Christine Ford, Brett Kavanaugh give emotional testimony at US Senate hearing | News | DW | 28.09.2018
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Christine Ford, Brett Kavanaugh give emotional testimony at US Senate hearing

A woman who accuses US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct testified before a Senate committee hearing. Kavanaugh said the claim is false and called the allegations a calculated political hit.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted on Friday to move Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Senate floor. The decision followed gut-wrenching testimonies given the previous day, which stand to play a major role in the Senate's decision to approve Kavanaugh's lifetime appointment to the US Supreme Court.

Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh both fought back tears on Thursday as they told a US Senate committee about claims of a sexual assault alleged to have occurred when they were both teenagers in the 1980s.

Testifying first, Ford said Kavanaugh locked her in a bedroom during a social gathering and pinned her to the bed. "Brett groped me and tried to take off my clothes. He was having a hard time because he was inebriated… I believed he was going to rape me."

Read more: Kavanaugh protest deeply personal for Ford supporters

Kavanaugh, who faced questioning after Ford, told senators he was innocent of the charges leveled against him, saying the accusations had destroyed his family. He called the allegations against him a "calculated and orchestrated political hit." He said during his own testimony that he had not listened to Ford's.

Key points from Ford's testimony 

  • Christine Blasey Ford, a professor of psychology, told the committee Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in the summer of 1982 at a house in Maryland when he was 17 and she was 15.
  • "He began running his hands over my body and grinding into me," she said, adding that Kavanaugh put his hand over her mouth when she tried to yell for help.
  • "This is 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."
  • The 51-year-old said her strongest memory from the alleged assault was that Kavanaugh and another boy were "drunkenly laughing during the attack," and "having fun at my expense."
  • "Brett's assault on me drastically altered my life for a very long time," Ford told senators. She said she had anxiety, phobia and PTSD-type symptoms, and struggled academically and socially for years.
  • When asked by Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein if this could be a case of mistaken identity, Ford replied: "Absolutely not." 
Brett Kavanaugh

Brett Kavanaugh at times appeared angry as he responded to Ford's allegations of a sexual attack

Key points from Kavanaugh's testimony

  • Kavanaugh, an appellate court judge, said he "categorically and unequivocally denies the allegations against him." 
  • Referring to notes in his calendar, he told senators he was not at the party described by Ford, nor did he have "any sexual or physical encounter of any kind" with her. 
  • Kavanaugh admitted to underage drinking, but he said he never drank to the point of blacking out.
  • Sometimes choking back tears, Kavanaugh described the devastating toll of the allegations, saying they had "totally and permanently destroyed" his family and name.
  • The 53-year-old said opposition to his nomination was part of an "orchestrated political hit" fueled by anger against Trump.
  • He called the process "a circus," and said he would "not be intimidated into withdrawing" his Supreme Court bid.
  • Kavanaugh refused to answer a question from Democratic Senator Richard Durbin about whether he would welcome an FBI investigation into the allegations, and when asked the same question again later, declined to answer.
Demonstration against Kavanaugh in Washington as the hearing took place

Demonstration against Kavanaugh in Washington as the hearing took place

Protesters march on Supreme Court

Protesters supporting Kavanaugh and Ford gathered on Capitol Hill during the hearing. Some held signs urging senators to "confirm Kavanaugh," others said: "Supreme injustice must end" and "We believe Dr. Blasey Ford."  

"We want to let her know that she has our support," Nina Marciano from D.C. told DW's US correspondent, Michael Knigge. "We are here to commend her and also urge our leaders to make the right decision ... I would want an FBI investigation."

Protesters also marched to the Supreme Court, where Kavanaugh would work if confirmed by the committee and Senate.

What other accusers have said: Ford is one of three women to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct in the 1980s. Deborah Ramirez told US media that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a college party when they were both at Yale University. A third woman, Julie Swetnick, said Kavanaugh engaged in "abusive and physically aggressive behavior toward girls" at parties, and that he was "present" when she was raped by multiple boys.

Trump's response to the allegations: President Donald Trump has fiercely defended his nominee, alleging the accusations are fabricated and part of a "con job" by the Democrats. However, he has said he would listen to what Ford has to say at the hearing and, if persuaded, could withdraw the nomination.

Watch video 02:52

Protesters rally in D.C. against Kavanaugh nomination

How Kavanaugh could impact the Supreme Court: Trump chose staunch conservative Kavanaugh to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, who had been a swing vote on a court currently split between four conservative and four liberal justices. Kavanaugh's appointment would cement conservative control of the top court — furthering Trump's efforts to shift the federal judiciary to the right. The Democratic Party has balked at Trump's nominee, and the controversy surrounding the assault allegations has only deepened the battle lines between the two parties. Democrats have demanded the nomination process be suspended until a full investigation into the women's claims has been carried out.

What happens next: Supreme Court appointments must be confirmed by the Senate, where Trump's Republican Party holds a slim majority. A few weeks ago, Kavanaugh's confirmation appeared a done deal, but things have shifted since allegations of misconduct against him surfaced, and there are signs that some moderate Republicans are on the fence. The committee is set to hold a vote on Friday. If approved, Kavanaugh's nomination could then go before the full Senate on Tuesday for a final vote.

nm/sms (Reuters, dpa, AP)

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