Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday after multiple women accused him of engaging in sexual misconduct as a teenager and young adult.
Kavanaugh — at times crying — addressed the committee following an emotional three-hour testimony from Christine Blasey Ford, the 51-year-old research psychologist and professor at Palo Alto University, who claims that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a high school party in the 1980s. Ford claims Kavanaugh, 53, allegedly pinned her down to a bed, groped her and tried to remove her clothes.
Kavanaugh continued to deny the allegations in his opening statement — a version of which was released ahead of his high-stakes hearing — saying, “This is a circus.”
“Less than two weeks ago, Dr. Ford publicly accused me of committing a wrongdoing at an event more than 36 years ago when we were both in high school. I denied the allegation immediately, categorically and unequivocally. All four people allegedly at the event including Ford’s longtime friend Ms. Kaiser, have said they recall no such event. Her longtime friend Ms. Kaiser said under penalty of felony that she does not know me and does not believe she ever saw me at a party ever,” said Kavanaugh.
“Here is the quote from Ms. Kaiser’s attorney’s letter: ‘Simply put Ms. Kaiser does not know Kavanaugh. She has no recollection of ever being at a party or gathering where he was present with or without Dr. Ford.’ Think about that fact,” he continued.
“The day after, I told this Committee that I wanted to testify as soon as possible, under oath, to clear my name,” he said. “I demanded a hearing the very next day. Unfortunately, it took the committee 10 days to get to this hearing. In those 10 long days, as was predictable and as I predicted, my family and my name have been totally and permanently destroyed by vicious and false additional accusations.”
“The 10-day delay has been harmful to me and my family, to the Supreme Court and to the country. When this allegation first arose, I welcomed any kind of investigation. Senate, FBI, or otherwise conducted a thorough investigation and I’ve cooperated fully. I know that any kind of investigation, Senate, FBI, police or whatever, will clear me. Listen to the people I know. Listen to the people who I’ve known for my whole life. Listen to the people I’ve grown up with, worked with and played with, coached with and dated and taught, gone to games with, had beers with. Listen to the witnesses who were allegedly at this event 36 years ago. Listen to Ms. Kaiser, she does not know me. I was not at the party described by Dr. Ford.”
Kavanaugh said, “This confirmation process has become a national disgrace. The Constitution gives the Senate an important role in the confirmation process. But you have replaced advise and consent, with search and destroy. Since my nomination in July, this has been a frenzy on the left to come up with something, anything, to block my confirmation. Shortly after I was nominated, the Democratic Senate Leader said he would ‘oppose me with everything’ he’s got.”
“A Democratic senator on this committee publicly referred to me as evil,” he told the committee. “Evil. Think about that word. And said those who supported me were ‘complicit and evil.’ Another Democratic senator on this committee said ‘Judge Kavanaugh is your worst nightmare.’ “
“I understand the passions of the moment, but I would say to those senators: your words have meaning,” said Kavanaugh. “Millions of Americans listen carefully to you. Given comments like those, is it any surprise that people have been willing to do anything, to make any physical threat against my family. To send a violent email to my wife. To make any kind of allegation against me and against my friends. To blow me up and take me down. You sewed the wind, for decades to come, I fear that the whole country will reap the whirlwind.”
Kavanaugh continued, “The behavior of several of the Democratic members of this committee a few weeks ago was an embarrassment. Those efforts didn’t work. … A new tactic was needed, some of you were lying in waiting. This first allegation was held in secret for weeks by a Democratic member of this committee and staff. It would be needed only if you couldn’t take me out on the merits. When it was needed, this allegation was unleashed and publicly deployed over Dr. Ford’s wishes. And then, as no doubt as expected, if not planned, came a long series of false last-minute smears designed to scare me and drive me out of the process before any hearing occurred. Crazy stuff, gangs, illegitimate children, fights on boats in Rhode Island. Reported breathlessly and often uncritically by the media. This has destroyed my family and my good name. A good name built up through decades of very hard work and public service at the highest levels of the American government.”
“These two weeks of calculated and orchestrated political hit fueled with pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election,” said Kavanaugh. He added, “This is a circus. The consequences will extend long past my nomination. The consequences will long be with us for decades. This grotesque character assassination will dissuade competent and good people of all political persuasions from serving our country. And as we all know the United States political system in the early 2000s, what goes around comes around.”
