The future of Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh is on the line in a historic Senate hearing on this Thursday, as members of the Senate Judiciary Committee will hear from a woman who accused the judge of sexual misconduct at a high school party back in 1982. Kavanaugh will then defend himself later in the day.
The hearing is reminiscent in many ways of the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings in 1981, where Hill accused Thomas of sexual harassment; after several extra days of hearings, the Senate confirmed Thomas to the Supreme Court on a vote of 52-48.
Check back for frequent updates from my spot inside the room.
6:50 pm – President Trump quickly weighs in from the White House. There were reports earlier in the day that the President was not pleased with how the Ford testimony had gone for the GOP. He is probably very pleased with how the afternoon went for Judge Kavanaugh.
6:46 pm – With the quick pound of the gavel, the hearing is over. It’s been an extraordinary day in the history of the U.S. Senate.
6:44 pm – After comments from Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) leads Kavanaugh through each allegation against him, and asks the judge to ‘swear to God’ that those aren’t true. “I swear to God,” Kavanaugh answers.
6:33 pm – After Sen. Cruz jabbed at Sen. Feinstein over leaking the Dr. Ford allegations, Feinstein defends herself, and denies that she or her staff leaked the letter. For Republicans, this is a popular line of argument, blaming Democrats for leaking the Ford information, and thus causing all of the problems for Judge Kavanaugh.
6:25 pm – GOP leaders have to be pleased with the remarks of Republican Senators in the afternoon session with Kavanaugh, sending the message that they are not abandoning Judge Kavanaugh. Sen Ted Cruz (R-TX) tells Kavanaugh this nomination fight has been “one of the most shameful chapters in the history of the US Senate.”
6:15 pm – From outside the hearing room, one Republican takes aim at a Democrat who questioned Kavanaugh.
6:10 pm – After (hopefully) one final break, Judge Kavanaugh is back, with about 30 minutes of questioning left. Kavanaugh sounds a little tired as he answers questions from Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), who is asking about his ‘temperament.’
5:45 pm – Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) takes the final minute of Sen. Mike Lee’s time, and takes an angle that should make GOP leaders feel better about getting 50 votes for the Kavanaugh nomination – Sasse, who has been quiet for the last 10 days, criticized Sen. Feinstein for not bringing up the question of Dr. Ford’s charges.
5:30 pm – After a break, Kavanaugh apologizes to Klobuchar, whose father was an alcoholic. The Judge acknowledges that he should not have thrown her question back at the Senator. She accepts the apology, but said she was just asking a legitimate question about his drinking habits. Here is the video of the original exchange.
5:07 pm – Kavanaugh continues to spar with Democrats. In a back and forth with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Kavanaugh bristled at being asked if he had ever blacked out from too much drinking, throwing the question back at the Senator.
Kavanaugh: “I’m curious if you have.”
Klobuchar: “I have no drinking problem, Judge.”
Kavanaugh: “Nor do I.”
4:55 pm – Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) takes his five minutes, as Republicans seem to have given up on the questions from the outside counsel. Cornyn compares recent events to the McCarthy hearings as he tells the judge, “Don’t give up.”
4:45 pm – Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) breaks the silence of GOP Senators today, as he denounces Democrats. Graham is yelling across the dais at Democrats. “This is the most unethical sham since I’ve been in politics.”
4:35 pm – The way this hearing plays across America will be fascinating to watch. I still think it will be much like the 1991 hearings with Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas.
4:30 pm – The hearing picks back up, as Kavanaugh starts sparring with Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT), who asks about friend Mark Judge. Leahy asks whether the character Bart O’Kavanaugh is the judge. Kavanaugh says Senators should ask Judge – Leahy says, yes, that’s what Democrats wanted to do.
4:05 pm – Kavanaugh’s opening statement went for around 45 minutes. There was no mincing of words.
4:02 pm – Under questioning from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Feinstein asks Kavanaugh about an FBI investigation – Kavanaugh’s voice rises immediately, “My family has been destroyed by this, Senator.”
3:54 pm – The take from my next door neighbor at the press table in the hearing room.
3:50 pm – Dr. Ford’s lawyers are just sitting a few feet from me. Dr. Ford is evidently not watching Judge Kavanaugh.
3:45 pm – Democratic lawmakers watching Kavanaugh don’t like what they see. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA).
3:40 pm – Kavanaugh near tears multiple times in his testimony.
