Emotional Kavanaugh decries ‘circus’ and maintains innocence, as Ford testifies he ‘sexually assaulted me’

A visibly angry and emotional Brett Kavanaugh denied under oath that he sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford, telling senators Thursday his name has been "totally and permanently destroyed" by these "false" allegations – after his accuser testified she's "one-hundred percent" sure he tried to force himself on her 36 years ago.

The drastically conflicting statements, delivered to the Senate Judiciary Committee in dramatic testimony that carried echoes of the 1991 Anita Hill hearings, left senators to make a judgment call on whose story is accurate. Kavanaugh's confirmation process was thrown into chaos by the 11th-hour charges, and it remains unclear whether the hearing will sway enough senators to secure confirmation.

Kavanaugh let loose in his hearing appearance, abandoning much of his prepared remarks to blast the process as a "disgrace" and a "circus," and later sparring with Democratic senators. The hearing ended Thursday evening after eight hours worth of testimony from Ford and Kavanaugh.

"This confirmation process has become a national disgrace," Kavanaugh told the committee. "The Constitution gives the Senate an important role in the confirmation process. But you have replaced advise and consent with search and destroy."

Earlier in the same hearing room, Ford appeared in public for the first time to testify on her allegations and told lawmakers in no uncertain terms that the Supreme Court nominee "sexually assaulted me." She insisted she was not mistaking him for another person.

"Brett's assault on me drastically altered my life," Ford told the committee.

But Kavanaugh described the allegations, from Ford and others, as part of a calculated political hit deployed by Democrats when he was getting too close to confirmation.

"I am innocent of this charge," he said repeatedly. Kavanaugh told senators he has "categorically and unequivocally" denied the allegations since they first aired.

He described the toll taken by those charges, especially others that emerged in recent days: "My family and my name have been totally and permanently destroyed by vicious and false additional accusations."

As the hearing continued into the late afternoon, the proceedings got more heated. In one tense exchange, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., repeatedly asked Kavanaugh to support a FBI investigation. "If there is no truth to the charges, the FBI investigation will show that," Durbin said. "Are you afraid that they might not?"

After Durbin's comments, a fired-up Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., lashed out at the Democrats. "This is the most unethical sham since I have been in politics," Graham said, raising his voice at the Democrats. "And if you really wanted to know the truth, you sure as hell wouldn't have done what you have done to this guy."

At another point, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, told Kavanaugh, "Judge, I can't think of a more embarrassing scandal for the United States Senate since the McCarthy hearings."

When Rhode Island Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse repeatedly pressed Kavanaugh about alcohol, the nominee shot back: "I like beer. I don't know if you like beer, senator, or not? What do you like to drink?"

Similarly, when Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar asked Kavanaugh if he’d ever blacked out while drinking, Kavanaugh said no, and then said, "I'm curious if you have?"

"I have no drinking problem, judge," Klobuchar said.

"Nor do I," Kavanaugh said.

Later in the hearing, after a brief break, Kavanaugh expressed regret over his question.

"I’m sorry I did that," he told Klobuchar. "This is a tough process."

The judged choked up repeatedly throughout his opening statement, including recounting how his 10-year-old daughter said of Ford, "We should pray for the woman."

At another point, Kavanaugh said, "I am never going to get my reputation back. My life is totally and permanently altered." Cornyn replied, "Judge, don't give up."

Kavanaugh insisted the allegations aren't true, and said, "I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone." He added, "I will not be intimidated into withdrawing from this process."

Kavanaugh rebutted a number of claims from Ford, who said he attempted to rape her at a party in 1982: Kavanaugh said he didn’t run in the same crowd as Ford; he referenced that the others listed as being at the party said later they didn't remember it; he pointed out how Ford didn’t remember where the party was or how she got there; and he said his personal calendars from the time didn’t indicate he attended a party like the one described.

"I'm not questioning that Dr. Ford may have been sexually assaulted by some person in some place at some time," he said. "But I have never done this to her or to anyone. That's not who I am, it is not who I was. I am innocent of this charge."

Ford, however, was equally adamant in standing by her account. She, too, choked up at times but voiced confidence, under sustained questioning, that the judge attacked her.

"So what you are telling us is that this could not be a case of mistaken identity?" Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., asked.

"Absolutely not," Ford replied. She added she's "100 percent" certain it was Kavanaugh who attacked her.

As her testimony was winding down, Ford was pressed by questioner Rachel Mitchell about how the four people named by Ford as being at the party have said they have no memory of the event. She dismissed the significance of that, saying "nothing remarkable happened" to two of them that evening; the other two are the ones being accused.

And in a striking moment, Ford said the one female there, her friend Leland Ingham, has "significant health challenges" and is getting treatment. Ford said Ingham texted her an apology following her statement claiming no recollection of the party, while saying she wouldn't expect her to remember the incident since she was downstairs.

The partisan divide over the allegations was on full display, with Democrats assuring Ford they support her. "I want to thank you for your courage and I want to tell you I believe you," California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris told Ford during the hearing.

Republicans still expressed skepticism about the allegations but did not criticize Ford herself. Cornyn said after her testimony he found no reason "to find her not credible" but said "there are obviously gaps in her story." Graham said he wasn't convinced: "I did not find her allegations to be corroborated against Mr. Kavanaugh."

In her opening remarks, Ford choked up as she described growing up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., and hanging out with boys from different schools in the area, including Kavanaugh, "the boy who sexually assaulted me."

Ford then described a drunk Kavanaugh attacking her in the 1980s at a high school party. She told senators she "thought that Brett was accidentally going to kill me." Ford said she was able to run away.

On Thursday, Ford said she was "terrified" to detail her accusations but felt it was her "civic duty."

She continued, "I believed he was going to rape me."

