Next comes the game tape, so to speak. “They’ll show her clips of people who’ve done poorly, people who’ve done well,” one Washington congressional-investigations lawyer, who requested anonymity because of ongoing cases, told me. “Anita Hill will be mandatory viewing.”
Reviewing the tape is not just to judge past witnesses, though. It’s also to understand which senator will play what role—in other words, the lawyer said, “who will be the attack dogs, and who will be the supporters.”
“You have to know what political points each of them might be looking to score,” Loven echoed. “Sometimes it’s not as much a search for truth as it is a presentation [these senators are] making to members of the public. You have to acknowledge the larger political circus that’s going on.”
Perhaps the most crucial element of preparation, the sources said, is making sure their client knows the audience. “This is a situation where you’re on two really tricky stages at once,” Loven said, “and you need to survive both of them.”
First, a client must prepare for the “inside game”: the senators themselves. Glover would advise “hard, smart, savvy inquisitors across the table” for at least three blocks of two to three hours of prep. “You’d subject them to what is, in essence, a murder board: asking them the most uncomfortable, disquieting, humiliating questions. You want to have that person become fully centered and understanding of all aspects of their emotions on these very personal matters.”
Loven predicted that senators will spend a lot of time grilling Ford on the timing of her allegations, in order to try and tease out a political motive. “They’ll want to know, if her story is so solid, why now? Why all of the sudden at the 11th hour? Because there’s a little bit about that that doesn’t make sense from a very distant perspective,” she said.
“She’ll also probably get questions about her life in between high school and [this past] summer, whether she’s working with outside groups, who else is supporting her,” the Washington lawyer said. “They’ll want to know about the decisions to delete her social-media accounts. Ultimately, your entire life is fair game in these kinds of proceedings.”
Yet the second stage—the public stage—may matter most of all. Ford’s task is to convince not just the Judiciary Committee of the veracity of her story, but also the nation. “She and her lawyers will have to figure out what the most important message is that they want to transmit over this multihour exhibition,” Glover said. “Because this is not focus-grouped at all: They have to decide what the best words are to explain her story.” And not just words, the Washington lawyer added; everything from posture to appearance—how little makeup, what color blouse—all factor into the public’s final impression of Ford.
Should Ford decide to testify, this is the preparation battle that lies ahead. Loven’s final word to the wise? “The first rule of these things,” she said, “is that there are no rules.”