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Christine Blasey Ford Testifies on Kavanaugh Allegations. Aired 10:30-11a ET
Aired September 27, 2018 - 10:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: And he has, quote, "always treated women with dignity and respect," end quote.
And while he has made these declarations, more and more people have come forward challenging his characterization of events and behaviors.
James Roche, his freshman roommate at Yale, stated Kavanaugh was, and I quote again, "frequently incoherently drunk," end quote, and that was when, quote, "he became aggressive and belligerent," end quote, when he was drunk.
Liz Swisher, a friend of his from Yale, said, and I quote, "There's no medical way I can say that he was blacked out, but it's not credible for him to say that he had no memory lapses in the nights that he drank to excess," end quote.
Lynne Brookes, a college classmate, said the picture Kavanaugh is trying to paint doesn't match her memories of him, and I quote, "He's trying to paint himself as some kind of choirboy. You can't lie your way onto the Supreme Court, and with that statement out he's gone too far. It's about the integrity of the institution," end quote.
Ultimately, members and ladies and gentlemen, I really think that's the point. We're here to decide whether to evaluate (sic) this nominee to the most prestigious court in our country. It's about the integrity of that institution and the integrity of this institution.
The entire country is watching how we handle these allegations. I hope the majority changes their tactics, opens their mind and seriously reflects on why we are here. We are here for one reason: to determine whether Judge Kavanaugh should be elevated to one of the most powerful positions in our country.
This is not a trial of Dr. Ford, it's a job interview for Judge Kavanaugh. Is Brett Kavanaugh who we want on the most prestigious court in our country? Is he the best we can do?
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY, R-IA.: I'm sorry you brought up about the unsubstantiated allegations of other people, because we're here for the sole purpose of listening to Dr. Ford. And we'll consider other issues other times.
I would like to have you rise so I can swear you.
Now you -- do you swear that the testimony that you're about to give before this committee will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?
CHRISTINE BLASEY FORD, KAVANAUGH ACCUSER: (OFF-MIKE)
GRASSLEY: Thank you very much. Please be seated.
And before you give your statement, I want to say that -- to everybody that she has asked for -- any time you ask for a break, you get a break. Any time there's something that you need you don't have, just ask us. And you can have as much time for your opening statement as you want.
And -- and just generally let us know if there's any issues.
FORD: Thank you, Senator Grassley. I think after I read my opening statement, I anticipate needing some caffeine, if that is available.
Can you pull the microphone just a little bit closer to you, please? Can the whole box go a little bit closer?
(UNKNOWN): That's what I'm trying, Senator. No.
GRASSLEY: OK, well, then -- then...
FORD: I'll lean forward.
GRASSLEY: Thank you. Thank you.
FORD: Is this good?
Thank you, Chairman Grassley and Ranking Member Feinstein, members of the committee. My name is Christine Blasey Ford. I am a professor of psychology at Palo Alto University and a research psychologist at the Stanford University School of Medicine. I won't detail my educational background since it has already been summarized. I have been married to Russell Ford since 2002 and we have two children.
I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified. I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanaugh and I were in high school.
I have described the events publicly before. I summarized them in my letter to Ranking Member Feinstein and again in a letter to Chairman Grassley.
[10:35:00] I understand and appreciate the importance of your hearing from me directly about what happened to me and the impact that it has had on my life and on my family.
I grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. I attended the Holton- Arms School in Bethesda, Maryland, from 1978 to 1984. Holton-Arms is an all-girls school that opened in 1901.
FORD: During my time at this school, girls at Holton-Arms frequently met and became friendly with boys from all-boys schools in the area, including the Landon School, Georgetown Prep, Gonzaga High School, as well as our country clubs and other places where kids and families socialized. This is how I met Brett Kavanaugh, the boy who sexually assaulted me.
During my freshman and sophomore school years, when I was 14 and 15 years old, my group of friends intersected with Brett and his friends for a short period of time. I had been friendly with a classmate of Brett's for a short time during my freshman and sophomore year, and it was through that connection that I attended a number of parties that Brett also attended. We did not know each other well, but I knew him and he knew me.
In the summer of 1982, like most summers, I spent most every day at the Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, Maryland, swimming and practicing diving.
One evening that summer, after a day of diving at the club, I attended a small gathering at a house in the Bethesda area. There were four boys I remember specifically being at the house: Brett Kavanaugh, Mark Judge, a boy named P.J., and one other boy whose name I cannot recall. I also remember my friend Leland attending.
I do not remember all of the details of how that gathering came together, but like many that summer, it was almost surely a spur-of- the-moment gathering.
I truly wish I could be more helpful with more detailed answers to all of the questions that have and will be asked about how I got to the party and where it took place and so forth. I don't have all the answers, and I don't remember as much as I would like to.
