Senate Republicans have tapped Rachel Mitchell, an Arizona prosecutor specializing in sex crimes, to question professor Christine Blasey Ford about her claim that she was sexually assaulted in the 1980s by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
The California psychology professor, who goes by Christine Blasey professionally, and Kavanaugh are both scheduled to testify at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Thursday. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the committee, confirmed Tuesday that the all-male Republican side had hired a female attorney to question Blasey and Kavanaugh. He declined to name the attorney at the time, citing safety issues.
By using a female prosecutor to question Blasey, Republicans will be able to avoid the poor optics of a group of men interrogating a woman about an alleged sexual assault.
Mitchell, the chief of the sex crimes bureau of the Maricopa County attorney’s office in Phoenix, “has been recognized in the legal community for her experience and objectivity,” Grassley said in a statement. “I’ve taken this additional step to have questions asked by expert staff counsel to establish the most fair and respectful treatment of the witnesses possible.”
Mitchell’s boss, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, has been criticized as being one of the most overzealous prosecutors in the nation. Montgomery’s office sought capital punishment so frequently the county ran out of specialized defense lawyers to handle death penalty cases in 2017.
Montgomery, a Republican, frequently fights against criminal justice reforms in his state. In 2013, Montgomery fought changes to the Arizona state bar rules that require prosecutors to turn over new evidence that suggests a defendant was wrongfully convicted. The Arizona Supreme Court ultimately adopted the rules.
Blasey has come forward with allegations that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a party over 30 years ago, when they were both high school students. She told The Washington Post that he pinned her on a bed, groped her and held his hand over her mouth, making it hard for her to breathe.
Democratic senators will be asking their own questions of both Blasey and Kavanaugh. The Democratic side of the Judiciary Committee includes women.
Even though Republicans have agreed to give Blasey a chance to testify, they’ve made it clear they still plan to move forward with Kavanaugh’s confirmation. On Tuesday, Grassley announced he planned to hold a committee vote on Kavanaugh at 9:30 a.m. Friday, the day after the hearing.
“For Republicans to schedule a Friday vote on Brett Kavanaugh today, two days before Dr. Blasey Ford has had a chance to tell her story, is outrageous,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the committee’s ranking member.
Kavanaugh is also facing accusations from a second woman, Deborah Ramirez, who told The New Yorker that he pulled down his pants and exposed his penis to her while they were students at Yale University. He has denied all wrongdoing.
Matt Ferner contributed to this report.