In an historic Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, the implications of which will determine the makeup of the Supreme Court for a generation to come, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford spoke publicly for the first time about her allegations that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in the 1980s when she was 15 years old.
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford: “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 was 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.”
After her testimony, Blasey Ford was questioned by Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee who hailed her testimony as courageous and heroic. This is Illinois Senator Dick Durbin.
Sen. Dick Durbin: “Dr. Ford, with what degree of certainty do you believe Brett Kavanaugh assaulted you?”
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford: “One hundred percent.”
Not one of the 11 Republican senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee, who are all white men, questioned Dr. Blasey Ford directly, instead ceding all their time to Rachel Mitchell, an Arizona sex crimes prosecutor and a longtime registered Republican who Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called a “female assistant.” Mitchell was also scheduled to question Brett Kavanaugh on behalf of Republican senators but was quickly stopped from her line of questioning after she asked Brett Kavanaugh about details of gatherings he attended in the summer of 1982 when the alleged sexual assault occurred.
In his testimony to to the committee, Judge Kavanaugh repeatedly denied Blasey Ford’s allegations, denouncing them with barely controlled rage and repeatedly choking up with tears in his eyes. He singled out Democrats on the committee and accused them of staging a “circus” aimed at derailing his nomination.
Judge Brett Kavanaugh: “This confirmation process has become a national disgrace. The Constitution gives the Senate an important role in the confirmation process, but you have replaced advice and consent with search and destroy. Since my nomination in July, there has been a frenzy on the left to come up with something—anything—to block my confirmation.”
Just as Thursday’s hearing gaveled to a close, President Trump took to Twitter to demand an immediate Senate vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination, tweeting, “Judge Kavanaugh showed America exactly why I nominated him. His testimony was powerful, honest, and riveting.” Republican Senate leaders are poised to hold a vote this morning after they reconvene the Senate Judiciary Committee at 9:30 a.m.; a vote by the full Senate could come as early as this weekend or Monday or Tuesday.
The planned vote comes as the American Bar Association has demanded a delay in Kavanaugh’s confirmation process and an FBI investigation into claims of sexual assault. And editors of America Magazine, the national weekly published by the Jesuits of the United States, called for Kavanaugh’s nomination to be withdrawn. Georgetown Prep School—where Kavanaugh was a student when he allegedly assaulted Blasey Ford—is a Jesuit high school.
The third woman to publicly accuse Judge Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct has spoken on camera for the first time about her allegations. Julie Swetnick says in a sworn affidavit that she observed Kavanaugh at high school parties in the 1980s joining efforts to inebriate girls so they could be gang-raped. She says Kavanaugh was present at a party in which she herself was the victim of a “gang rape.” Swetnick spoke with Showtime’s John Heilemann.
Julie Swetnick: “Brett Kavanaugh is going for a seat where he’s going to have that seat on the Supreme Court for the rest of his life. And if he’s going to have that seat legitimately, all of these things should be investigated, because, from what I experienced firsthand, I don’t think he belongs on the Supreme Court. And I just want the facts to come out, and I want it to be just, and I want the American people to have those facts and judge for themselves.”
Swetnick has demanded a chance to testify under oath before the Senate Judiciary Committee. So has another accuser, Deborah Ramirez, who says Kavanaugh exposed himself and thrust his genitals in her face during a party when they were both students at Yale University. Ramirez’s attorneys say they’ve been stymied by the committee’s majority Republicans as they’ve tried to arrange to have Ramirez testify. Throughout Thursday’s Senate hearing, Judge Kavanaugh repeatedly refused to call for an FBI investigation into the allegations. This is California Democrat Dianne Feinstein questioning Kavanaugh.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein: “What you’re saying, if I understand it, is that the allegations by Dr. Ford, Ms. Ramirez and Ms. Swetnick are wrong.”
Judge Brett Kavanaugh: “That is emphatically what I’m saying. Emphatically. The Swetnick thing is a joke. That is a farce.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein: “Would you like to say more about it?”