He continued, “I am an optimistic guy. I always try to be on the sunrise side of the mountain. To be optimistic about the day that is coming. But today I have to say I fear for the future. Last time I was here, I told this committee that a federal judge must be independent, not swayed by public or political pressure. I said I was such a judge and I am. I will not be intimidated into withdrawing from this process. You have tried hard, you’ve given it your all, no one can question your effort. But your coordinated and well-funded effort to destroy my good name and destroy my family, will not drive me out. The vile threats of violence against my family will not drive me out. You may defeat me in the final vote, but you will never get me to quit, never. I am here today to tell the truth. I have never sexually assaulted anyone—not in high school, not in college, not ever.”
Kavanaugh added, “Sexual assault is horrific. One of my closest friends to this day is a woman who was sexually abused who in the 1990s, when we’re in our 30s, confided in me and she sought my advice. Allegations of sexual assault must be taken seriously. Those who make allegations deserve to be heard. At the same time, the person who is the subject of the allegations also deserves to be heard.”
He concluded his testimony with the declaration: “I ask you to judge me by the standard that you would want applied to your father, your husband, your brother or your son. My family and I intend no ill will toward Dr. Ford or her family. But I swear today under oath, before the Senate and the nation, before my family and God, I am innocent of this charge.”
During her testimony, a tearful Ford gave an emotional recounting of her claims as she was questioned by Rachel Mitchell, a sex crimes prosecutor from Arizona who was hired by Senate Republicans as outside counsel.
“My motivation in coming forward was to be helpful and to provide the facts about how Mr. Kavanaugh’s actions have damaged my life, so that you can take that into a serious consideration as you make your decision about how to proceed,” Ford said. “It is not my responsibility to determine whether Mr. Kavanaugh deserves to sit on the Supreme Court. My responsibility is to tell you the truth.”
Ford’s voice shook when she told the committee, “I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified.”
She also recalled how she thought her life was going to end during the alleged sexual assault. “I believed he was going to rape me,” said Ford. “I tried to yell for help. When I did, Brett put his hand over my mouth to stop me from screaming. This was what terrified me the most, and has had the most lasting impact on my life. It was hard for me to breathe, and I thought that Brett was accidentally going to kill me.”
“Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter. The uproarious laughter between the two and their having fun at my expense,” she said. “They were laughing with each other. I was underneath one of them [Kavanaugh] while the two [Kavanaugh and Judge] laughed. Two friends having a really good time with one another.”
The accusations have delayed Kavanaugh’s confirmation process. The Senate Judiciary Committee, facing pressure from the White House, has moved to speed up the process by scheduling a vote on his nomination Friday, the Wall Street Journal reports.
“I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time,” Kavanaugh wrote in a statement released by the White House after the allegations emerged.
After Ford came forward with her claims in an interview with The Washington Post, Kavanaugh was accused of sexual assault by a second woman on Sunday. Deborah Ramirez 53, told The New Yorker that when she and Kavanaugh were freshmen at Yale University, he allegedly exposed his penis, put it in her face and “caused her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away.”
Kavanaugh has denied all allegations of sexual assault. In an interview with Fox News on Sunday, he said, “I never sexually assaulted anyone. I did not have sexual intercourse or anything close to sexual intercourse in high school or for many years thereafter. The girls from the schools I went to and I were friends.”
Then on Wednesday, a third accuser, Julie Swetnick, claimed that Kavanaugh attended a high school party at which she was allegedly gang-raped, according to her lawyer Michael Avenatti’s tweet. She does not allege in the affidavit that Kavanaugh raped her, or that he raped anyone else. She also claimed she witnessed efforts by Kavanaugh “to cause girls to become inebriated and disoriented so they could be ‘gang raped’ by a train of numerous boys.”
Kavanaugh denied Swetnick’s allegations in a statement on Wednesday, saying, “This is ridiculous and from The Twilight Zone. I don’t know who this is and this never happened.”
Also on Wednesday, it was revealed that the Senate Judiciary Committee is inquiring about two allegations of misconduct against Kavanaugh, according to an interview transcript.
The fourth misconduct claim by an anonymous woman allegedly occurred in 1998 when Kavanaugh shoved a woman “up against the wall very aggressively and sexually” after leaving a bar where they had been drinking. The fifth claim “concerning a rape on a boat in Rhode Island” allegedly happened in 1985.
The transcript also stated Kavanaugh’s comments on all the accusations, including the fourth and fifth claims.
“This is crazy town. It’s a smear campaign. [The allegations] are just absurd and outrageous, coordinated perhaps. I don’t know. Twilight zone. And I don’t — you know, it’s just outrageous,” he said. “It’s trying to take me down, trying to take down my family. It’s bad — it’s doing damage to the Supreme Court. It’s doing damage to the country. It’s doing damage to this process. It’s become a total feeding frenzy, you know? Just unbelievable.”
If you or someone you care about is affected by sexual violence, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).