Christine Blasey Ford Recalls ‘Uproarious Laughter’ in Alleged Kavanaugh Sexual Assault; Kavanaugh Issues Forceful Denial

Christine Blasey Ford Recalls ‘Uproarious Laughter’ in Alleged Kavanaugh Sexual Assault; Kavanaugh Issues Forceful Denial

News Staff

Emotionally battling to rescue his Supreme Court nomination, a beleaguered Brett Kavanaugh fought back Thursday against allegations that he’d sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford when both were high school students, telling Congress that allegations by her and others have “totally and permanently destroyed” his family and his reputation.

In a loud voice, the conservative jurist told the Senate Judiciary Committee that his confirmation process had become “a national disgrace.”

“You have replaced ‘advice and consent’ with ‘search and destroy,'” he said.

Kavanaugh denied Ford’s allegation that he’d trapped her on a bed in a locked room during a gathering of friends when they were teenagers, saying, “I have never done this to her or to anyone.”

With his support among Senate Republicans in question, he also said he would not step side.

“You may defeat me in the final vote, but you’ll never get me to quit, never.”

Behind him in the audience, his wife, Ashley, sat looking stricken. He himself was close to tears when he mentioned his mother and daughter and, later, his father.

Earlier, Ford declared Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her as he and a friend shared “uproarious laughter” in a locked room at a 1980s high school gathering, recounting her allegations to the Senate Judiciary Committee and a riveted nation in a drama that threatens to derail Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination.

Her account, delivered in a soft and sometimes-halting voice, came as the Judiciary panel began an extraordinary session that Republicans hope will let them salvage Kavanaugh’s chances of joining the high court. She showed no hesitancy in affirming the crucial question about the alleged incident, telling senators her certainty that Kavanaugh was her attacker was “100 percent.”

“I believed he was going to rape me,” Ford said, adding that she believed Kavanaugh would accidentally kill her when he covered her mouth to stifle a cry for help.

Kavanaugh testified a short time later, forcefully denying all allegations against him.

“I was not at the party described by Dr. Ford,” he said.

“My family and my name has been totally and permanently destroyed by vicious and false additional accusations,” Kavanaugh said, adding later, “This confirmation process has become a national disgrace.”

He told the committee he “will not be intimidated into withdrawing from this process.”

Later, he choked back tears as he talked about his family, noting that his 10-year-old daughter suggested praying for his accuser.

Ford testified for about four hours, answering questions from supportive Democrats and from an outside counsel hired by Republicans. Kavanaugh, now 53, has denied accusations from Ford and other women and awaited his own chance to testify later Thursday.

The conservative jurist’s Senate confirmation had seemed assured until Ford came forward. It has become less clear that Republican leaders will be able to hold GOP senators behind President Donald Trump’s nominee.

In an election-season battle that’s being waged along a polarized nation’s political and cultural fault lines, Trump and most Republicans have rallied behind Kavanaugh. They’ve accused Ford and the other women of making unproven allegations and have questioned why they’d not publicly revealed them for decades.

But with televisions across the nation tuned to the hearing — senators among those riveted to their screens — it was unclear how lawmakers who will ultimately decide Kavanaugh’s fate will assess Ford’s credibility.

Ford has said Kavanaugh trapped her on a bed and tried undressing her, grinding his body against her and muffling her cries with her hand.

The 51-year-old California psychology professor spoke carefully and deliberately during the hearing, occasionally using scientific terminology about the mind.

Asked by Patrick Leahy of Vermont for her strongest memory of the alleged incident, Ford mentioned the two boys’ laughter: “Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter, the uproarious laughter between the two and their having fun at my expense.”

Ford has said Kavanaugh friend Mark Judge was also in the room. Judge has said he doesn’t remember the incident and has declined to appear before the panel.

Ford told the top committee Democrat, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, that she’d “agonized daily” over coming forward about the alleged decades-old attack. She said she feared the personal consequences would be akin to “jumping in front of a train.”

But she said she felt it was her civic duty to bring the accusation to light when she thought Kavanaugh might be nominated. When asked if she had any political motivation Ford said, “No. I was trying to get the information to you while there was still a list of equally qualified candidates.”

Both she and Kavanaugh have received death threats since her allegation surfaced.

When Feinstein asked her how she could be sure that Kavanaugh was the attacker, Ford said, “The same way I’m sure I’m talking to you right now.” Later, she told Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., that her certainty was “100 percent.”

The Judiciary panel’s 11 Republicans — all men — let Rachel Mitchell, a veteran sex crimes prosecutor from Arizona, asked their questions. She began by expressing sympathy for Ford, who’d said she was “terrified” to testify, saying, “I just wanted to let you know, I’m very sorry. That’s not right.”