Judge Brett Kavanaugh: “No.”
On Capitol Hill, more than a thousand protesters chanting “We believe Christine Ford!” rallied outside Congress and marched to the Supreme Court Thursday. Police arrested 59 people as they blocked a street in a peaceful sit-in protest. This is Women’s March co-chair Linda Sarsour.
Linda Sarsour: “We are outraged at what is happening in that hearing room—the trial that Dr. Ford is being put on. Survivors are always on trial, and their perpetrators are always defended, and they’re always protected. And we’re tired of it. Enough is enough!”
After headlines, we’ll spend the rest of the hour on Thursday’s historic Senate hearings.
In breaking news, a major magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck off the Indonesian island of Sulawesi today. Authorities have called off a tsunami warning; there’s no immediate word of deaths, injuries or damage.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday he won’t be pressured by President Trump into agreeing to a renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement. Trudeau’s comment came ahead of a Sunday deadline—set by President Trump—for Canada’s government to agree to a new version of NAFTA or face additional U.S. tariffs on automobile imports.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: “The Americans are finding that the negotiations are tough because Canadians are tough negotiators, as we should be. But a good and fair deal is still very possible. We won’t sign a bad deal for Canadians.”
Last month, the Trump administration and Mexico’s government reached a preliminary agreement to revise portions of NAFTA.
On the U.S.-Mexico border, construction crews have begun work on a new steel wall separating El Paso, Texas, from neighboring Ciudad Juárez. The new 4-mile-long section of 18-foot-high wall will replace an existing border fence, at an estimated cost of $22 million. This is El Paso County Commissioner David Stout speaking at a protest against the wall earlier this week.
David Stout: “It damages this community, because ours is a binational community. We all have family, friends and co-workers who live on that side and work here, or vice versa. And in my opinion, we’re sending a very ugly message to our brothers in Mexico, while it’s one of the countries we in the United States depend on the most economically, especially the communities along the border.”
President Trump has failed on his campaign promise to build a wall along the entire southern border and to make Mexico pay for it.
Elsewhere in Texas, immigrant rights groups say some 70 immigrant fathers and some of their children have launched a hunger strike as they languish inside the Karnes County detention center, a for-profit immigration jail under contract with ICE. The fathers on strike had been previously separated from their children at the U.S.-Mexico border under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” crackdown. Now reunited behind bars, fathers and their children are demanding immediate freedom. This is one of the hunger strikers, speaking by phone with the group Pueblo Sin Fronteras, or People Without Borders.
Father in ICE detention: “Today we started a hunger strike. Our children are with us. They are not attending their schools, nor are they eating. We are afraid that ICE is going to retaliate against us and separate us again, as they separated 16 parents on August 15th. … I don’t understand the laws of this country. They are unjust. The majority of the parents who were reunited were freed.”
The hunger strike at Karnes detention center comes as new numbers released by the Trump administration show at least 136 migrant children separated from their parents at the border are still in U.S. government custody, more than two months after a deadline set by a federal judge for reunification. Three of the children are under the age of 5.
In Mexico City, President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador welcomed the head of the International Olympic Committee Thursday to a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Olympic Games, held in Mexico’s capital city. The ceremony came just days after Mexico’s government acknowledged for the first time that the state was criminally responsible for the massacre of hundreds of student protesters in Mexico City on the eve of the '68 Olympics. To date, no one has been convicted over what's known as the Tlatelolco massacre. Interior Ministry official Jaime Rochin said Monday, “The use of sniper fire was a state crime, aimed at creating chaos, terror and an official narrative to criminalize the protest. It was a state crime that continued beyond October 2nd with arbitrary arrests and torture.”
And in Colombia, human rights groups are warning of an epidemic of murders targeting environmentalists and leaders of social movements. New statistics compiled by a Colombian human rights group found more than 38,000 people have been displaced and 110 social leaders killed in the first eight months of the year. The swell in violence is centered in areas where armed conflict has been historically most active and as Colombia’s peace process has faltered under its new right-wing president, Iván Duque.