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A Democratic member of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday blasted her Republican colleagues and the sex crimes prosecutor they hired for treating a woman who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault like a witness in a criminal trial.
Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii chastised the prosecutor, Rachel Mitchell, for "asking these questions all to undermine the memory and basically the credibility of" Christine Blasey Ford, Kavanaugh's accuser.
And Hirono tried to short-circuit what she suggested was the true goal of Mitchell, who prosecutes sex assaults in Arizona, on behalf of the GOP senators.
"I think I know what she's trying to get at," Hirono said. "I'll just ask you very plainly, Dr. Ford, is there a political motivation for your coming forward with your account of the assault by Brett Kavanaugh?"
Ford replied: " No."
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., later said to Ford: "You are not on trial. You are not on trial."
Kavanaugh, who is a federal appeals court judge, has denied attacking Ford, as well as several other women who have come forward in recent weeks to describe alleged sexual misconduct by him dating to the 1980s.
Mitchell's questioning of Ford drew widespread criticism from political observers on social media over her focusing less on Ford's claim of being attacked by Kavanaugh at a private home in the early 1980s, and more on details of what happened afterward.
Mitchell, from the start of her questioning, seemed hobbled by the fact that she had blocks of just five minutes of question time and was required to alternate her turns with Democratic senators, who did their own questioning.
The career prosecutor spent many minutes laying the foundation for asking questions that seemed designed to chip away at the veracity of Ford's memory, or call into question her motivation. But she seemed unable to deliver a knockout blow to Ford, which even one GOP senator seemed to acknowledge.
"I found no reason to not find her credible," said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, after Ford finished her testimony.
Hirono began her own questioning of Ford, a research psychologist, by underscoring the fact that Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, like other Republican members of the committee, did not question Ford themselves, but relied on Mitchell to ask all questions of her.
"Mr. Chairman. is it your intent to cede all Republicans' time to your prosecutor rather than they themselves ceding their time to her?'" Hirono asked.
"Yes," Grassley, an Iowa Republican, replied.
Hirono then said, "We all know that the prosecutor, even though this clearly is not a criminal proceeding, is asking Dr. Ford all kinds of questions about what happened before and after, but basically not during the attack."
"The prosecutor should know that sexual assault survivors often do not remember ... information such as what happened before or after the traumatic event. and yet she will persist in asking these questions all to undermine the memory and basically the credibility of Dr. Ford," Hirono added. "We all know Dr. Ford's memory of the assault is very clear."
The Hawaii Democrat then stressed that the proceedings were not supposed to feel like a prosecution.
"Dr. Ford, the Republicans' prosecutor has asked you all kinds of questions about who you called and when, asking details that would be asked in a cross-examination of a witness in a criminal trial," Hirono said. "But this is not a criminal proceeding. This is a confirmation proceeding."