Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and his first accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, will give Senate testimony Thursday, as mounting allegations of decades-old sexual misconduct threaten the star conservative judge's chances at a lifetime appointment to the nation's highest court.
Kavanaugh, 53, and Ford, a 51-year-old psychology professor, are set to testify under oath before the Senate Judiciary Committee, starting at 10 am ET Thursday.
On Capitol Hill, the hearing has become as much a point of controversy as the allegations themselves. Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, grappled for days with Ford's lawyers over the timing and conditions of the hearing, while Democrats decried the lack of an FBI investigation and called for more witnesses to testify.
Those witnesses could have included Deborah Ramirez, whose allegation that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her in the 1980s when they were classmates at Yale University was revealed by The New Yorker on Sunday. Kavanaugh flatly denied the allegation, calling it "grotesque and obvious character assassination" and vowing not to withdraw his nomination.
Democrats had also called on Grassley to subpoena Mark Judge, a classmate and friend of Kavanaugh's from Georgetown Preparatory School. Ford said Judge was present during an alleged sexual assault against her. She said that Kavanaugh, while drunk at a gathering in the early 1980s, had pinned her to a bed, covered her mouth with his hand and tried to undress her.
Kavanaugh denies all accusations of sexual misconduct. "Dr. Ford may have been sexually assaulted by some person in some place at some time. But I have never done that to her or to anyone," Kavanaugh said in prepared remarks to the committee. Judge has said he has "no recollection" of the incident as Ford described it and does not wish to testify.
On Wednesday, another bombshell allegation threatened to delay the hearing. Lawyer Michael Avenatti, an avowed foe of President Donald Trump, tweeted out a sworn declaration from his client, Julie Swetnick, who alleged that Kavanaugh and Judge, among others, spiked girls' drinks at parties in the early 1980s to make them "lose their inhibitions and their ability to say 'no'" to sex.
Kavanaugh denied the allegation as "ridiculous and from the Twilight Zone."
After the back-and-forth between Ford's lawyers and the committee, the hearing had been pushed three days past its originally scheduled date but was not preceded by a new FBI probe into the allegations against Kavanaugh.
The Republican majority selected ex-crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell to question Ford and Kavanaugh rather than the all-male GOP members of the committee.
The Republicans said she was selected in an attempt to depoliticize the process, but it has also been widely suspected that they wished to avoid the optics of a woman being questioned about sexual assault entirely by men. That was what Anita Hill went through in 1991 when she detailed her allegations of harassment against then-nominee Clarence Thomas.
After Grassley and ranking Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., make their opening statements, Ford will be the first witness. Kavanaugh will not be present in the room with her, in accordance with the conditions set by her lawyers.
CNN reported that each senator will have five minutes to question the witnesses, and that Republicans plan to feed their questions through Mitchell while Democrats will opt to ask their own.
Clarification: This story was revised to clarify that Mitchell will ask questions on behalf of the Republican committee members.