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Senate Hearing With Brett Kavanaugh And Christine Blasey Ford Begins


Christine Blasey Ford has just begun to speak to the Senate Judiciary Committee, offering testimony today against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Let's just bring the sound of that as we hear a bit of her opening statement.


CHRISTINE BLASEY FORD: (Reading) 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, Md., from 1978 to 1984. Holton-Arms is an all-girls school that opened in 1901. During my time at the 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.

INSKEEP: We're listening live to Senate testimony.


FORD: (Reading) 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, Md., 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 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.

INSKEEP: Christine Blasey Ford describing what she remembers and does not remember about a sexual assault that she's described in 1982 when she was in high school. She has accused Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court nominee who will also be testifying before a Senate committee today.

NPR's Kelsey Snell has been following along with today's testimony. Kelsey, a dramatic moment here. You've read the rest of what she is - she's reading from a piece of paper here that she's carefully written.


INSKEEP: What do you learn from this testimony, or what do you feel from this testimony that hasn't come across before?

SNELL: This - she is just at the very beginning of what is an eight-page statement that details what she does remember and about how it did impact her life. She talks about being forced onto a bed. And she talks about feeling vulnerable and feeling that she - locking herself in a bathroom. It's dramatic.

INSKEEP: And this is a question of fact. There's a complete dispute of fact between Kavanaugh and Blasey Ford. What is the atmosphere in which these different versions of events, reality, memories are being presented in the hearing room?

SNELL: It is calm inside the hearing room, as I understand, but it is chaotic everywhere else in the Capitol. There are a lot of questions about whether or not this will become just a he-said, she-said or just a conversation of competing depositions.

INSKEEP: Well, let's listen to a little bit of the opening statements that gives a sense of the partisan feeling in the hearing room. First, we're going to hear from Chairman Charles Grassley. He's a Republican of Iowa, and he looked at both - looked out to Blasey Ford and also addressed Brett Kavanaugh at the same time. Let's listen.


CHUCK GRASSLEY: 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.

INSKEEP: Republicans have tried to present themselves all along as being very open to her story. Is that correct?

SNELL: Absolutely. And a big part of Grassley's opening statement was defensive of the way they handled this. He talked about not getting the information soon enough from Democrats. He talked about all of the different ways Republicans have gone about investigating different allegations against Kavanaugh. It was very defensive.

INSKEEP: Although Dianne Feinstein had a very different version of events. She is the senior Democrat on the committee. Let's listen to that.


DIANNE FEINSTEIN: It took a public outcry for the majority to back down and give her even a few days to come before the committee. Republicans also scheduled this hearing with Dr. Ford without having her allegations investigated by the FBI. In 1991, Anita Hill's allegations were reviewed by the FBI, as is the normal process and squarely within its jurisdiction.

INSKEEP: I guess we should remember there are many individuals at this point who say they know something about one of these two witnesses. But we will hear only from the two witnesses today.

SNELL: That's right, and that's something that Democrats are very frustrated with. And, you know, as I said that Grassley was quite defensive of their approach, Feinstein was equally defensive of the way that Democrats have handled this. And both sides are frustrated. And this has become very partisan.

INSKEEP: And it's a situation where each side, hypothetically, stands for the same thing. Who's in favor of sexual assault? Nobody. Virtually nobody.

SNELL: Right.

INSKEEP: Who's in favor of an innocent man being stained - his reputation being stained? Nobody, in theory. But because there's this partisan dispute over what the facts are, it becomes a very bitter situation.

SNELL: That's right.

INSKEEP: Let's listen to a little bit more of Christine Blasey Ford. She is still reading her opening statement, wearing a blue suit, wearing glasses in front of the Senate Committee.


FORD: (Reading) 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, Md.

INSKEEP: Christine Blasey Ford giving testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee today. And we will expect to hear from Brett Kavanaugh later today. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Kelsey Snell is a Congressional correspondent for NPR. She has covered Congress since 2010 for outlets including The Washington Post, Politico and National Journal. She has covered elections and Congress with a reporting specialty in budget, tax and economic policy. She has a graduate degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. and an undergraduate degree in political science from DePaul University in Chicago.