But the details that -- about that night that bring me here today are the ones I will never forget. They have been seared into my memory, and have haunted me episodically as an adult.
When I got to the small gathering, people were drinking beer in a small living room/family room-type area on the first floor of the house. I drank one beer. Brett and Mark were visibly drunk.
Early in the evening, I went up a very narrow set of stairs leading from the living room to a second floor to use the restroom. When I got to the top of the stairs, I was pushed from behind into a bedroom across from the bathroom. I couldn't see who pushed me. Brett and Mark came into the bedroom and locked the door behind them. There was music playing in the bedroom. It was turned up louder by either Brett or Mark once we were in the room.
I was pushed onto the bed, and Brett got on top of me. He began running his hands over my body and grinding into me. I yelled, hoping that someone downstairs might hear me, and I tried to get away from him, but his weight was heavy.
Brett groped me and tried to take off my clothes. He had a hard time, because he was very inebriated, and because I was wearing a one-piece bathing suit underneath my clothing.
I believed he was going to rape me.
I tried to yell for help. When I did, Brett put his hand over my mouth to stop me from yelling. 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.
Both Brett and Mark were drunkenly laughing during the attack. They seemed to be having a very good time.
Mark seemed ambivalent, at times urging Brett on and at times telling him to stop. A couple of times, I made eye contact with Mark and thought he might try to help me, but he did not.
During this assault, Mark came over and jumped on the bed twice while Brett was on top of me. And the last time that he did this, we toppled over and Brett was no longer on top of me.
[10:40:00] I was able to get up and run out of the room.
Directly across from the bedroom was a small bathroom. I ran inside the bathroom and locked the door. I waited until I heard Brett and Mark leave the bedroom, laughing and loudly walk down the narrow stairway, pinballing off the walls on the way down.
I waited, and when I did not hear them come back up the stairs, I left the bathroom, went down the same stairwell through the living room, and left the house.
I remember being on the street and feeling this enormous sense of relief that I had escaped that house and that Brett and Mark were not coming outside after me.
Brett's assault on me drastically altered my life. For a very long time, I was too afraid and ashamed to tell anyone these details. I did not want to tell my parents that I, at age 15, was in a house without any parents present, drinking beer with boys.
I convinced myself that because Brett did not rape me, I should just move on and just pretend that it didn't happen.
Over the years, I told very, very few friends that I had this traumatic experience. I told my husband before we were married that I had experienced a sexual assault. I had never told the details to anyone -- the specific details -- until May 2012, during a couples counseling session.
The reason this came up in counseling is that my husband and I had completed a very extensive, very long remodel of our home and I insisted on a second front door, an idea that he and others disagreed with and could not understand.
In explaining why I wanted a second front door, I began to describe the assault in detail. I recall saying that the boy who assaulted me could someday be on the U.S. Supreme Court, and spoke a bit about his background at an elitist all-boys school in Bethesda, Maryland. My husband recalls that I named my attacker as Brett Kavanaugh.
After that May 2012 therapy session, I did my best to ignore the memories of the assault, because recounting them caused me to relive the experience, and caused panic and anxiety.
Occasionally, I would discuss the assault in an individual therapy session, but talking about it caused more reliving of the trauma, so I tried not to think about it or discuss it. But over the years, I went through periods where I thought about the attack.
I had confided in some close friends that I had had an experience with sexual assault. Occasionally, I stated that my assailant was a prominent lawyer or judge, but I did not use his name.
I do not recall each person I spoke to about Brett's assault. And some friends have reminded me of these conversations since the publication of the Washington Post story on September 16th, 2018. But until July 2018, I had never named Mr. Kavanaugh as my attacker outside of therapy.
This changed in early July 2018. I saw press reports stating that Brett Kavanaugh was on the shortlist of a list of very well-qualified Supreme Court nominees. I thought it was my civic duty to relay the information I had about Mr. Kavanaugh's conduct so that those considering his nomination would know about this assault.
On July 6th, I had a sense of urgency to relay the information to the Senate and the president as soon as possible, before a nominee was selected. I did not know how, specifically, to do this.
I called my congressional representative and let her receptionist know that someone on the president's shortlist had attacked me. I also sent a message to the encrypted Washington Post confidential tip line. I did not use my name, but I provided the names of Brett Kavanaugh and Mark Judge. I stated that Mr. Kavanaugh had assaulted me in the 1980s in Maryland.
This was an extremely hard thing for me to do, but I felt that I couldn't not do it.
Over the next two days, I told a couple of close friends on the beach in Aptos, California, that Mr. Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted me. I was very conflicted as to whether to speak out.
[10:45:06] On July 9th, I received a return phone call from the office of Congresswoman Anna Eshoo after Mr. Kavanaugh had become the nominee. I met with her staff on July 18th and with her on July 20th, describing the assault and discussing my fears about coming forward.
Later, we discussed the possibility of sending a letter to Ranking Member Feinstein, who is one of my state senators, describing what occurred. My understanding is that Representative Eshoo's office delivered a copy of my letter to Senator Feinstein's office on July 30th.
The letter included my name, but also a request that it be kept confidential. My hope was that providing the information confidentially would be sufficient to allow the Senate to consider Mr. Kavanaugh's serious misconduct without having to make myself, my family or anyone's family vulnerable to the personal attacks and invasions of privacy that we have faced since my name became public.
In a letter dated August 31st, Senator Feinstein wrote that she would not share the letter without my explicit consent, and I appreciated this commitment. Sexual assault victims should be able to decide for themselves when and whether their private experience is made public.
As the hearing date got closer, I struggled with a terrible choice: Do I share the facts with the Senate and put myself and my family in the public spotlight, or do I preserve our privacy and allow the Senate to make its decision without knowing the full truth of his past behaviors?
I agonized daily with this decision throughout August and September 2018. The sense of duty that originally motivated me to reach out confidentially to The Washington Post and to Anna Eshoo's office when there was still a list of extremely qualified candidates -- and to Senator Feinstein -- was always there, but my fears of the consequences of speaking out started to exponentially increase.
During August 2018, the press reported that Mr. Kavanaugh's confirmation was virtually certain. Persons painted him as a champion of women's rights and empowerment. And I believed that if I came forward, my single voice would be drowned out by a chorus of powerful supporters.
By the time of the confirmation hearings, I had resigned myself to remaining quiet and letting the committee and the Senate make their decision without knowing what Mr. Kavanaugh had done to me.
Once the press started reporting on the existence of the letter I had sent to Senator Feinstein, I faced mounting pressure. Reporters appeared at my home and at my workplace, demanding information about the letter in the presence of my graduate students. They called my bosses and co-workers, and left me many messages, making it clear that my name would inevitably be released to the media.
I decided to speak out publicly to a journalist who had originally responded to the tip I had sent to the Washington Post and who had gained my trust. It was important for me to describe the details of the assault in my own words. Since September 16th, the date of the Washington Post's story, I have
experienced an outpouring of support from people in every state of this country. Thousands and thousands of people who have had their lives dramatically altered by sexual violence have reached out to share their experience and have thanked me for coming forward. We have received tremendous support from our friends and our community.
At the same time, my greatest fears have been realized and the reality has been far worse than what I expected. My family and I have been the target of constant harassment and death threats, and I have been called the most vile and hateful names imaginable. These messages, while far fewer than the expressions of support, have been terrifying and have rocked me to my core.
People have posted my personal information and that of my parents online on the Internet. This has resulted in additional e-mails, calls and threats.
My family and I were forced to move out of our home.
[10:50:02] Since September 16th, my family and I have been visiting in various secure locales, at times separated and at times together, with the help of security guards.
This past Tuesday evening, my work e-mail was hacked and messages were sent out trying to recant my description of the sexual assault.
Apart from the assault itself, these past couple of weeks have been the hardest of my life. I've had to relive this trauma in front of the world. And I've seen my life picked apart by people on television, on Twitter, other social media, other media and in this body, who have never met me or spoken with me.
I have been accused of acting out of partisan political motives. Those who say that do not know me. I'm an independent person and I am no one's pawn.
My motivation in coming forward was to be helpful and to provide facts about how Mr. Kavanaugh's actions have damaged my life, so that you could take into a serious consideration as you make your decision about how to proceed.
t is not my responsibility to determine whether Mr. Kavanaugh deserves to sit on the Supreme Court. My responsibility is to tell you the truth.
I understand that a professional prosecutor has been hired to ask me questions, and I'm committed to doing my very best to answer them. I have never been questioned by a prosecutor, and I will do my best.
At the same time, because the committee members will be judging my credibility, I do hope to be able to engage directly with each of you.
And at this point, I will do my best to answer your questions, and would request some caffeine.
(UNKNOWN): A Coke or something?
FORD: That sounds good. That would be great. Thanks.
GRASSLEY: Thank you.
FORD: Thank you.
GRASSLEY: Thank you very much.
Before I use my five minutes of questioning, I thought that I'd -- I'd try to remind my colleagues -- and in this case, Ms. Mitchell as well -- that the five minutes, the way I traditionally have done, if you ask a question before your time runs out, and even though you go over your time, as long as you aren't filibustering, I'll let you ask your question.
And I'm going to make sure that both Dr. Ford and -- Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh -- as chairman of the committee, I know that they're going to get a chance to answer the questions fully beyond that five minutes. But when that -- when either Dr. Ford or Judge Kavanaugh gets done, then we immediately go to the next person. So I hope that -- that that will be done in a -- and Dr. -- Dr. Ford, I'm told that you want a break right now, and if you do, that's fine.
