by Kavanaugh’s supporters that she’s part of an organized political effort to attack the nominee.
At several points during Thursday’s testimony, Ford relied on instruction from her lawyers. And when Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) asked if she needed a break, Ford deferred to the committee.
Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein was supposed to meet with President Trump on Thursday amid questions about how long he would remain as the Justice Department’s second in command.
But that encounter has been postponed as all eyes focused on a Senate hearing room, where Christine Blasey Ford has given emotional testimony about an alleged sexual assault by Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, when they were both teenagers.
Trump himself said he wanted to watch the hearing, and suggested on Wednesday that his meeting with Rosenstein would be delayed. The White House made that official on Thursday afternoon.
Much has been made of the optics leading up to the Brett . Kavanaugh-Christine Blasey Ford hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, in particular about whether the visual of an all-male lineup of Republican senators questioning a lone female accuser on national television might echo the ugliness of the 1991 Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearing.
A replay of the Hill grilling wouldn’t just look bad for Republicans, but in the #MeToo era, it could also be disastrous coming a month before the midterms. Their solution was to bring in a woman, outside counsel Rachel Mitchell, to ask the tough questions of Ford, who claimed Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge sexually assaulted her in 1982 when she was 15 at a high school house party.
But before Mitchell was introduced, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) set a defensive tone in his opening remarks, despite a few conciliatory words at the onset of the hearing’s first hour. “I hope my colleagues will join me in a show of civility” he said. But he spent the next 10 minutes or so asking why it took so long for Ford’s claims to be brought forward and how badly the Democrats handled the allegations and calling her initial outreach “secret” rather than confidential.
President Trump flew back to Washington as Christine Blasey Ford was delivering dramatic testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday morning, and watched from the executive cabin aboard Air Force One, according to Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who traveled with him.
Trump said Wednesday, at a freewheeling news conference after three days at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, that he sympathized with his Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, after having himself faced what he described as "false accusations." But he also left the door open to being convinced by Ford's testimony.
"I can always be convinced," he said. "I have to hear it."
Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony today to the Senate Judiciary Committee has prompted many comparisons to Anita Hill’s a generation ago: So far, through the initial rounds of questions, the differences outweigh the similarities.
Hill faced relentless pounding from Republican senators. One, the late Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, accused her of committing “flat-out perjury” in her claim that Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her at work.
Ford, by contrast, has had no questions from Republican senators. Instead, the committee’s Republican majority has turned its time over to Rachel Mitchell, an outside counsel from Arizona who has extensive experience prosecuting crimes involving sexual violence.