3:22 pm – Kavanaugh denies that he’s done anything bad to women. “I am innocent of this charge.”
3:19 pm – Kavanaugh looks directly at Democrats and says ‘you’ll never get me to quit.’ Kavanaugh says this was a ‘calculated and orchestrated political hit,” which he says is partly because of “revenge on behalf of the Clintons.”
3:12 pm – Judge Brett Kavanaugh arrives, and angrily denies charges against him. “My family and my name have been totally and permanently destroyed.” He calls the hearings a ‘national disgrace.’
3:05 pm – The lawyers for Dr Ford have stayed in the audience to watch Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony. Ford is not here.
3:00 pm – Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) is back in the room. She responded to my earlier photo of her wiping tears off her face. (My photo wasn’t as good as others, but I’m a radio reporter, not a photojournalist.)
2:55 pm – There are cameras everywhere today on Capitol Hill. And my out-of-town friends are watching.
2:15 pm – Ford’s testimony is over. 45 minutes break before Judge Kavanaugh appears. It will be a different kind of hearing.
2:11 pm – Chairman Grassley says that Mark Judge has submitted a statement denying that he knows anything about Ford’s allegation of the Kavanaugh incident.
2:08 pm – Ford says Mark Judge would be a witness to talk to. “I would expect that he would remember that this happened.”
2:03 pm – Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) tells Ford that she was right to ask for an FBI investigation. “Judge Kavanaugh has not.” (Photo of Ford listening to Harris.)
1:55 pm – The GOP counsel presses Ford about investigating her claims: “I would be happy to cooperate with the FBI, yes.”
1:47 pm – Ford says she provided her letter to Sen. Feinstein on July 30, and makes clear that she did not authorize its release. This is partly an effort by Republicans to detail how Democrats leaked the letter.
1:42 pm – Sen Mazie Hirono D-HI: “Once again Dr Ford, thank you very much. This is a moment for our country. Mahalo.”
1:37 pm – The hearing is back in session. Ford says she has no political reasons to raise the issue; says it was only because Kavanaugh was on a list of possible nominees.
1:32 pm – From testimony this morning, when Ford was asked what she recalled from the night of the incident. The GOP counsel got her to say that she could not remember how she got to the party, or got home that night.
1:30 pm – Okay, I made a mistake by not getting lunch during this break.
1:20 pm – Out in the hallways, GOP Senators are running into supporters of Dr. Ford.
1:15 pm – From various news organizations, the White House and the President are watching this event closely, and there’s a feeling that Dr. Ford is seen as a credible witness. But I will remind everyone that there is a long way to go in this hearing, and this day. If you go back into the C-SPAN files, you can find me saying on day two of the Thomas-Hill hearings that I thought Thomas might be rejected by the Senate.
12:50 pm – Friends asking me for my take on today so far. I guess I would say this. I’m struck by two things so far – Ford talking about the laughter of the boys that has haunted her. And GOP Senators not asking questions.
12:42 pm – The committee takes a 30 minute break. Democratic Senators waited to the side as Dr. Ford leaves the hearing room.
12:30 pm – Ford at the time was staying with her parents at the beach in Delaware. Asked if she told her parents what was going on, Ford said, “Definitely not.” She then went on to describe how she sat in her car in the driveway or in the “Walgreens parking lot” interviewing lawyers, and trying to get legal help.
12:27 pm – Ford says she spoke with Sen. Feinstein in early August, in a brief phone call, to discuss the details of her allegation. This was while Ford was vacationing at the beach in Delaware.
12:20 pm – Sen. Chris Coons D-DE establishes that Ford started trying to get attention to her allegations before Kavanaugh was nominated by President Donald Trump.
12:17 pm – Under questioning by the GOP counsel, Ford was asked various ways who she talked about the Kavanaugh incident with, and why. Ford says her “beach friends” urged her to contact the Washington Post and the New York Times. Ford did contact the Post, and her local lawmaker, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA).
12:13 pm – Ford again talks about the ‘laughter’ of Kavanaugh and Judge on the night of the incident. This is from earlier.
12:07 pm – The GOP counsel presses Ford on air travel. Ford acknowledges she flew to Washington, but says she has a fear of flying. The counsel talks about Ford working for a company in Australia. Ford says the company had an office in San Francisco. “I don’t think I’ll make it to Australia,” Ford says, though she admits that she has flown to many places around the world.
