WASHINGTON — Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said at the outset of the hearing to weigh sexual assault allegations from Christine Blasey Ford that “this is not a trial of Dr. Ford, it’s a job interview for Judge Kavanaugh.”
“Sexual violence is a serious problem and one that largely goes unseen. In the United States it’s estimated by the Centers for Disease Control one in three women and one in six men will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime,” Feinstein said. “According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, 60 percent of sexual assaults go unreported. In addition, when survivors do report their assaults, it’s often years later due to the trauma they suffered and fearing their stories will not be believed… I think it’s important to remember these realities as we hear from Dr. Ford about her experience.”
“There’s been a great deal of public discussion about the #MeToo movement today versus the Year of the Woman almost 27 years ago,” she added. “But while young women are standing up and saying ‘no more,’ our institutions have not progressed in how they treat women who come forward. Too often, women’s memories and credibility come under assault. In essence, they are put on trial and forced to defend themselves, and often re-victimized in the process.”
Feinstein chided Republicans for not calling “anyone who could speak to the evidence that would support or refute Dr. Ford’s claim, and not one witness who could address credibility and character of either Ford or Kavanaugh has been called.”
“What I find most inexcusable is this rush to judgment, the unwillingness to take these kinds of allegations at face value and look at them for what they are: a real question of character for someone who is asking for a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court,” she said. “…Our Republican colleagues are saying, ‘This is a hiccup,’ ‘Dr. Ford is mixed up,’ and declaring, ‘I’ll listen to the lady, but we’re going to bring this to a close.'”
The senator stressed “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,” Feinstein said.
Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) opened the hearing noting that “both Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh have been through a terrible couple weeks.”
“They and their families have received vile threats. What they have endured ought to be considered by all of us as unacceptable and a poor reflection on the state of civility in our democracy,” he said. “So I want to apologize to you both for the way you’ve been treated. And I intend, hopefully, for today’s hearing to be safe, comfortable and dignified for both of our witnesses. I hope my colleagues will join me in this effort of a show of civility.”
Republican senators deferred all of their questioning to outside counsel Rachel Mitchell.
Grassley faulted Feinstein for not bringing to the committee sooner her knowledge of Ford’s accusation that Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed and tried to tear off her clothes during a high school gathering.
“We did not know about the ranking member’s secret evidence. Then, only at an 11th hour, on the eve of Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote, did the ranking member refer the allegations to the FBI. And then, sadly, the allegations were leaked to the press. And that’s where Dr. Ford was mistreated,” Grassley said. “This is a shameful way to treat our witness, who insisted on confidentiality, and, of course, Judge Kavanaugh, who has had to address these allegations in the midst of a media circus.”
Regarding criticism of Mitchell doing the questioning for Republicans, the chairman said, “I see no basis for complaint other than just playing politics.”
“The testimony we will hear today concerns allegations of sexual assault; very serious allegations. This is an incredibly complex and sensitive subject to discuss. It is not an easy one to discuss. That is why the senators on this side of the dais believe an expert who has deep experience and training in interviewing victims of sexual assault and investigating sexual assault alleged — allegations should be asking questions,” he said. “This will be in stark contrast to the grandstanding and chaos that we saw from the other side during the previous four days in this hearing process.”
Grassley noted that committee staff are “trying to investigate other allegations” against Kavanaugh.