Washington—Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today delivered opening remarks on Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations of sexual assault against Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
An excerpt from her remarks follows: “We’re here to decide whether to elevate this nominee to the most prestigious court in our country. It is about the integrity of that institution and the integrity of this institution. The entire country is watching how we handle these allegations.
“I hope the majority changes their tactics, opens their minds and seriously reflects on why we are here. We are here for one reason: to determine whether Judge Kavanaugh should be elevated to one of the most powerful positions in our country. This is not a trial of Dr. Ford. It’s a job interview for Judge Kavanaugh. Is Brett Kavanaugh who we want on the most prestigious court in our country? Is he the best we can do?”
Feinstein began by responding to comments made by Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) about the process of receiving information from Dr. Blasey Ford:
“I did receive a letter from Dr. Ford. It was conveyed to me by a member of Congress, Anna Eshoo.
The next day I called Dr. Ford. We spoke on the phone. She reiterated that she wanted this held confidential, and I held it confidential up to a point where the witness was willing to come forward.
And I think as I make my remarks, perhaps you’ll see why because how women are treated in the United States with this kind of concern is really wanting a lot of reform, and I’ll get to that in a minute.”
Senator Feinstein then delivered her opening remarks:
“Good morning Dr. Ford. Thank you for coming forward and being willing to share your story with us. I know this wasn’t easy for you.
Before you get to your testimony, and the chairman chose not to do this, I think it’s important to make sure you’re properly introduced. I have to say when I saw your CV, I was extremely impressed.
You have a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, two masters degrees—one from Stanford and one from Pepperdine—and a Ph.D. from University of Southern California, better known to Senator Harris and I as USC.
You are a professor affiliated with both Stanford University and Palo Alto University. You have published over 65 peer reviewed articles and have received numerous awards for your work and research.
And as if that were not enough, you’re a wife, a mother of two sons and a constituent from California.
So I am very grateful to you for your strength and your bravery in coming forward. I know it’s hard. But before I turn it over, I want to say something about what is to be discussed today and where we are as a country.
Sexual violence is a serious problem and one that largely goes unseen. In the United States, it’s estimated by the Centers for Disease Control, one in three women and one in six men will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime.
According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, 60 percent of sexual assaults go unreported. In addition, when survivors do report their assaults, it’s often years later due to the trauma they suffered and fearing their stories will not be believed.
Last week I received a letter from a 60-year-old California constituent who told me that she survived an attempted rape at age 17. She described as being “terrified and embarrassed.” She never told a soul until much later in life. The assault stayed with her for 43 years.
I think it’s important to remember these realities as we hear from Dr. Ford about her experience. There’s been a great deal of public discussion about the #MeToo movement today versus the “Year of the Woman” almost 27 years ago.
But while young women are standing up and saying “No more,” our institutions have not progressed in how they treat women who come forward. Too often women’s memories and credibility come under assault. In essence, they are put on trial and forced to defend themselves and often re-victimized in the process.
Twenty-seven years ago, I was walking through an airport when I saw a large group of people gathered around a TV to listen to Anita Hill tell her story. What I saw was an attractive woman in a blue suit before an all-male Judiciary Committee speaking of her experience of sexual harassment.
She was treated badly, accused of lying, attacked, and her credibility put to the test throughout the process. Today, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford has come forward to tell her story of being assaulted and fearing for her life when she was a teenager. Initially, as I said, Dr. Ford did not want to make her story public.
Then, within 36 hours of coming forward, Republicans scheduled a hearing without talking to her or even inviting her testify. She was told she had to show up or the committee would move forward with a vote.
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.
However, despite repeated requests, President Trump and the Republicans have refused to take this routine step and direct the FBI to conduct an impartial investigation. This would clearly be the best way to ensure a fair process to both Judge Kavanaugh and to Dr. Ford.
In 1991, the Senate heard from 22 witnesses over three days.
