Ford describes assault in unwavering testimony

Alexander Nazaryan
·National Correspondent
Christine Blasey Ford and Phoenix prosecutor Rachel Mitchell (Yahoo News photo Illustration; photos: Michael Reynolds/AP, Andrew Harnik/AFP/Getty Images)
Christine Blasey Ford and Phoenix prosecutor Rachel Mitchell (Yahoo News photo Illustration; photos: Michael Reynolds/AP, Andrew Harnik/AFP/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — Above all, she remembers the laughter. In powerful, gripping testimony, Christine Blasey Ford told the Senate Judiciary Committee about the night, 36 years ago, when she alleges Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh attempted to rape her at a house party in suburban Washington, D.C.

Her voice at times faltering, Ford said she was “100 percent” certain that her assailants were Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge. Asked what she most remembered from that night, Ford answered: “The laughter, the uproarious laughter between the two, and them having fun at my expense.”

The account of laughter is one of the more poignant moments in Ford’s testimony, which lasted some three hours — and would be followed by that of Kavanaugh, who has categorically denied having assaulted Ford or any of the other women who’ve come forward with similar allegations against him.

Ford did not offer new details about the summer night in the early 1980s in question. But she offered herself as a poignant and credible testament to the trauma of sexual assault. In his questioning of Ford, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., called it a “teaching moment” for the country, which has grappled with the implications of the #MeToo movement.

Taking great pains to avoid the spectacle of 11 mostly older white men questioning a lone woman about her sexual history, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee hired Arizona prosecutor Rachel Mitchell to question Ford. Ford’s lawyers had objected to this apparent face-saving tactic, but it appeared to ultimately backfire on the GOP. Many of her questions focused on Ford’s exchanges with the Washington Post, which revealed her identity.

Mitchell established that Ford did not like to fly, but sometimes flew anyway. Some conservatives on Twitter seized on this as evidence of some greater deception.

But no such deception emerged in the three hours during which Ford faced the Judiciary Committee — and a captive nation, including President Trump, who according to reports was watching the hearing. As Ford’s time as a witness was coming to a close, Mitchell quipped about how questioning in five-minute increments had not proved especially enlightening.

Christine Blasey Ford before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Christine Blasey Ford before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Ford’s memory of the night in question remains incomplete. But her assertion that the alleged assault was “indelible in the hippocampus” could prove convincing on its own. She described how, during a somewhat recent renovation of her Northern California home, she insisted on a second front door.

Asked by Mitchell if there could be any other event that could have contributed to her trauma, Ford answered in the negative. That suggested how large the assault she claims was perpetrated by Kavanaugh looms in her memory.

Democrats mostly sought to bolster Ford, whose confidence seemed to grow with the morning. “You are not alone,” said Mazie Hirono of Hawaii. “You are not on trial,” reminded Sen. Kamala Harris of California. Unable to secure an FBI investigation of Ford’s claims, Democrats nevertheless had to be pleased with her testimony.

“Thank you, Dr. Ford,” someone shouted, in a break from the decorum that usually marks a Senate hearing. “Bravo, Dr. Ford,” cried out someone else.

Outside the hearing room, Sen. Lindsey Graham reacted angrily, calling Ford “a nice lady who has come forward to tell a hard story that’s uncorroborated.” But since he was always expected to cast a vote for Kavanaugh, that was of little surprise.

Republican Jeff Flake of Arizona is seen as one of the potential votes against Kavanaugh. He listened attentively during the hearing, and seemed pained at times. Asked after Ford’s testimony by Yahoo News of his impressions from the morning, Flake shook his head.

“Still listening,” he said.

Sen. Jeff Flake listens to Christine Blasey Ford on Thursday. (Photo: Win McNamee/Reuters)
Sen. Jeff Flake listens to Christine Blasey Ford on Thursday. (Photo: Win McNamee/Reuters)

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