Kavanaugh’s nomination to the supreme court hangs in the balance. He and Ford will deliver diametrically opposing accounts at the extraordinary hearing, as fresh accusations of sexual misconduct and contradictory charges swirl around a circus-like confirmation process that has been described as “surreal” and “political as hell”.
“I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t remember as much as I would like to,” Ford will tell the panel, according to prepared remarks released on Wednesday. “But the details about that night that bring me here today are ones I will never forget.”
In her testimony, Ford calls Kavanaugh “the boy who sexually assaulted me”, ruling out any suggestion that she may be confusing him with another person.
But late Wednesday night, the Senate Judiciary committee released a timeline of all staff activity in response to the allegations against Kavanaugh. The summary disclosed that staff have interviewed two different men who each told investigators “he, not Judge Kavanaugh, had the encounter with Dr Ford in the summer of 1982 that is the basis of her allegation”. The committee did not identify the men.
In her testimony, Ford describes the night of the assault, stating: “I believed he was going to rape me.” She also explains the winding path that began with a letter to her congresswoman and an anonymous tip to the Washington Post and resulted in her stepping forward publicly and agreeing to testify on Capitol Hill.
“I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified,” she will say. “I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanaugh and I were in high school.”
In his testimony, Kavanaugh, Donald Trump’s second supreme court nominee, will acknowledge that he was “not perfect” in high school but will adamantly deny Ford’s accusation that he sexually assaulted her, declaring himself “innocent of this charge”. He has also unequivocally denied allegations of sexual misconduct made public by two other women this week.
“I drank beer with my friends, usually on weekends. Sometimes I had too many. In retrospect, I said and did things in high school that make me cringe now,” Kavanaugh will tell the committee, according to prepared remarks released by the committee on Wednesday. “But that’s not why we are here today. What I’ve been accused of is far more serious than juvenile misbehavior.”
A new accuser, Julie Swetnick, came forward on Wednesday, aided by the celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti, to allege in a sworn declaration that she observed Kavanaugh at high school parties where women were verbally and physically abused, including being present at one in which she was the victim of a “gang rape”.
Kavanaugh dismissed the latest allegations as “ridiculous and from the Twilight Zone” as Trump stood by his embattled nominee, accusing Democrats of “bringing people out of the woods” in an 11th-hour attempt to block his confirmation.
The judge also denied two separate allegations against him in an interview with Republican investigators for the Senate judiciary committee, according to a transcript of the conference call released by the panel on Wednesday.
In the transcript, Kavanaugh denied assaulting a woman he was dating in 1998 while working for the independent counsel Ken Starr. The allegation stemmed from an anonymous complaint to the office of the Republican senator Cory Gardner of Colorado. The second incident he denied in the call related to an allegation made by an unidentified Rhode Island man “concerning a rape on a boat in August of 1985”. That allegation was relayed to the office of the Democratic senator Sheldon White House of Rhode Island.
Speaking on Wednesday, Trump said it was possible that he could change his mind on Kavanaugh.
“We’re giving the women a major chance to speak. It’s possible I’ll hear that and I’ll say: ‘Hey, I’m changing my mind.’ It’s possible,” he said.
But he otherwise stood by his nominee, calling the allegations against Kavanaugh a “big, fat con job”.
‘It has happened to me many times’Speaking at length to reporters in New York, Trump said he viewed the accusations against Kavanaugh “differently” because he himself had “had a lot of false charges made against me”.
“You have a man who is great, outstanding, but he has charges against him,” Trump said, adding: “It has happened to me many times.”
The allegations have roiled his confirmation process, which Republicans expected the judge to sail through, and deeply divided the country. Protesters have flooded the Capitol and staged walkouts while Kavanaugh’s supporters defend him as a lifelong champion of women and a distinguished jurist.
In light of the third accusation, the Democratic Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, has called on Kavanaugh to withdraw and another senator, Jeff Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon, has filed a lawsuit in an attempt to halt the hearing.
The Senate committee says it is making an effort to hold staff interviews with Swetnick and a third woman, Deborah Ramirez, who alleged in the New Yorker that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a drunken party when they were students at Yale.
Thursday’s hearing will take place against the backdrop of the #MeToo, a movement that has toppled powerful men across industries. Aware of the significance of the moment, the all-male Republican panel on the committee will cede their questions to the Arizona prosecutor Rachel Mitchell in an effort, they say, to “depoliticize” the session.
Lawyers for Kavanaugh on Wednesday released to several news organizations five calendar pages from 1982 that will be presented to bolster his assertion that he was not at a house party with Ford decades ago. While Ford cannot recall the exact date or location of the party, the calendar includes several details about Kavanaugh visiting friends and some weeks are blocked out for summer trips and camp.
At the same time, lawyers for Ford provided affidavits from four people – three from friends and one from her husband – who say that she told them in recent years she was assaulted by Kavanaugh when she was in high school. They also released a copy of a polygraph test she took in August in regards to her allegation, which concluded that her description of the account was “not indicative of deception”.
Republicans have scheduled a committee vote for Friday and many senators say they’re eager to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination. But a handful of key Republican senators have said their vote hinges on Thursday’s hearing.
“I do not believe that a claim of sexual assault is invalid because a 15-year-old girl didn’t promptly report the assault to the authorities, as the president of the United States said just two days ago,” Senator Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican and a member of the committee whose vote could determine Kavanaugh’s fate, said in an impassioned floor speech on Wednesday.
“How uninformed and uncaring do you have to be to say things like that, much less believe them? Do we have any idea what kind of message that sends, especially to young women? How many times do we have to marginalize and ignore women before we learn that important lesson?”