14:15: That wraps up this live blog. We’ll be back with another thread on Kavanaugh’s testimony.
14:09: Final round. Mitchell is circling back around to Leland Keyser, and then to the process by which Ford’s story developed. Mitchell is making the point that this has been mishandled from the beginning. With that, Dr. Ford’s testimony comes to an end.
This was odd, though:
14:04: Harris is now picking up the same lecture as other Democrats, including the demand for a new FBI investigation. She’s now lecturing on how to conduct a sexual assault investigation, which might have been a good reason to get something started in July by communicating the letter to Grassley. But anyway, Ford could get that process started by filing a complaint with the appropriate police department.
13:58: Ed Whelan’s name came up. Garrett, it turns out, “went out with” Ford for a few months. That runs a stake through the “mistaken identity” theory as posited by Whelan, anyway.
13:57: Ford’s attorneys now say they’re working pro bono. “We don’t expect to be paid,” Michael Bromwich interjects.
13:52: Spartacus is speechifying, too, but at least a little more personally with Ford. And he also managed to ask a question, too.
13:48: Mitchell just established that the only two people to whom Ford provided her July 30 letter was Rep. Anita Eshoo and Feinstein. Ford also testifies that she never authorized its release. That narrows down the leakers to two people and their staffs.
13:42: Hirono spends her five minutes speechifying, never asks a question, and ends with “Mahalo.” Oooooooooo-kay.
13:39: Maizie Hirono leads off by lecturing Mitchell about how to deal with victims of sexual assault. Worth noting: Mitchell’s been doing this professionally for 26 years.
13:20: John Cornyn points out that nothing much has really changed:
Cornyn: “Basically she’s repeating what we already knew, which is she believes something happened. She believes it was Brett Kavanaugh but everybody she claims was in the house denies having any knowledge of it. There is no corroboration.”
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) September 27, 2018
13:01: Even in the recess, Grassley and Feinstein are trading blows on Twitter:
The committee repeatedly asked Ranking Member Feinstein to join its investigation, including requests to participate on numerous calls. Notably, the Ranking Member’s staff didn’t ask a *single* question of Judge Kavanaugh during *three* on-record interviews with the committee. https://t.co/h6W5x0Bnl2
— Senate Judiciary Republicans (@SenJudiciaryGOP) September 27, 2018
12:43: Now in recess for the next half-hour. The Senate has a vote scheduled, so they will return afterward to resume with Ford. Mitchell seems to be laying out a case that Ford’s memory is unreliable, even in the short term, and that her legal team has been deceptive. Again, that won’t convince Ford’s defenders, but it’s designed to appeal to a small group of undecided Republicans as well as give context to Brett Kavanaugh’s upcoming denials.
12:39: Ford says that the polygraph was “extensive.” The data showed only two questions. Were there more than two questions? If so, why wasn’t that data provided? Also, Ford didn’t pay for the polygraph “yet” and doesn’t know who did.
12:36: Blumenthal is wasting his time calling the lack of an FBI investigation a “cover up.” So far, Coons’ five minutes has been the most interesting and productive from the Democratic panel.
12:26: Ford says she didn’t understand the offer from Grassley to come to her. That’s a little odd, considering that it was explicitly made multiple times in private and in public.
12:21: Chris Coons may be the first Democrat to just get down to business rather than pontificate about the FBI. (Perhaps Amy Klobuchar did, too.)
12:18: Mitchell now establishing that Ford’s efforts to tell her story seemed mainly to go towards media rather than the institutions that were likely to address the issue directly. Says “beach friends” suggested media outlets.
12:13: Grassley reminds Ford that he repeatedly offered to send staffers out to her to get her testimony, which she acknowledges with a “Thank you.”
12:10: On the fear of flying, let me interject my own experience. I understand why Ford says it’s easier to fly for vacations — it is for me, too. It’s because I’m more motivated to fly, and I’m sure Ford is too. But this is why I argued when her legal team insisted that she couldn’t fly that it wasn’t true, and this has proven the point. I take Xanax on a prescription explicitly written for my travel needs whenever I board an airplane, and it works nicely to take the edge off the anxiety. Until the first bout of turbulence. Anyway, this all goes to credibility, and it didn’t redound to Ford’s benefit.
12:04: Ford admits she came to Washington by plane, both now and earlier. “I was hoping they would come to me,” Ford says. Also admits that she flies on other occasions, including international travel. That’s a pretty good swipe at credibility — at least that of her legal team. Also, Grassley did offer to send staffers to California to get her testimony.