Mitchell led Ford through a detailed recollection of the events she says occurred on the day of the alleged incident. But under the committee’s procedures, the career prosecutor was limited to five minutes at a time, interspersed between Democrats’ questions, creating a choppy effect as she tried piecing together the story.

Before she began, committee chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa defended the Republicans’ handling of the confirmation proceedings so far, but also apologized to both Ford and Kavanaugh “for the way you’ve been treated” as they endured people questioning their characters.

Feinstein criticized “the rush to judgment” from Republicans who have rejected Democratic demands to slow Kavanaugh’s confirmation process and let the FBI investigate all the allegations.

“This is not a trial of Dr. Ford. It’s a job interview for Judge Kavanaugh,” she said.

Kavanaugh and Ford were the only witnesses invited to testify before the panel. But the conservative jurist is facing allegations of sexual misconduct from other women as well, forcing Republican leaders to struggle to keep support for him from eroding.

Grassley complained that lawyers for other accusers have not provided information to his panel and said, “The committee can’t do an investigation if attorneys are stonewalling.”

Republicans acknowledged that much was riding on Kavanaugh’s performance. Even Trump, who fiercely defends his nominee, said he would be watching and was “open to changing my mind.”

Kavanaugh’s teetering grasp on winning confirmation was evident when Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, expressed concern, in a private meeting with senators Wednesday, about a new, third accuser, according to a person with knowledge of the gathering. Republicans control the Senate 51-49 and can lose only one vote. Collins is among the few senators who’ve not made clear how they’ll vote.

Collins walked into that meeting carrying a copy of Julie Swetnick’s signed declaration, which included fresh accusations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh and Judge.

Collins said senators should hear from Judge. After being told Judge has said he doesn’t want to appear before the committee, she reminded her colleagues that the Senate has subpoena power.

Republicans are pushing to seat Kavanaugh before the November midterms, when Senate control could fall to the Democrats and a replacement Trump nominee could have even greater difficulty. Kavanaugh’s ascendance to the high court could help lock in a conservative majority for a generation, shaping dozens of rulings on abortion, regulation, the environment and more.

Republicans also risk rejection by female voters in November if they are seen as not fully respecting women and their allegations.

In a sworn statement, Swetnick said she witnessed Kavanaugh “consistently engage in excessive drinking and inappropriate contact of a sexual nature with women in the early 1980s.” Her attorney, Michael Avenatti, who also represents a porn actress who is suing Trump, provided her sworn declaration to the Judiciary panel.

Interviewed by Showtime show “The Circus” in a clip that aired Thursday, she said she didn’t want the allegations to come out just before the hearing, but circumstances brought it out that way.”

She also said that the behavior she allegedly witnessed is disqualifying for a Supreme Court justice.

“This is something that occurred a long time ago, and it’s not that I just thought about it. It’s been on my mind ever since the occurrence,” Swetnick said.

Meanwhile, the lawyer for Deborah Ramirez, who says Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a party when they attended Yale University, raised her profile in a round of television interviews.

Moments before committee chairman Grassley gaveled his panel into session, Ramirez tweeted her support for Ford: “They want us to feel alone and isolated but I’m there wrapping my arms around you and I hope you feel the people of this nation wrapping their arms around all of us.”

Ford told the committee that, one night in the summer of 1982, a drunken Kavanaugh forced her down on a bed, “groped me and tried to take off my clothes,” then clamped his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream before she was able to escape.

Kavanaugh is being challenged on multiple fronts by his accusers, former classmates and college friends. They say the good-guy image he projects in public bears little relation to the hard-partying behavior they witnessed when he was young.

In his prepared testimony, he acknowledged drinking in high school with his friends, but said he’d never done anything “remotely resembling” what Ford describes. He said he never had a “sexual or physical encounter of any kind” with her.

He also provided the committee with detailed calendar pages listing in green-and-white squares the activities that filled his summer of 1982 when he was 17 years old — exams, movies, sports and plenty of parties. That’s the year when Ford says she believes the assault occurred.

Nothing on the calendar appears to refer to her.

Ford released sworn statements from people who said she had told them about the assault in later years.

Late Wednesday, the committee released a flurry of other documents of unclear significance.

Transcripts of private interviews with committee investigators show they asked Kavanaugh about two previously undisclosed accusations received by Senate offices. One came in an anonymous letter sent to the office of Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., describing an incident in a bar in 1998, when Kavanaugh was working for the independent counsel investigating President Bill Clinton. The other accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct in college. Kavanaugh denied them both.

Associated Press writers Kevin Freking, Mary Clare Jalonick, Padmananda Rama, Matthew Daly, Julie Pace and AP photographers J. Scott Applewhite and Carolyn Kaster contributed to this report.

If you need support today, the National Sexual Assault Hotline is available: 800-656-HOPE or online.rainn.org.