WASHINGTON ― The day before Christine Blasey Ford testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh tried to rape her in high school, three friends came forward to swear to senators that she’d told them the story before his nomination was announced in July.
Their sworn affidavits were significant, since they indicated Ford had not made up her accusation just to smear President Donald Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court. They were the first people aside from Ford’s husband ― who also submitted an affidavit ― to say she’d told them about what allegedly happened.
But the declarations got relatively little attention, as they were almost immediately overshadowed by another allegation from a woman who said she’d seen Kavanaugh at parties where rapes had occurred.
The evening after the three affidavits from Ford’s friends were submitted, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a key swing vote on the Kavanaugh nomination, said she thought they sounded important ― “like something I need to read and I am sure will come up at the hearing tomorrow,” she said in a brief hallway interview.
The affidavits did not come up during the hearing, except for passing references by Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). And Ford mentioned she’d told a few friends about what allegedly happened. But in the deluge of news that followed Ford and Kavanaugh’s testimonies, those affidavits from Ford’s friends have seemingly been forgotten.
Even with a crucial first vote scheduled for Friday ― which is partly a referendum on Ford’s credibility ― several senators seemed as though they’d never heard of the affidavits in interviews this week.
“I have not seen an affidavit to that effect,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), another undecided senator, told HuffPost on Wednesday.
“I’m not sure which affidavits you’re referring to,” said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a member of the Judiciary Committee.
Another judiciary member, Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), said he didn’t remember if he’d read the documents. “This isn’t a test, is it? I’ve read so much stuff,” he said. After a reporter described the documents, he said: “That was her husband and some friends. I probably did. I’ve read a lot. If it’s a test I hope it’s multiple choice.”
Even Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the senator in whom Ford first confided, didn’t recall the affidavits. “I can’t think of it right now,” she said.
In a followup email from her office, Feinstein said the fact that Ford had confided in these people “long before” the nomination meant the case was not a “he-said, she-said” as some have described it.
If this were a court of law, this would be significant, but it’s all gotten lost in the partisanship.
Laurie Levenson, professor, Loyola Law School
HuffPost’s questions about the affidavits could fairly be described as having a “pop quiz” quality, since senators this week have been bombarded with questions about even more recent developments. But that doesn’t mean the affidavits are irrelevant.
“They are what we would call ‘prior consistent statements’ ― in other words, [Ford] was telling people about this before she had the alleged motive to fabricate,” said Laurie Levenson, a former prosecutor and current criminal law and evidence professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “If this were a court of law, this would be significant, but it’s all gotten lost in the partisanship.”
It’s not a court of law, but Republicans hired prosecutor Rachel Mitchell to question Ford during last week’s hearing. Mitchell listed several problems she saw with Ford’s claims in a memo to Republicans after the hearing, saying she didn’t think a reasonable prosecutor would bring a case based on the evidence in front of the committee.
One issue Mitchell raised was that Ford’s description of the incident had supposedly shifted. Ford told the committee she’d confided in her husband, Russell, about a “sexual assault” shortly after they married in 2002. But, Mitchell noted, The Washington Post reported that Ford had told her husband about “physical abuse.”
“When speaking with her husband, Dr. Ford changed her description of the incident to become less specific,” Mitchell wrote.
The affidavits from Ford’s friends and husband bear directly on whether Ford has told her story consistently. But Mitchell omitted those from her memo.
Russell Ford said in his affidavit that in 2012 his wife told him about a sexual assault she experienced in high school ― that she’d been “trapped in a room and physically restrained by one boy who was molesting her while another boy watched.” She’d told him the attacker’s name was Brett Kavanaugh.
Another friend, Keith Koegler, said Ford told him her story during a conversation about an infamous sexual assault case at Stanford University. She told him “she was particularly bothered by it because she was assaulted in high school by a man who was now a federal judge in Washington, D.C.,” Koegler said.
Rebecca White, one of Ford’s neighbors, said that one day in 2017, Ford struck up a conversation about a social media post White had written about sexual assault. “She then told me that when she was a young teen, she had been sexually assaulted by an older teen,” White said. “I remember her saying that her assailant was now a federal judge.”
And Adela Gildo-Mazzon said she still has the receipt from the day in 2013 when she met Ford for lunch at an Italian restaurant in Mountain View, California. “Christine told me she had been having a hard day because she was thinking about an assault she experienced when she was much younger,” Gildo-Mazzon said. “She said that she had been almost raped by someone who was now a federal judge. She told me she had been trapped in a room with two drunken guys, and that she then escaped, ran away, and hid.”
It’s not clear that anything would be different if the memos had received more attention, since Republicans have consistently said they think Ford is mistaken about what happened. According to that theory, these people are just repeating her mistake.
Asked about the affidavits last week, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said the people didn’t really have corroborating information. “Those are not people who witnessed the alleged event,” he said.
Levenson said Republicans have set a high bar for corroboration. “Frankly, in these types of settings, you don’t get eyewitnesses,” she said.
Democrats included Ford’s friends on a list of people they thought the FBI should interview as part of its supplemental investigation into Kavanaugh’s background. On Thursday, though, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) complained that apparently none of them had been questioned.
“It seemed to me it would be reasonable for those four individuals to be questioned by the FBI,” Coons said.
Ford’s attorneys have also objected in a letter that the FBI didn’t interview her friends.
This piece has been updated with an additional comment from Dianne Feinstein.
Jen Bendery contributed reporting.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.