12:00 pm – If you are joining us late, here is some of the earlier testimony of Dr. Ford.
12:00 pm – Sen. Grassley flashes some frustration after Democrats complain about how the investigation was done by the GOP, defending the effort by Republicans to unearth new information, and how the Ford accusations and others were publicized.
11:50 am – Ford acknowledges that she does not remember who drove her home the night of the alleged attack.
11:45 am – A lawyer friend of mine texts me. “Ridiculous process. 5 minutes of deposition followed by 5 minutes of politics.” That summarizes what will probably come out of this hearing. Each party will be locked in a stalemate politically.
11:35 am – The small size of the audience – and the room – makes it feel more like I’m covering a regular Senate hearing – but the details are anything but.
11:25 am – The committee takes a 15 minute break. Ford is escorted into adjacent offices.
11:20 am – Ford describes running into Mark Judge the first time after the incident at the Potomac Safeway out River Road; she said hello to him, telling Senators that Judge’s face “went white” when she said hello.
11:15 am – Questioned by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ford says what she remembers most of the night of incident was the laughter of Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge. saying the boys were ‘having fun at my expense.’
11:05 am – Ford says she is sure this is not a case of mistaken identity.
10:55 am – Instead of GOP Senators asking the questions, sex crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell, brought in from Arizona, is starting the questioning of Ford.
10:50 am – As Ford describes the immense reaction against her, one lawmaker in the audience, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) is in tears in the audience.
10:47 am – Ford said she agonized daily about how to deal with the story.
10:47 am – Ford talks about how she tried to get her message out, saying she contacted her local lawmaker in Congress, and sent an encrypted message to the Washington Post. She hoped a confidential accusation would be enough to develop information, without involving a public revelation of her name.
10:45 am – This is already a different hearing than Anita Hill’s testimony about Clarence Thomas. Hill was stoic throughout her testimony in describing sexual harassment allegations. This is about a sexual attack, and a much more emotional situation.
10:40 am – Near tears at times, Ford describes what she says was an assault by Brett Kavanaugh. Senators are paying very close attention to every word.
10:34 am – “My name is Christine Blasey Ford.”
10:30 am – As we wait, CNN’s Jake Tapper with an interesting thread on who was responsible for the attack on Dr. Ford.
10:27 am – Unfortunately, reporters in the room cannot see Dr. Ford’s face. In 1991, I was on the side of the room, and could see both Anita Hill and the Senators on the panel. Those watching on TV get the better angles. Sort of like the difference in going to a sporting event, or watching it at home.
10:24 am – Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduces Dr. Ford, and quickly references the Anita Hill hearings, talking about women are reluctant to come forward. “In essence they are put on trial and forced to defend themselves.” Ford is sitting at the witness table, between her lawyers, listening to opening statements.
10:20 am – If you are wondering who is here, apart from Senators and the 48 reporters.
10:16 am – The latest news alert from the AP:
10:15 am – Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is going through how we got to this point. Grassley repeatedly criticizes Democrats for how they handled the Ford complaining that Democrats were just ‘plain politics.’
10:05 am – The gavel sounds. Dr. Ford is here, as is the special counsel who will question her for the GOP side.
9:45 am – Looking down the tables of press people, I would venture to say that I am the only reporter who was in the room for the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings in 1991, and back here today for the Kavanaugh-Ford hearings. I have to say, while there are certainly differences in the details and the players, the larger debate – and how it may well be resolved – feel very much similar to what I covered then. And I’ve brought my same notebook.
9:36 am – Sitting next to me is my longtime colleague Lisa Desjardins, who now works for the PBS Newshour. She just saw Dr. Christine Blasey Ford in the hallway.
9:35 am – As many of you might know, my voice gave out two years ago, and I am unable to say very much, which doesn’t work very well for a radio reporter. But with the new technology that has given me a computer-generated voice, I am able to file stories for the radio. And because of that, I will be the only reporter actually broadcasting from inside the hearing room today. No microphone needed.
9:25 am – I am squeezed between colleagues from the PBS Newshour and ABC. The witness table is not far away.
9:15 am – I am finally settled in my seat, with my equipment seemingly ready for today. It’s going to be cramped at the press tables; only 48 reporters are being allowed in the committee room, and I’m lucky enough to be one of them, just as I was in 1991 with the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings.