Editors' note: The Mercury's Good Morning, News posts generally cover a number of news items. Today, we're focusing on one. This story is developing and will be updated throughout the day.
"I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified," said Christine Blasey Ford in her opening statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee. "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."
Ford, a professor and research psychologist, testified this morning before the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding allegations that in 1982 she was sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh, a Supreme Court nominee, while another boy, Mark Judge, was in the room.
At the time, Ford was 15 and Kavanaugh was 17.
Speaking to the committee, Ford explained her decision to come forward, and noted she had questioned whether doing so would have any effect on Kavanaugh's appointment.
"Once he was selected and it appeared he was a sure vote," Ford said, "I was calculating the risk for me coming forward—and whether I was jumping in front of a train that was heading where it was heading anyway, and I would be annihilated."
Rather than directly question Ford, the Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, hired an outside attorney, Rachel Mitchell, to interrogate Ford. Grassley characterized the decision as an attempt to "de-politicize the process." But earlier this week, law professor Lara Bazelon put forth an alternate reason: That "the optics are bad" for the GOP, given the fact "Mr. Grassley and his 10 Republican colleagues on the judiciary committee are all white men. Their median age is about 60; Mr. Grassley and his colleague Orrin Hatch of Utah are in their mid-80s."
Mitchell repeatedly asked Ford about her account—citing interviews and correspondence, inquiring about Ford's mental health, consulting a map of the area in which the assault allegedly occurred, asking who paid for Ford's polygraph test, and, bewilderingly, issuing a series of irrelevant questions about Ford having traveled on airplanes despite her stated fear of flying.
Mitchell's questions appeared designed for two purposes: To cast doubt on Ford's trustworthiness, and to find discrepancies, however small, in Ford's statements and recollections.
During the hearing, Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy asked Ford how certain she was that Kavanaugh had been the one to assault her.
"One hundred percent," Ford answered.
Leahy also asked if there was one element of the alleged assault that Ford had not been able to forget.
"Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter," said Ford. "The uproarious laughter between the two, and their having fun at my expense.... They were laughing with each other."
"It is not my responsibility to determine whether Mr. Kavanaugh deserves to sit on the Supreme Court. My responsibility is to tell the truth."
Since Ford came forward, Kavanaugh has faced further allegations of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and physical assault. These include a claim that, in the 1980s, he attempted to get girls "inebriated and disoriented so they could then be 'gang raped'"; an anonymous letter, sent to Colorado Senator Cory Gardner, alleging that Kavanaugh "very aggressively and sexually" pushed a woman he was dating against a wall in 1998; and an accusation that, in the 1980s, he exposed himself to a woman at a Yale University party.
Like Leahy, California Senator Diane Feinstein asked Ford about her certainty regarding Kavanaugh's participation in the alleged assault. "How are you so sure," Feinstein asked, "that it was he?"
"The same way I'm sure I’m talking to you right now," answered Ford. "Basic memory functions. Just the level of norepinephrine and epinephrine in the brain that sort of, as you know, encodes. That neurotransmitter encodes memories into the hippocampus, so the trauma-related experience is locked there, whereas other details kind of drift."
"So what you’re telling us is this could not be a case of mistaken identity?" asked Feinstein.
"Absolutely not," said Ford.
Both in her opening remarks and under questioning, Ford dismissed allegations that she either invented her allegations or only shared them for political reasons.
"I haven't held it in all these years," Ford said. "I did disclose it in the confines of therapy."
Ford also discussed the immediate effects the assault had on her.
"I think that the sequelae of sexual assault varies by person. For me, personally, anxiety, phobia, and PTSD-like symptoms are the types of things that I have been coping with," Ford said. "More specifically, claustrophobia, panic, and that type of thing.”
After noting "the primary impact was in the initial four years after the event," Ford noted she "had a very hard time, more so than others, forming new friendships, and especially friendships with boys, and I had academic problems.”
In Grassley's opening remarks, he criticized Democrats' participation in the committee's process, claimed a lack of participation from the legal representatives of Kavanaugh's other accusers, and implied that requests for an FBI investigation into Ford's allegations were an excuse to delay Kavanaugh's nomination "by any means necessary."
Feinstein, who spoke after Grassley's opening remarks and introduced Ford, took a different approach.
"How women are treated in the United States, with this kind of concern, is really wanting a lot of reform," Feinstein said, comparing today's events with Anita Hill's 1991 testimony before an all-male judiciary committee. Slamming Republicans for refusing not only an FBI investigation and for declining to hear testimony from any other witnesses besides Ford and Kavanaugh, Feinstein also did what Grassley wouldn't: summarized the other women's accusations against Kavanaugh.
"What I find most inexcusable is this rush to judgment," said Feinstein, adding that the proceeding involved "a real question of character for someone who is asking for a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court."
"We are here for one reason—to determine whether Judge Kavanaugh should be elevated to one of the most powerful positions in our country," Feinstein said. "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?"
"Once he was selected and it appeared he was a sure vote, I was calculating the risk for me coming forward—and whether I was jumping in front of a train that was heading where it was heading anyway, and I would be annihilated."
New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, after stressing that Ford was not on trial, told Ford that her "brilliance, shining light on this, speaking your truth, is nothing short of heroic." Booker then asked Ford, "How do you feel that all the things that could have been done thoroughly to help this deliberating body have not been honored in this so-called investigation?"
"I wish that I could be more helpful, and that others could be more helpful, and that we could collaborate in a way that would get at more information," Ford answered.
"You are not on trial," California Senator Kamala Harris told Ford shortly thereafter. "I believe you. I believe you."
"You have called for an independent FBI investigation into the facts," Harris added. "Judge Kavanaugh has not. And we owe you that. We owe the American people that.... I believe history will show that you are a true profile of courage, in this moment in time, in the history of our country, and I thank you."
Kavanaugh has repeatedly denied the allegations against him, insisting they are false and evidence of "a smear campaign." Donald Trump—who has also been accused by multiple women of sexual assault and harassment—has said the allegations against his Supreme Court nominee are part of a "con game" being "perpetrated by some very evil people—some of them are Democrats, I must say."
"It is not my responsibility to determine whether Mr. Kavanaugh deserves to sit on the Supreme Court," Ford said in her emotionally intense opening statement. "My responsibility is to tell the truth."
Kavanaugh will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee later today. The committee is scheduled to vote on Friday on whether to recommend Kavanaugh's nomination to the Senate.
RELATED: "Brett Kavanaugh Testifies Before the Senate Judiciary Committee" (Blogtown, Thurs Sept 27, 2018)