Updated on September 27 at 2:34 p.m. ET
Wary of having a group of mostly older men interrogating Christine Blasey Ford, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee opted to hire Rachel Mitchell, a sex-crimes prosecutor, to question the woman who has accused the Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of attempting to rape her in high school.
But the GOP plan had one hiccup: It still meant that one member, Chairman Chuck Grassley, would speak. Through the first few hours of the hearing Thursday, the Iowa Republican has been a prominent, and often jarring, presence. Grassley struck a combative tone in his opening statement, promptly tangled with ranking Democrat Dianne Feinstein, and has interrupted to comment on the proceedings.
Grassley kicked the hearing off with a feisty set of remarks. He began with an apology to both Kavanaugh and Ford for the treatment they and their families have received. “I intend hopefully for today’s hearing to be safe, comfortable, and dignified for both of our witnesses,” he said. “I hope my colleagues will join me in this effort of a show of civility.”
Grassley then proceeded to criticize Feinstein for not making Ford’s account public sooner (“The ranking member didn’t ask Judge Kavanaugh about the allegations when she met with him privately in August”); Democrats for not speaking to Kavanaugh after the allegations first became public (“Democratic staff was invited to participate and could have asked any questions they wanted to, but they declined. Which leads me, then, to wonder, if true, why wouldn’t you want to talk to the accused?”); Democrats for their behavior in a previous hearing on Kavanaugh (“This will be a stark contrast to the grandstanding and chaos that we saw from the other side during the previous four days in this hearing process”); and Ford, for her reluctance to testify (“My staff made repeated requests to interview Dr. Ford during the past 11 days, even volunteering to fly to California to take her testimony, but her attorneys refused to present her allegations to Congress. I nevertheless honored her request for a public hearing so Dr. Ford today has the opportunity to present her allegations under oath”).