Kavanaugh And Ford Hearing Preview

Sep 27, 2018
Originally published on September 27, 2018 10:15 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The accusations against Brett Kavanaugh are mounting, with a third woman going public with a charge of sexual misconduct against the Supreme Court nominee. Today on Capitol Hill, the first of Kavanaugh's accusers is taking the stand.

Professor Christine Blasey Ford is testifying about the night 36 years ago when she says Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her. Kavanaugh is taking the witness stand as well, strongly denying those charges. Here's NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg.

NINA TOTENBERG, BYLINE: The tension over the Kavanaugh nomination mounted visibly yesterday amid new charges of drunkenness and sexual aggression involving Kavanaugh. The details were outlined in a sworn affidavit from Julie Swetnick, a Treasury Department employee with an active security clearance who said that, as a teenager in the Maryland suburbs, she had witnessed a drunken Kavanaugh acting aggressively towards girls and attempting to remove their clothes.

Swetnick's affidavit was sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee by Michael Avenatti, the limelight-seeking lawyer for porn star Stormy Daniels who has alleged a sexual relationship with President Trump.

Assistant Democratic leader Richard Durbin conceded that Avenatti's involvement gave him pause. But he said...

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RICHARD DURBIN: This is a signed, sworn declaration under oath with penalty of perjury. And it's a serious - this person has really stuck her neck out.

TOTENBERG: As Capitol Hill waited with both anticipation and dread for today's hearing, most Republicans remain committed to Kavanaugh but enough remain uncommitted to sink the nomination - like Bob Corker of Tennessee.

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BOB CORKER: But I've cleared my schedule. And I'm going to watch, like I would guess at least 20 other Republican senators I know do.

TOTENBERG: By late yesterday, both Kavanaugh and Blasey Ford had released their written opening statements for today's hearing. Hers veers in tone between two words, terrified and determined. His, shorter, continued his categorical denial of the charges, but the tone was angrier than it had been. The new allegations from two other women, he says, are last-minute smears, farfetched and odious, grotesque and obvious character assassination. This effort to destroy my good name will not drive me out, he says. As for Dr. Ford, he says, I'm not questioning that she may have been sexually assaulted by some person in some place or time, but I have never done that to her or anyone.

Ford's statement takes that on directly, declaring that while she and Kavanaugh did not know each other well in high school, I knew him and he knew me. I am not here today because I want to be. I'm terrified, she says in her prepared statement. After first going over the details of the attack, she says that when Kavanaugh's name was widely mentioned as a potential nominee, she felt both a sense of duty and urgency to let the Senate know about what had happened to her. Ultimately, she says, she didn't want to go public and had resigned herself to Kavanaugh being confirmed until her name began to leak to the press.

At that point, she reached out to a journalist who had responded to her original tip on the Washington Post tip line in early July and told her story publicly for the first time. At the end of her prepared remarks, Dr. Ford says, apart from the assault, these last couple of weeks have been the hardest of my life. I've had to relive my trauma in front of the entire world and have seen my life picked apart by people who have never met me or spoken with me.

It is not my responsibility to determine whether Mr. Kavanaugh deserves to sit on the Supreme Court, she concluded. My responsibility is to tell the truth. President Trump in a press conference yesterday said he, too, will be watching today's hearing.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I'm going to be watching, you know, believe it or not. I'm going to see what's said. So it's possible that they will be convincing. Now, with all of that being said, Judge Brett Kavanaugh has been for many years one of the most respected people in Washington.

TOTENBERG: Translation - if he doesn't like the way it plays, he could pull the plug on the nomination. Nina Totenberg, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF NERVOUS TESTPILOT'S "A FUNCTIONING GOD") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.