Ford said Kavanaugh caught her in a room, while a friend, Mark Judge, was present. Ford said the strongest memory she had of the event was the "uproarious laughter between the two, and they're having fun at my expense."

Thursday’s hearing followed days of negotiations between Senate Republicans and Ford’s attorneys – and amid more lurid last-minute allegations from other women who have accused Kavanaugh of improper sexual behavior in high school and college.

The stakes for Kavanaugh could not be higher: Key swing-vote senators have said Thursday's hearing would present a pivotal opportunity to assess Ford's credibility and determine whether to advance Kavanaugh to the nation's highest court.

Republicans retained Mitchell, an experienced sex-crimes prosecutor, to handle some of their questioning, hoping it would help avoid an overtly political atmosphere. Republicans, through Mitchell, questioned Ford on apparent discrepancies or holes in the story.

In one curious exchange, Ford acknowledged she didn’t personally pay for the polygraph examination she took in August, and said she doesn’t know who did. Later in the hearing, her attorney Debra Katz said Ford’s "lawyers have paid for her polygraph."

Another Ford attorney, Michael Bromwich, said during the hearing that Ford's attorneys have been working pro bono.


Pressed by Mitchell, Ford said she couldn’t be more specific about the date of the incident, other than it was likely in 1982.

"I can't give the exact date," she said.

Under questioning from Mitchell, Ford said the area of the party was probably about a 20-minute drive from her parents’ home. She said someone probably drove her there, but she could not remember who it was.

"Has anyone come forward to say to you, 'hey, remember, I was one who drove you home?" Mitchell asked.

"No," Ford replied.

Mitchell pressed Ford over her reported comments that she was reluctant to give an interview to the committee because of her fear of flying. Asked how she traveled from California to Washington for Thursday's hearing, Ford acknowledged she flew.

"I eventually was able to get up the gumption with the help of some friends and get on the plane," she said. Ford acknowledged she regularly flies – including once a year during the summer to visit family on the East Coast.

The hearing, which for days had been in doubt, was the first chance for the public to see Ford, in person, explain in detail what she claimed happened at the Maryland house party in 1982 where Kavanaugh allegedly jumped on top of her and tried to muffle her screams -- and why she didn't tell anyone about the episode until 2012.

"He began running his hands over my body and grinding into me," Ford testified on Thursday, describing that day. "I tried to get away from him, but his weight was heavy. Brett groped me and tried to take off my clothes."

She said she eventually got away, locking herself in a bathroom as the two eventually went downstairs.

In her opening statement, Ford said she remembered "four boys" being at the party, including one "whose name I cannot recall." The people she did name -- Kavanaugh and his classmates Mark Judge and P.J. Smyth -- have denied under penalty of felony knowing anything about the alleged episode.


Ford also named a girl, "my friend Leland Ingham," as also being in attendance. Ingham, in a previously released statement, has denied knowing Kavanaugh or having information about the alleged assault.

Ford told senators she finally decided to disclose the alleged assault during a therapy session in 2012 because during a remodeling of her house that year, she insisted on installing a "second front door" -- leaving her husband and others wondering why.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley kicked off Thursday’s highly anticipated hearing before the panel by noting past FBI background checks of Kavanaugh turned up no evidence of any wrongdoing.

"Nowhere in any of these six FBI reports, which committee investigators have reviewed on a bipartisan basis, was there a whiff of any issue," Grassley said.

Feinstein, the committee's top Democrat, defended her decision not to turn over the accusations earlier to the FBI and other lawmakers. She said Ford wanted it to "be held confidential."

Though she learned of the allegations in July, Feinstein didn't disclose them to her Senate colleagues or federal authorities until days before a crucial Judiciary Committee vote on Kavanaugh's confirmation earlier this month.

Ford said Thursday she decided to go public with her allegations after reporters began staking out her home and work.

The proceedings were jolted by late-breaking developments: In a statement released Wednesday evening, Judiciary Committee Republicans revealed that on Monday, they conducted interviews with two separate men who claimed they, and not Kavanaugh, had the encounter with Dr. Ford in 1982.

In response, an aide to Democrats on the Judiciary Committee reportedly unloaded on Senate Republicans, accusing them of "desperately trying to muddy the waters."

Several other allegations have emerged over the last week -- and Kavanaugh has denied them all. Republicans repeatedly have pointed out that none of the sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh has first-hand corroboration.


In The New Yorker on Sunday, former Kavanaugh classmate Deborah Ramirez claimed that Kavanaugh had exposed his penis to her at a party decades ago.

Another woman, Julie Swetnick, emerged Wednesday to accuse Kavanaugh of participating in "gang rapes" and rape "trains" in the 1980s. Swetnick has been represented by anti-Trump lawyer Michael Avenatti.

"The Swetnick thing is a joke," Kavanaugh said Thursday, raising his voice. "It's a farce."

On Tuesday, a constituent told the office of Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., that in 1985, two "heavily inebriated men" referred to as "Brett and Mark" had sexually assaulted a "close friend" on a boat. But that person recanted the claim Wednesday night on Twitter.

In another case, Kavanaugh was asked by GOP investigators this week about a new claim in a letter received by Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., from an anonymous individual apparently in Denver, alleging that Kavanaugh "shoved" someone up against a wall "very aggressively and sexually" during an outing in front of four witnesses in 1998.

Speaking to Judiciary Committee investigators, Kavanaugh maintained his innocence and lamented the "total feeding frenzy" of last-minute accusations.

"We're dealing with an anonymous letter about an anonymous person and an anonymous friend," Kavanaugh told committee investigators earlier this week about the alleged episode. "It's ridiculous. Total Twilight Zone. And no, I've never done anything like that."

Fox News’ Judson Berger and Gregg Re contributed to this report.