Updated September 27 at 5:01 p.m. EST
Technically, Christine Blasey Ford was not on trial on Thursday as she testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her some 35 years ago. But effectively, that’s what it was: Ford was questioned by sitting senators and an experienced prosecutor, Rachel Mitchell, who leads the special-victims division of the Maricopa County attorney’s office in Arizona.
Mitchell’s approach to questioning Ford—and Kavanaugh—is significant for two reasons. Democrats decried Republicans’ decision to bring on a prosecutor, seeing it as an attempt to make Ford seem deceptive or unfairly question her. Mitchell took a methodical approach with Ford, asking her about everything from the small details of the assault to potential inconsistencies in her story. But the morning’s hearing finished up with no clear outcome, and certainly nothing that could help the Republicans who hired Mitchell: The lawyer’s questions seemed piecemeal and vaguely insinuating, while Ford stuck to her story.
Her questions for Kavanaugh were different. Mitchell gave him a definition of “sexual behavior,” noting that it “includes rubbing or grinding your genitals against somebody, clothed or unclothed.” She asked Kavanaugh about his drinking habits, and whether he had ever woken up in a “different condition” or with “fewer clothes” than when he remembered going to sleep. She ran through the sexual allegations Ford had made. Kavanaugh denied everything with a straightforward “No.”