FORD: I'm OK. I got the coffee. Thank you very much. I think I can proceed and sip on the coffee.
GRASSLEY: No -- nobody can mix up my coffee right, so I...
So you're pretty fortunate.
So now, with that, Ms. Mitchell, you have my five minutes to ask questions.
MITCHELL: Good morning, Dr. Ford.
MITCHELL: We haven't met. My name is Rachel Mitchell.
FORD: Nice to meet you.
MITCHELL: I just wanted to tell you the -- the first thing that struck me from your statement this morning was that you are terrified, and I just wanted to let you know I'm very sorry. That's not right.
I know this is stressful, and so I would like to set forth some guidelines that maybe will alleviate that a little bit.
If I ask you a question that you don't understand, please ask me to clarify it or ask it in a different way.
When I ask questions, sometimes I'll refer back to other information you've provided. If I do that and I get it wrong, please correct me. FORD: OK.
MITCHELL: I'm not going to ask you to guess. I know it was a long time ago. If you do estimate, please let me know that you're estimating, OK?
We've put before you -- and I'm sure you have copies of them anyway -- five pieces of information, and I wanted to go over them.
The first is a screenshot of a WhatsApp texting between you and somebody at the Washington Post. Do you have that in front of you?
[10:55:00] MITCHELL: The first two texts were sent by you on July 6th. Is that correct?
MITCHELL: And then the last one sent by you was on July 10th?
MITCHELL: OK. Are those three comments accurate?
FORD: I will read them.
(UNKNOWN): Take your time.
(UNKNOWN): Take your time.
FORD: So, there's one correction.
FORD: I've misused the word "bystander" as an adjective.
FORD: "Bystander" means someone that is looking at an assault, and -- and the person named P.J. was not technically a bystander. I was writing very quickly with a sense of urgency.
So I would not call him a bystander. He was downstairs and, you know, what I remember of him was he was a -- a tall and very nice person. I didn't know him well. But that he was downstairs, not anywhere near the event.
MITCHELL: OK. Thank you...
FORD: I'd like to take that word out, if it's possible.
MITCHELL: OK. Thank you for clarifying that.
The second is the letter that you wrote to Senator Feinstein, dated the -- July 30th of this year.
MITCHELL: Did you write the letter yourself?
FORD: I did.
MITCHELL: And I -- since it's dated July 30th, did you write it on that date?
FORD: I believe so. I -- it sounds right. I was in Rehoboth, Delaware, at the time. I could look into my calendar and try to figure that out. It seemed...
MITCHELL: Was it written on or about that date?
FORD: Yes, yes. I traveled, I think, the 26th of July to Rehoboth, Delaware. So that makes sense, because I wrote it from there.
MITCHELL: Is the letter accurate?
FORD: I'll take a minute to read it.
FORD: I -- I can read fast.
(UNKNOWN): Take your time.
OK, so I have three areas that I'd like to address.
FORD: In the second paragraph, where it says this -- "the assault occurred in a suburban Maryland area home"...
FORD: ... "at a gathering that included me and four others," I can't guarantee that there weren't a few other people there, but they are not in my purview of my memory.
MITCHELL: Would it be fair to say there were at least four others?
What's the second correction? FORD: Oh, OK. The next sentence begins with "Kavanaugh physically pushed me into the bedroom," I would say I can't promise that Mark Judge didn't assist with that. I don't know. I was pushed from behind, so I don't want to put that solely on him.
GRASSLEY: Ms. Mitchell, I don't know whether this is fair for me to interrupt, but I want to keep people within five minutes. Is that a -- is that a major problem for you in the middle of a question?
Because I don't -- we've got to -- I've got to treat everybody the same.
MITCHELL: I understand that.
GRASSLEY: Can I go to Senator Feinstein, or you...
MITCHELL: Yes, sir. I -- I'm sorry, I didn't see the light was red. Please do.
MITCHELL: Please do.
GRASSLEY: Senator Feinstein?
FEINSTEIN: FORD: I didn't get to...
(UNKNOWN): So we're going to come back to that.
FORD: Oh, OK. I...
(UNKNOWN): ... when she comes back (ph)...
FORD: I see.
(UNKNOWN): ... just making...
FORD: I see. OK.
FEINSTEIN: Fast (ph).
GRASSLEY: For the benefit of Dr. Ford, I think she'll continue that after the five minutes here.
FORD: Thank you. OK.
FEINSTEIN: Mr. Chairman, I'd like to begin by putting some letters in the record.
GRASSLEY: Without objection, so ordered. But if you want to tell me...
FEINSTEIN: 140 letters from friends and neighbors of the witness and a thousand female physicians across the country. That's what the letters are.
I want to thank you very much for your testimony. I know how very, very hard it is.
Why -- why have you held it to yourself all these years? As you look back, can you indicate what the reasons are?