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How Testimonies From Kavanaugh And Blasey Ford Unfolded Before The Senate


A day of drama and history on Capitol Hill today - to talk it through, we want to bring in NPR political reporter Danielle Kurtzleben and our lead political editor Domenico Montanaro, both of whom have been watching the Senate Judiciary Committee all this long day of testimony. Welcome, you two.



KELLY: Hey. So the hearing began with Christine Blasey Ford visibly shaking at some points, recounting her allegation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her more than three decades ago. And I want to start by playing a long chunk of her testimony. This is from her opening statement. She describes in detail what she says happened the night that Kavanaugh - or Brett, as she calls him - assaulted her.


CHRISTINE BLASEY FORD: 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.

KELLY: Testimony from the opening statement of Christine Blasey Ford this morning - Danielle, it's hard to listen to that. How did it go over with senators listening in real time?

KURTZLEBEN: Well, let's start with the Democrats, who treated her with a lot of deference. You heard a lot from them. They told her she was courageous for coming forward, saying, you know, we know this is hard; we know what you've been through. And they gave her multiple opportunities like we heard at the top to say, you know, I am absolutely sure that it was Kavanaugh; I am sure that this happened; I'm sure it happened in this particular way.

KELLY: One hundred percent.

KURTZLEBEN: Right. As for Republican senators, you know, they didn't question her. It was Rachel Mitchell, that prosecutor they brought in who questioned her. But when they came in later, as we'll talk about later, and they spoke to Kavanaugh - when they brought up Ms. Ford, they walked a very careful line. They said things like, you know, Ms. Ford is a victim, but so are you, Mr. Kavanaugh. They were very careful not to beat up on her and not to try to cast her as a liar or anything like that.

KELLY: I want to play a little bit more of - this is testimony and back-and-forth between Senator Patrick Leahy and Christine Blasey Ford. He was asking her about, you know, what is the memory that's the most indelible for you of this attack.


FORD: The uproarious laughter between the two - and they're having fun at my expense.

PATRICK LEAHY: You never have forgotten that laughter. You never have forgotten them laughing at you.

FORD: They were laughing with each other.

LEAHY: And you were the object of the laughter.

FORD: I was, you know, underneath one of them while the two laughed, two friends having a really good time with one another.

KELLY: Domenico, let me let you hop in and weigh in on this. It is powerful testimony - no two ways around that - very emotional. I mean, what were you hearing in terms of how Republicans tried to counter this?

MONTANARO: Well, in the hallways afterward, Republicans at that moment were saying that they felt that she was a credible witness, that - and at that point, a lot of us were wondering whether Brett Kavanaugh would be able to survive this, that he was on very thin ice at that point. And then things seemed to change during his part of the testimony where he came out very hot, very angry and accusing Democrats of essentially conspiracy, which is something Republicans really picked up on.

KELLY: Yeah, I mean, he also - you know, depending on where your political point of view is - but he definitely came out swinging as well with also very powerful, very emotional - I think maybe unexpectedly emotional testimony. Is that fair to say, Domenico?

MONTANARO: I mean, he went from anger - seething anger to tears. You know, it was quite the range. And you didn't see that from Christine Blasey Ford. She was, you know, nervous - obviously this is not somebody who is used to the spotlight - but, you know, grew more comfortable as the day went on and really wanted to tell her story. And a lot of people, again, after she testified seemed to feel that she was a credible witness. And then Kavanaugh coming in, he seemed ready for bear.

KELLY: Now, in terms of who was asking the questions today, Danielle, you mentioned it was a veteran outside prosecutor from Arizona, Rachel Mitchell, who asked the questions for Republicans this morning to Christine Blasey Ford and started out with Kavanaugh. And then Lindsey Graham came out swinging. I'm going to play a tiny bit of his statement, and we'll take it from there.


LINDSEY GRAHAM: This is the most unethical sham since I've been in politics. And if you really wanted to know the truth, you sure as hell wouldn't have done what you've done to this guy. Are you a gang rapist?


KELLY: Kavanaugh replying to a very direct question there because he had been asked about some allegations that had been raised by another claim not from Christine Blasey Ford. Domenico, why did Republicans suddenly step up and, starting with Lindsey Graham, start asking their own questions?

MONTANARO: Well, this was really a pivotal point in the hearing, really signaled how Republicans began to rally around Kavanaugh. They accused Democrats essentially of trying to derail Kavanaugh and block any nominee until after the midterms, hoping to win back control of the Senate. And that really seemed to get Republicans going, be able to get them to sort of find something to rally around, to be able to, you know, really despise the Democratic process that they feel was meant to just simply derail a nominee or delay. And that's something even the president picked up on in a tweet tonight saying that he was supportive of Kavanaugh, and this is why he nominated him in the first place.

KELLY: And also urging the Senate to hurry up and vote for his guy. Let me - I want to play one comment from one of the Senate Democrats who was questioning Kavanaugh. He was very combative in answering questions from Senate Democrats. Let me let you listen to a comment from Hawaii Democrat Mazie Hirono.


MAZIE HIRONO: There's certainly no entitlement for you to be confirmed to the Supreme Court.

KELLY: Danielle Kurtzleben, what was the senator getting at there?

KURTZLEBEN: Well, the senator was getting at there sort of the process that's going on. That came out of a line of questioning that she had towards him where she was referencing how he was angry at Democratic senators. He had called their questions in his original hearings and embarrassment. And what Hirono was saying - well, listen; what was an embarrassment? We asked you valid questions. We're just doing our job. The - what I read in that was her saying, I think you're wrong for attacking us; we're doing what we're supposed to do here; you can't really be as mad as you're coming off here. That seemed to be the message she was sending.

KELLY: As the hearing was wrapping up, Republicans made sure that Judge Kavanaugh got the last word. Here is Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana addressing the judge.


JOHN KENNEDY: I'm going to give you the last opportunity right here, right in front of God and country. I want you to look me in the eye. Are Dr. Ford's allegations true?

KAVANAUGH: They are not accurate as to me.

KELLY: Domenico Montanaro, I'm going to give you the last opportunity to tell us where does this go from here. Are they set to vote this out of committee tomorrow?

MONTANARO: They are. A Grassley aide tells our congressional editor that unless otherwise noted, they are voting. If not, the committee will send a notice of postponement otherwise. But we are going to have to watch and see those moderates. We're watching Senator Collins of Maine and Senator Murkowski of Alaska, two key women who are Republicans in the Senate, and whether or not they're comfortable with what they heard enough to put Kavanaugh through.

KELLY: That's NPR's Domenico Montanaro and Danielle Kurtzleben. Thank you.

MONTANARO: You're welcome

KURTZLEBEN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.
Danielle Kurtzleben is a political correspondent assigned to NPR's Washington Desk. She appears on NPR shows, writes for the web, and is a regular on The NPR Politics Podcast. She is covering the 2020 presidential election, with particular focuses on on economic policy and gender politics.