Senate Republicans have hired outside counsel Rachel Mitchell to question Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who has accused him of sexual assault

By Tierney McAfee
September 26, 2018 12:10 PM
Advertisement

Senate Republicans have hired outside counsel Rachel Mitchell to question embattled Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who has accused him of sexual assault.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley announced the news in a statement Tuesday night, saying, “I promised Dr. Ford that I would do everything in my power to avoid a repeat of the ‘circus’ atmosphere in the hearing room that we saw the week of September 4. I’ve taken this additional step to have questions asked by expert staff counsel to establish the most fair and respectful treatment of the witnesses possible.”

Mitchell, a registered Republican who serves as bureau chief of sex crimes for the Maricopa County Attorney’s office in Phoenix, Arizona, will ask questions on behalf of GOP senators while Democrats do their own questioning, Grassley said.

The move comes as Republicans are facing criticism for having only white men on the Senate Judiciary Committee. As The New York Times writes, hiring Mitchell “allows the 11 Republicans on the committee — all white men — to avoid the image on national television of them grilling Dr. Blasey.” The Times also notes that Blasey had sought to have the senators question her instead of a lawyer.

Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate majority leader, referred to Mitchell as a “female assistant,” a comment that some have criticized as sexist.

On Thursday, Ford, a 51-year-old research psychologist and professor at Palo Alto University, will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee about her claim that Kavanaugh pinned her down on a bed, groped her and tried to remove her clothes at a high school party in the early 1980s. Kavanaugh, 53, who has strongly denied the allegation, will also be questioned in Thursday’s hearing.

Democrats and Republicans are debating whether Kavanaugh’s second accuser, Deborah Ramirez, will also be discussed during the hearing, according to CNN. Ramirez, 53, has claimed that Kavanaugh exposed his penis, put it in her face, “caused her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away” and laughed about it during a dorm-room party in Yale’s Lawrance Hall while they were freshmen in the 1983-84 school year. Kavanaugh has also denied this allegation.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, facing pressure from the White House, has moved to speed up Kavanaugh’s confirmation process by scheduling a vote on his nomination Friday, the Wall Street Journal reports.

If you or someone you care about is affected by sexual violence, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).