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‘I believed he was going to rape me’: Ford emotional as she recounts alleged assault

Kavanaugh Confirmation

Christine Blasey Ford, during powerful testimony, told senators that she’s suffered lasting trauma over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh alleged sexual assault.

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A “terrified” and visibly emotional Christine Blasey Ford described in vivid detail on Thursday her allegation that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a party in Maryland in 1982.

In front of rapt senators from the Senate Judiciary Committee, Ford explained how Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge took her into a room at the party and how the alleged assault changed the course of her life.

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“I believed he was going to rape me,” Ford said. “I believed Brett was going to accidentally kill me.”

Subtly addressing questions from some Kavanaugh supporters about why she didn’t come forward earlier, Ford recalled that she had told herself she “should just move on” because she was not raped.

Ford took the stage in the eye of a bitter partisan storm the likes of which Washington hasn’t seen in decades. Kavanaugh will follow her after each senator questions her, or defers questions to an outside counsel.

But beyond the scope of Ford’s specific account claim, their appearance will have sweeping political consequences for both parties, the #MeToo movement raising awareness of sexual misconduct, and the famously hidebound Senate.

Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) opened the hearing by apologizing to both Kavanaugh and Ford, citing the “vile threats” both have received since Ford’s allegation became public. Grassley then vocally defended the way the GOP has handled Ford’s claim, hailing its “thorough investigation,” and citing former Vice President Joe Biden to counter Democratic frustration that Republicans have declined to seek an FBI inquiry into her allegation against Kavanaugh.

The committee’s top Democrat, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, opened her remarks by reiterating that she declined to refer Ford’s claim to law enforcement after initially receiving it in July in order to protect the professor’s desire for confidentiality. Feinstein also called for a reexamination of the treatment of women who publicly allege sexual misconduct against powerful men, 27 years after Anita Hill testified on her sexual harassment allegations against now-Justice Clarence Thomas.

“How women are treated in the U.S. with this kind of concern is really wanting a lot of reform,” Feinstein said. She also referred to two additional allegations brought forward against Kavanaugh recently by other women; Grassley shot back that he was “sorry you brought up the unsubstantiated allegations of other people.”

With Kavanaugh short of the 50 votes to get confirmed and at least four GOP senators’ decision hinging on his and Ford’s performance, the hearing is likely to determine Kavanaugh’s fate in the Senate. And as a signal to the Senate’s moderates, GOP Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts called for there to be a “no vote” on Kavanaugh until there’s an independent investigation into the accusations about Kavanaugh.

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Maryland GOP Gov. Larry Hogan similarly said that the Senate “ought to take whatever time it takes” to flesh out the allegations.

Two more women have come forward since to allege sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh: Deborah Ramirez, who told the New Yorker that she believes Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a party when both were in college; and Julie Swetnick, a client of well-known anti-Trump lawyer Michael Avenatti who has signed an affidavit alleging Kavanaugh’s participation in multiple acts of sexual misbehavior. But in the 15 hours before Thursday’s hearing, multiple new anonymous— and unverified — allegations were revealed when Judiciary panel Republicans released a transcript of interviews with Kavanaugh and an investigative summary.

Democrats said that the GOP had helped inject allegations less credible than Ford’s into a Senate already driven to frustration by the fast-moving Kavanaugh scandal. But Republicans stood by their position throughout the Supreme Court debate: Democrats committed the original sin on Ford’s claim by waiting weeks to refer her allegations to law enforcement.

And one of the handful of pivotal undecided Republicans watching Thursday’s testimony to help determine their vote said he’s where he’s always been — waiting to hear both out sides.

“I have an open mind going into the hearing,” said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who led the push for a Judiciary hearing with Ford. “I’ve said all along that if the events she described, they happened, they would be disqualifying. We’ll have to gauge. It’s not a perfect process.”

Depending on how Thursday’s unprecedented hearing progresses, Republicans could move to a final vote on Kavanaugh as soon as early next week. Grassley (R-Iowa) already has teed up a committee vote on the 53-year-old appeals court judge for Friday, pending his members’ reception of Ford’s testimony. Several Republicans on the committee have already indicated a deep-rooted skepticism of her credibility, particularly following the emergence of the separate Ramirez and Swetnick claims.

Trump has sounded a similar tone, slamming the multiple allegations against his nominee as a “con job,” but he also has left the door open to abandon Kavanaugh based on how Thursday progresses.

During the hearing, the committee has given senators — or Rachel Mitchell, the outside counsel Republicans have engaged temporarily — five minutes to question Ford and one round of questioning, according to internal guidance. Kavanaugh will speak after Ford does and will receive the same treatment.

Meanwhile, Democrats were racing to beat back the multiple unverified allegations against Kavanaugh that leaked into public view Wednesday night, including an anonymous letter from a Colorado woman who alleges Kavanaugh shoved another woman “up against the wall very aggressively and sexually” in 1998 after both had been drinking.

Republicans are “desperately trying to muddy the waters, having tried and failed to bully and discredit Dr. Blasey Ford,” one Democratic aide said Wednesday night.

“Twelve hours before the hearing they suggest two anonymous men claimed to have assaulted her. Democrats were never informed of these assertions or interviews, in violation of Senate rules. This is shameful and the height of irresponsibility.”

Aides for Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), a former Judiciary chairman and stout Kavanaugh defender, were among the Republicans countering that Democratic anger was disingenuous given their move to hold onto Ford’s initial allegation against Kavanaugh for weeks, citing her request for confidentiality.

“Some might find it exceedingly difficult to imagine Judiciary Committee Democrats expressing this complaint with straight faces,” Hatch’s staff tweeted.

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