Note on your scorecards: eleven Senators will come out of the game temporarily, replaced by one Diamondback. The Republican majority on the Senate Judiciary Committee has picked Rachel Mitchell to handle the questioning in tomorrow’s extraordinary hearing, at least from their side of the dais. Mitchell has worked for the past twenty-six years as a Maricopa County prosecutor, focusing on sexual assault and specializing in cases brought forward after years of neglect.
Oh, and she’s a Republican, too:
Republican senators have selected Arizona prosecutor Rachel Mitchell to question Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh and the woman who has accused the Supreme Court nominee of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers, a top senator announced Tuesday.
Mitchell is the chief of the special victims division of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, which deals with sexual assault cases, among others. A registered Republican, Mitchell has worked for in the county attorney’s office for 26 years. …
The division Mitchell heads deals with family violence, physical and sexual abuse of children, and sex offenses, including sex assault cases. Mitchell oversees about 40 to 50 people in the division, said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery.
Mitchell has a long history of investigating years-old sex crimes and allegations that are difficult to corroborate, including in her role re-examining hundreds of cases that were unresolved and inadequately investigated by the sheriff’s office, Montgomery said.
At first blush, this looks more daunting for Brett Kavanaugh than it does for Christine Blasey Ford. At the very least, it will keep Republicans from pursuing the argument that 36 years of silence means the charges are false. Mitchell herself can tell them that’s not true, any more than making the allegations means they’re true.
Furthermore, Mitchell’s sympathies will naturally tend to lie with the claimant rather than the respondent. Her whole career has been in service to finding victims justice, especially after years of silence or official disinterest. Mitchell has undoubtedly had to cull out a lot of false or flimsy allegations too, but it’s a safe bet that she hasn’t had to do that in a public setting; Mitchell would just decline to prosecute in those cases. This will be a first for Mitchell, and it will be interesting to see how she handles it.
It may be smart for Senate Republicans to have those qualities in outside counsel in order to establish credibility — it’s certainly more valuable than Mitchell’s gender — but it does have at least a theoretical chance of backfiring on them. Perhaps a little more than theoretical. However, it does raise the stakes for Ford, too. Her legal team and Democrats will argue that Mitchell’s not a legitimate figure in this hearing to attack her credibility, but most people will make up their minds based on the questioning. If Mitchell makes Ford’s allegation look even flimsier than it does now, Ford and her “believers” will be in for a bad day tomorrow.
If she shows up at all. I’ll have more on that later, but Mitchell’s appointment raises the odds of a withdrawal, especially since Ford’s attorneys continue to object to any outside counsel.
Meanwhile, Jake Tapper notes that Kavanaugh really did keep his calendar from 1982 … literally:
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) September 26, 2018
One thought: why release this publicly before the testimony? Kavanaugh wants people to know that he can account for his time during the ambiguous window presented in the allegation, but this is an opportunity for his opponents to fit the charges into the time frames he has open on the calendar.
Update: What will Mitchell make of this? Ford’s attorneys say they will submit affidavits from four people who can corroborate her allegations:
The attorneys for Christine Blasey Ford have sworn and signed declarations from four people who corroborate her claims of sexual assault by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
In documents sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee and obtained by USA TODAY, Ford’s attorneys present declarations from Ford’s husband, Russell, and three friends who support the California college professor’s accusation that Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed, groped her and attempted to pull off her clothes while both were high school students in 1982.
Three friends from … when?
In her declaration, Adela Gildo-Mazzon said Ford told her about the alleged assault during a June 2013 meal at a restaurant in Mountain View, California, and contacted Ford’s attorneys on Sept. 16 to tell them Ford had confided in her five years ago. …
In another declaration, Keith Koegler said Ford revealed the alleged assault to him in 2016, when the two parents were watching their children play in a public place and discussing the “light” sentencing of Stanford University student Brock Turner. …
In another declaration, Rebecca White, a neighbor and friend of more than six years, said Ford revealed the alleged assault against her in 2017.
That’s not exactly a corroboration. It’s evidence that she talked about the allegations, but more than three decades later. Actual corroboration would be much more contemporaneous. But still, it would tend to establish that this didn’t come up recently through a memory-recall session with Democratic activists.