Kavanaugh hearing: What we learned from testimonies of judge and accuser

Here are the key takeaways from an emotional hearing of the US Senate Judiciary Committee.

Press Association
Last updated: 28 September 2018 - 6.50am

The US Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh produced hours of fiery, emotional testimony.

Both Mr Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, the woman accusing him of sexual assault when they were high school students, appeared before senators on Thursday. Mr Kavanaugh denied the accusation.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the extraordinary hearing:

What did Ms Ford say?

Ms Ford gave a soft-spoken and steady account about what she said happened three decades ago in a bedroom at a small gathering of friends. She said she came forward not for political reasons, but because it was her “civic duty”.

She described in detail how an inebriated Mr Kavanaugh and another teenager, Mark Judge, locked her in a room at a house party as Mr Kavanaugh was grinding and groping her.

Christine Blasey Ford becomes emotional during the hearing
Christine Blasey Ford becomes emotional during the hearing (Andrew Harnik/AP)

She said he put his hand over her mouth to muffle her screams, and testified: “I believed he was going to rape me.”

The 51-year-old mother of two said the incident was seared into her mind through trauma, while admitting there were some gaps in her memory around the attack.

Ms Ford, a California psychology professor making her first public remarks about the incident, choked up occasionally as she described the alleged attack.

Democratic senators questioned her directly, but the 11 Republican members on the committee instead chose to have a female sex crimes prosecutor from Arizona question her.

Asked how certain she was that Mr Kavanaugh was her attacker, she declared: “100%.”

What did Mr Kavanaugh say?

Mr Kavanaugh ditched his prepared remarks and instead issued a blistering statement declaring the confirmation process “a national disgrace”.

He strongly denied Ms Ford’s allegation, but said he believed she had been the victim of a sexual assault. The father of two daughters said one of his girls said they should “pray for the woman” accusing him.

Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee
Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)

“That’s a lot of wisdom from a 10-year-old,” he said, choking up.

Mr Kavanaugh’s scorched-earth strategy gave president Donald Trump what he wanted: a nominee willing to fight back aggressively and yield no ground to Democrats.

Echoing Ms Ford, he said he was “100% certain” he did not commit the assault.

At times, Mr Kavanaugh’s frustrations boiled over. When Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar asked if he had ever drunk so much he blacked out, he snapped: “Have you?”.

He later apologised.

Moments after the hearing finished, Mr Trump tweeted that Mr Kavanaugh “showed America exactly why I nominated him”.

Phoenix prosecutor Rachel Mitchell questions Christine Blasey Ford
Phoenix prosecutor Rachel Mitchell questions Christine Blasey Ford (Tom Williams/Pool Image via AP)

What happened to the prosecutor?

Republicans appointed prosecutor Rachel Mitchell to question Ms Ford, and she led off the questioning of Mr Kavanaugh. Then she quickly faded away.

After Ms Mitchell asked Mr Kavanaugh several detailed questions about Ms Ford’s allegations, the GOP senators took matters into their own hands.

Senator Lindsey Graham led the way with a scorching denunciation of Democrats for raising the allegations against Mr Kavanaugh in the final days of the confirmation process.

From there, each GOP senator handled his own questions, while Ms Mitchell sat silently nearby.

Hours earlier, Ms Mitchell opened her questioning of Ms Ford by expressing sympathy for the professor, who said she was “terrified” to testify.

“I just wanted to let you know, I’m very sorry. That’s not right,” Ms Mitchell said.

Surpeme Court Kavanaugh
Senator Orrin Hatch speaks to the media after the hearing (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

What happens next?

Republicans quickly expressed their determination to move forward. After huddling in the Capitol, senators said the Judiciary Committee would hold a Friday morning vote on whether to recommend Mr Kavanaugh for confirmation.

Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, a long-time committee member, said he thinks Mr Kavanaugh will get confirmed by a party-line vote.

Republicans’ margin for error in the full Senate is slim. If all Democrats oppose the nomination, just two GOP senators would sink Mr Kavanaugh’s confirmation if they were to oppose him as well.

Multiple Republican politicians have not said which way they will vote, including two women with reputations as moderates who have been willing to buck their party – Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Mr Graham cautioned them against voting no.

“To my Republican colleagues, if you vote no, you’re legitimising the most despicable thing I have seen in my time in politics,” he said.

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