Christine Blasey Ford's allegation that Brett Kavanaugh tried to force himself on her when they were teens has thrown his Supreme Court nomination into doubt. But as senators spar over the terms for a new hearing which may or may not happen, inconsistencies in the story have emerged that could embolden Kavanaugh's defenders.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley has given Ford until Friday morning to say whether she will testify next week. Ford first aired her accusations in a Washington Post story over the weekend but has not spoken publicly about them since. Absent another statement or appearance, questions about the account have swirled on Capitol Hill.
"There are an awful lot of questions, inconsistencies, gaps, and that's why to be fair to both, we need to know what happened," Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a key Republican vote, told reporters this week.
Among those are therapist notes from 2012 that Ford gave to the Washington Post to corroborate her claim. Those notes, though, reportedly say four boys – not two, as Ford claims -- were in the room during the alleged incident. Ford told the newspaper this was an error by the therapist.
Ford, who has acknowledged she can’t remember some details from the incident decades ago, has said she was reluctant to come forward and only did so because her hand was forced by the media.
“As you know, earlier this summer, Dr. Ford sought to tell her story, in confidence, so that lawmakers would have a fuller understanding of Brett Kavanaugh’s character and history,” Ford’s attorneys wrote in a letter to the Judiciary Committee this week. “Only after the details of her experience were leaked did Dr. Ford make the reluctant decision to come forward publicly.”
But that claim of reluctance has raised questions about why Ford hired a well-known sexual harassment attorney and took a polygraph test ahead of time if she wasn’t prepared to make the public allegation.
“If Ms. Ford really did not want to come forward, never intended to come forward, never planned to come forward, why did she pay for a polygraph in August and why did she hire a lawyer in August if she never intended to do what she is doing?” South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said on Fox News this week.
Meanwhile, those named by Ford as being present at the party in question in the 1980s have denied the allegations. That includes Kavanaugh, who has emphatically denied the claim, and Mark Judge, a friend of Kavanaugh’s named by Ford who disputes the claims and says he wasn’t at the party in the question.
Another former classmate of Kavanaugh denied having any knowledge of the party or allegations.
"I understand that I have been identified by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford as the person she remembers as 'PJ' who supposedly was present at the party she described in her statements to the Washington Post," Patrick Smyth said in a letter to the Judiciary Committee. "I am issuing this statement today to make it clear to all involved that I have no knowledge of the party in question; nor do I have any knowledge of the allegations of improper conduct she has leveled against Brett Kavanaugh."
Fueling more curiosity was a supposed former classmate of Ford who posted a statement on Facebook this week saying the “incident did happen” and it was “spoken about for days” afterwards “in school.”
But the post came under scrutiny because of Ford’s previous statements that the alleged incident occurred during the summer – and not during the school year – and that she didn’t discuss it with anyone until counseling with a therapist in 2012.
The classmate who posted the statement, Cristina King Miranda, eventually deleted the post on Wednesday, and clarified that, “I do not have firsthand knowledge of the incident that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford mentions, and I stand by my support for Christine.”
She later told NPR: "That it happened or not, I have no idea. I can't say that it did or didn't."
Ford’s legal team, meanwhile, has given differing statements about whether Ford is willing to testify. On Thursday afternoon, it was reported Ford had re-opened discussions with Republicans to testify.
During television appearances on Monday, Ford’s attorney Debra Katz indicated her client was willing to testify before the committee under oath.
But later in the week, after the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee invited Ford to testify on Monday in public or private, Ford’s attorneys said she wants the FBI to investigate the claims first – something Republicans reject and the bureau is not at this point expected to do.
All along, though, plenty of fellow alumni and Democratic lawmakers have voiced support for Ford, with Senate Democrats urging the majority to hit pause on the process.
"Dr. Ford’s call for the FBI to investigate also demonstrates her confidence that when all the facts are examined by an impartial investigation, her account will be further corroborated and confirmed," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., tweeted.
Members of Ford's family also released a statement Thursday offering "full support."
Despite conflicting details, senators on both sides of the aisle seem to recognize the intense pressure Ford is under. Hazy details about an episode decades ago may be expected and inconsistencies, by themselves, don't delegitimize her claims. One factor may be the abrupt and intense response -- some positive, but also some very negative -- that Ford has faced.
“She has been the target of vicious harassment and even death threats,” Katz and another lawyer, Lisa Banks, wrote. “As a result of these kind of threats, her family was forced to relocate out of their home.”
Her attorneys said she is open to “reasonable steps as to how Dr. Ford can cooperate while also taking care of her own health and security.”
President Trump said Wednesday he hopes Ford appears before the committee.
“If she shows up, that would be wonderful,” Trump said. “If she doesn't show up, that would be unfortunate.”