Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford testify on sex assault allegations

By Meg Wagner, Brian Ries, Sophie Tatum and Paul P. Murphy, CNN

Updated 8:22 p.m. ET, September 27, 2018
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7:24 p.m. ET, September 27, 2018

Collins, Murkowski, Flake and Manchin are meeting now

From CNN's Ted Barrett and Manu Raju

The four key centrist votes on Judge Brett Kavanaugh — Sens. Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Jeff Flake and Joe Manchin — are huddled privately in a Capitol office.

Staff left the room as they gathered minutes after the Kavanaugh hearing ended.  

Murkowski angrily tried to order a reporter from the hallway when she arrived.  

“Go,” she shouted out pointing to the end of the hallway.

The three Republicans are planning to attend the GOP conference meeting at 7:15 p.m., per an aide.

7:04 p.m. ET, September 27, 2018

Republican senator tells passed-over prosecutor, "Great job"

From CNN's MJ Lee

Sen. John Kennedy, who did not let GOP-hired prosecutor Rachel Mitchell use his time to question Brett Kavanaugh, came over and shook Mitchell’s hand.

"Great job, counsel," he said.

All 11 Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee used Mitchell to ask their questions to Kavanaugh's accuser Christine Blasey Ford. But many of them chose to speak directly to Kavanaugh.

Mitchell stayed in the room the whole time, though. Here's footage of her sitting while Republicans questions Kavanaugh:

6:52 p.m. ET, September 27, 2018

Trump tweets praise for Kavanaugh

President Trump, clearly pleased with Brett Kavanaugh's performance, tweeted his praise.

"Judge Kavanaugh showed America exactly why I nominated him. His testimony was powerful, honest, and riveting," he tweeted. "Democrats’ search and destroy strategy is disgraceful and this process has been a total sham and effort to delay, obstruct, and resist. The Senate must vote!"

See the tweet:

6:50 p.m. ET, September 27, 2018

Jeff Flake: There's "as much doubt as certainty" at the end of this hearing

Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, one of the key senators who could make or break Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation, was given one minute to address the hearing. He apologized to Kavanaugh — and to his accuser Christine Blasey Ford.

"I am sorry for what's happened to you, and your family, as I'm sorry for what has happened to hers. This is not a good process. But it's all we've got," he said.

He also said there is still, likely "as much doubt as certainty."

"And I would just urge my colleagues to recognize that in the end we are 21 very imperfect senators trying to do our best to provide advice and consent. And in the end, there is likely to be as much doubt as certainty going out of this room today. As we make decisions going forward, I hope that people will recognize that. In the rhetoric that we use and the language that we use going forward that we'll recognize that, that there is doubt." 

Watch more:

6:49 p.m. ET, September 27, 2018

Kavanaugh did not watch Ford's testimony

Responding to a question from California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris, Judge Brett Kavanaugh said he did not watch his accuser's testimony prior to his own.

Harris, a potential Democratic presidential contender for 2020, ended her own line of questions by asking "a direct question."

"Did you watch Dr. Ford's testimony?" she asked.
Kavanaugh responded: "I did not."

He later added that although he had planned to watch, he did not because he was preparing for his own.

6:46 p.m. ET, September 27, 2018

The prosecutor Republicans hired to ask questions sat in silence as Republicans took over

The plan was for Rachel Mitchell, an Arizona sex crimes prosecutor, to ask questions of both Ford and Kavanaugh on Republicans' behalf. But halfway through Kavanaugh's hearing, it was abandoned when Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John Cornyn of Texas used their time to assail Democrats.

The tone shifted drastically as Mitchell was left sorting through papers and taking notes while Republican senators spoke directly over her.

Speaking during a break in the proceedings, CNN's Dana Bash said, "The whole reason why the male Republicans on this committee brought a female prosecutor in to do the questioning was because of the optics of these men asking questions of this woman who says that she was attacked by Brett Kavanaugh."

"But they completely undermined the attempt to correct the optics by pushing Rachel Mitchell aside and asking the questions themselves when it came to Brett Kavanaugh, because things were getting very down and dirty."

Bash added, "If the whole point is to have somebody who is impartial who understands these questions to ask the questions of both, boy did they undermine that."

Watch:

6:44 p.m. ET, September 27, 2018

Trump is pleased with Kavanaugh's "righteous indignation" today

From CNN's Jake Tapper

A Senior White House official said the President is happy with Brett Kavanaugh's testimony today.

“President Trump is very pleased with Brett Kavanaugh’s righteous indignation regarding the personal destruction of his good name and his family. He’s confident in his choice," the official said.

Where is Trump? As the hearing winds down, President Trump will head to the Trump International Hotel in downtown Washington. He is going for two fundraising events that are closed to press.

 

6:29 p.m. ET, September 27, 2018

Why is the GOP meeting after the hearing?

From CNN's Manu Raju

After the Kavanaugh-Ford hearing ends, the GOP will hold a conference meeting.

Sources say the meeting is being held to reassure Senators that the Republican staffers on Senate Judiciary conducted its own investigation into Kavanaugh's past.

They will discuss what they found, and what they did not find.

However, it's ultimately an attempt to calm the concerns that a handful of key Republican senators hold.

6:28 p.m. ET, September 27, 2018

Michael Avenatti says his client wants to testify, too

From CNN's MJ Lee

Michael Avenatti, who represents another woman accusing Brett Kavanaugh, tells CNN that Christine Blasey Ford is "very credible."

“I thought she was very credible and that she did an unbelievable job under very difficult circumstances," he said.

Asked if his own client is prepared to do that? “We have yet to receive a response to the correspondence we sent this morning. She wants to testify.”

And he said this about Kavanaugh: “Judge Kavanaugh’s conduct during the hearing today demonstrates that he has no business being on the Supreme Court.”