Today, while rejecting an FBI investigation, Republicans are refusing to hear testimony from any other witness, including Mark Judge, who Dr. Ford identified as being in the room when the attack took place. And we believe Judge should be subpoenaed so the committee can hear from him directly.
Republicans have also refused to call anyone who could speak to the evidence that would support or refute Dr. Ford’s claim, and not one witness who could address credibility and character of either Ford or Kavanaugh has been called
What I find most inexcusable is this rush to judgment, the unwillingness to take these kinds of allegations at face value and look at them for what they are—a real question of character for someone who is asking for a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court.
In 1991, Republicans belittled Professor Hill’s experience saying, “It won’t make a bit of difference in the outcome,” and the burden of proof was on Professor Hill.
Today, our Republican colleagues are saying this is a “hiccup;” Dr. Ford is “mixed up;” and declaring, “I’ll listen to the lady, but we are going to bring this to a close.”
What’s worse many of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle have also made it clear that no matter what happens today, the Senate would “plow right through” and ensure Judge Kavanaugh would be elevated within a week.
In fact, on Tuesday, the majority went ahead and scheduled a vote on the nomination before we heard one word of testimony regarding allegations of sexual assault and misconduct by Brett Kavanaugh.
Republican leadership even told senators they should plan to be in over this weekend so the nomination can be pushed through without delay. This is despite the fact that in the last few days two more women have come forward with their own serious allegations of sexual assault involving Brett Kavanaugh.
This past Sunday, we learned about Debbie Ramirez who was a student at Yale with Brett Kavanaugh. She too did not want to come forward, but after being approached by reporters, she told her story.
She was at a college party where Kavanaugh exposed himself to her. She recalls pushing him away and then seeing him laughing and pulling his pants up.
Then yesterday Julie Swetnick came forward to say that she had experiences of being at house parties with Brett Kavanaugh and Mark Judge.
She recounted seeing Kavanaugh engage “in abusive and physically aggressive behavior toward girls,” including attempts to “remove or shift girls’ clothing;” “not taking ‘No’ for an answer;” grabbing girls “without their consent;” and targeting “particular girls so they could be taken advantage of.”
Each of these stories are troubling on their own. And each of these allegations should be investigated by the FBI. All three women have said they would like the FBI to investigate, please do so.
All three have said they have other witnesses and evidence to corroborate their accounts. And yet Republicans continue to blindly push forward.
So today we’re moving forward with a hearing and being asked to assess the credibility of Brett Kavanaugh.
He’s made several statements about how his focus was on school, basketball, service projects and going to church. He declared that he “never” drank so much he couldn’t remember what happened and he has “always treated women with dignity and respect.”
And while he’s made these declarations, more and more people have come forward challenging his characterization of events and behaviors. James Roche, his freshman roommate at Yale, stated Kavanaugh was “frequently, incoherently drunk,” and that he “became aggressive and belligerent when” he was drunk.
Liz Swisher, a friend of his from Yale, said, “There’s no medical way I can say that he was blacked out. … But it’s not credible for him to say that he has had no memory lapses in the nights that he drank to excess.”
Lynne Brookes, a college classmate said the picture Kavanaugh is trying to paint doesn’t match her memories of him, “He’s trying to paint himself as some kind of choir boy. … You can’t lie your way onto the Supreme Court, and with that statement out, he’s gone too far. It’s about the integrity of that institution.”
Ultimately, members and ladies and gentlemen, I think that’s the point. We’re here to decide whether to elevate this nominee to the most prestigious court in our country. It is about the integrity of that institution and the integrity of this institution.
The entire country is watching how we handle these allegations. I hope the majority changes their tactics, opens their minds and seriously reflects on why we are here. We are here for one reason: to determine whether Judge Kavanaugh should be elevated to one of the most powerful positions in our country.
This is not a trial of Dr. Ford. It’s a job interview for Judge Kavanaugh. Is Brett Kavanaugh who we want on the most prestigious court in our country? Is he the best we can do?”