12:02: Mitchell’s working on Ford’s credibility and memory in as sensitive an approach possible, under the circumstances. This still won’t move those committed to one position or another, but may have an impact when matched up with whatever Kavanaugh brings later.
11:59: Did Ford make a mistake on the notes? The Washington Post article explicitly states that they reviewed the therapist notes:
The Post explicitly said it saw them. pic.twitter.com/ye0dcKcl8X
— Charles C. W. Cooke (@charlescwcooke) September 27, 2018
Ford says she just summarized them for the reporter. That’s not a perjury point, but it does go to her credibility as a witness, or the Post’s credibility as a news organization.
11:54: Sheldon Whitehouse asks, “You specifically asked for an FBI investigation, did you not?” Ford could have filed a complaint with the police at any time during this process, too. Also, this from Katie:
Dr. Ford can't recall basic facts about conversations she's had in the past three months.
— Katie Pavlich (@KatiePavlich) September 27, 2018
11:52: Mitchell is also showing that Ford’s memory is oddly vague about whether or not the Washington Post saw her therapist’s notes. That was just a couple of weeks ago. Ford admits that the notes describe the number of people in the room differently.
11:50: Mitchell is circling back around to the discrepancies, especially on time frame. Ford has offered various estimations, based on whether she had her driver’s license, but those estimates have gotten more specific only recently.
11:38: Expect this to be a minority opinion:
Grassley to reporters during the break: “I don’t think I can make any comments at all today, maybe it’s something I ought to sleep on. This is pretty important. We ought to be thinking about it a lot and not making hasty comments.” (via @DaniellaMicaela)
— Ashley Killough (@KilloughCNN) September 27, 2018
11:27: Grassley rips Durbin for complaining about obstruction, noting that Feinstein sat on Ford’s allegation “for 45 days when this committee could have been investigating” it while protecting Ford’s privacy. With that, Grassley gavels a 15-minute recess.
We’re 90 minutes in now, and we really haven’t seen the ball move at all — at least not in factual terms.
11:22: That, of course, is a contradiction that has been known for a while. But it’s still a point that Mitchell made well. Dick Durbin followed up by taking a swipe at “cheap-shot politicians,” and demands again an FBI investigation and that Mark Judge be subpoenaed “from his …. hideaway.” What was that about cheap shots?
11:19: One contradiction found so far:
Ford again says Leland Keyser was at the party. Keyser has denied being at the party. Ford also says she hasn't talked to anyone who was at the party since the allegation. Then corrects to say she spoke to Leland.
— Katie Pavlich (@KatiePavlich) September 27, 2018
She spoke to Keyser and Keyser still denies being at a party with Kavanaugh?
11:11: Apparently every Democrat on the panel will make a demand for an FBI investigation the opening part of their remarks. Mitchell seems more in tune with the rhythm of the hearing now, but there wasn’t much of substance that emerged.
Earlier, Dianne Feinstein asked Ford whether this could be a case of mistaken identity. “Absolutely not,” Ford replied. Guy Benson wonders:
Ford says she can't guarantee there were only 4 people at the party, as she attested in the Feinstein letter. Also says she can't be sure it was Kavanaugh, not Ford, who pushed her into the room, as she wrote.
Later adds there's "absolutely" no chance this is mistaken identity.
— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) September 27, 2018
11:02: Rachel Mitchell didn’t get to do much in her first five-minute turn. The problem of bringing in outside counsel, especially prosecutors and investigators, is that the committee format doesn’t fit their experience as examiners and cross-examiners.
10:34: Not an unexpected argument from Feinstein, but it has a significant hole in its logic:
MORE: Feinstein says Republicans want to push through confirmations despite new sexual misconduct allegations, says each should be investigated by FBI pic.twitter.com/XxUhsiFXkh
— Reuters Politics (@ReutersPolitics) September 27, 2018
Each of these accusers have had decades of opportunity to get an investigation started by the law enforcement agencies that would have actual jurisdiction. They could still file a complaint today to get that process started. None of them as yet have done so.
10:32: I’m including this Twitter exchange not to criticize Gregg, but to explain to likely many people who like Gregg found this strange:
This is standard procedure in Congress to keep from having arguments get too personal between members. It happens on the floor and in open committee hearings. It's not always effective, but it's a very long tradition. https://t.co/aQ6mAze8Hj
— Ed Morrissey (@EdMorrissey) September 27, 2018
It’s SOP, but it does seem weird if you haven’t watched a lot of C-SPAN.
10:27: Feinstein says the emergence of allegations is a “a real question of character for someone who’s asking for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court,” and demands that people take the allegations “at face value.” That’s better than demanding that they believed rather than examined, I suppose, but not by much. And it’s only a question of character if the allegations can be substantiated, which they haven’t.
Update, 10:10 ET: I’ll lightly live blog the proceedings, with updates coming at the top in reverse chronological order. I’ll just stick with interesting developments; anything major will likely be covered in a post of its own.
I had forgotten the opening speechifying from committee members, which should add an hour to the proceedings. Chuck Grassley started off his time by blasting Dianne Feinstein for hiding Ford’s allegation for several weeks, and then having it leaked:
Grassley starts off hearing criticizing Feinstein's handling of allegations and the letter Christine Blasey Ford wrote on July 30. "Throughout this period, we did not know about the ranking member's secret evidence." He says Ford was "mistreated" by having her allegation leaked
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) September 27, 2018
Original post follows …
Otherwise known as Kavanaugh II — Mud-Slinging Bugaloo. The Senate Judiciary Committee will open its extraordinary hearing into the allegation of teenage assault allegedly perpetrated by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, with only two witnesses: Kavanaugh himself and his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford. Even with just the two people testifying, the hearing is expected to last six or seven hours, so make sure to hydrate if you plan to dig in for the whole show.
The format will be somewhat limited. Ford will go first, deliver an opening statement, and then each committee member will have five minutes to ask questions. Republican members are expected to defer their time to the staff counsel they hired specifically for the occasion, Arizona prosecutor Rachel Mitchell, an investigator who specializes in sex crimes and cases that have been dormant for years. With 21 members, that’ll take at least two hours, perhaps more as chair Chuck Grassley flexes to allow Ford to answer fully and to keep the Democratic complaints of “railroading” down to a dull roar.
After that, the whole process begins again with Kavanaugh. Presumably Republicans will defer all their time to Mitchell again, although they might be champing at the bit by that time to respond to any Democratic provocations during Ford’s testimony. They may start bringing up the more ridiculous and debunked allegations that began leaking out to the media as part of their strategy to paint all of this as a desperate smear job, something Mitchell isn’t likely to do herself. At least another two hours will pass, at least, as Democrats hammer Kavanaugh with everything they can find and Grassley gets tighter with the gavel.
The Hill predicts that Democrats will attack Kavanaugh for his drinking and partying as a teen and young adult, hoping to demolish his “choir boy” image. At the very least, they want to drill down into his inability to get laid in the early 1980s, as “nobody believes” he escaped college as a virgin:
Several Democrats say their colleagues on the Judiciary Committee will ask “very detailed questions” of Kavanaugh about his drinking habits and his sexual relations in high school and college. Their plan is to make the nominee appear evasive.
Democrats will seize on the multiple references to partying and heavy drinking in Kavanaugh’s high school yearbook profile as well as the memoir by his friend, Mark Judge, “Wasted: Tales of a GenX Drunk,” which appears to reference Kavanaugh as a character named Bart O’Kavanaugh.
“One of the more obvious things to go after is the tension between the image of Judge Kavanaugh’s choir boy or frat boy. Bluntly, you can find both in his own writings and speeches,” said Sen. Christopher Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Judiciary Committee.
Another Senate Democrat said that “nobody believes” Kavanaugh was a virgin throughout high school and many years thereafter.
Truly, this is an effort worthy of the US Senate and a key qualifier for the Supreme Court. Was Kavanaugh a Dude or not? What relevance do 300 opinions written on the DC Circuit have when stacked up against that disqualification, which by the way has nothing to do with Ford’s specific claim?
In the end, the only result will be to leave us where we started. The people who care passionately about this won’t have their minds changed. The people who don’t care passionately about this will be disgusted by the exercise and even more turned off by the entire show. We will still have an uncorroborated allegation about an alleged incident 36 years ago that is flatly denied by the person accused, in which the people named by the accuser either say it didn’t happen or they have no recollection of it. Senators will get face time on TV, activists on both sides will collect sound bites, and nothing will have changed — because it’s impossible to move off of those positions as long as Ford and Kavanaugh remain in them.
It’s an exercise in futility, much as the hearing with Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill was. Twenty-seven years later, that’s still unresolved, and twenty-seven years from now, this will be too. Hold the vote, move on, and from now on just bring judicial nominations directly to the Senate floor.
Here’s the live video from the Washington Post, if you can stomach it.