The Senate Judiciary Committee has announced the identity of the lawyer who will conduct the primary questions of both Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Rachel Mitchell, the sex crimes bureau chief for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office in Phoenix, is someone with considerable experience in not such sex crimes but delayed sex crime prosecutions. It is an unusual step for the Committee but not unprecedented. Congress will hire outside counsel or allow counsel to question witnesses on some occasions, particularly at fact-finding stages. I was hired a lead counsel to represent the United States House of Representatives in the successful challenge of the unilateral funding decisions of the Affordable Care Act by President Barack Obama.
Mitchell is without question highly credentialed in the field. She has done this work for 26 years.
It is also obvious that this move has a political purpose. As I have previously discussed, the Republicans were looking at the worst possible optics in having an all-male majority bench question a woman claiming to be the victim of an attempted rape. This gives the senators a political cushion in having a woman with a long history of supporting victims conduct the questioning.
For Kavanaugh, the timing is particularly bad with the sentencing of Bill Cosby based on long dormant allegations. The difference is that Cosby implicated himself in the drugging allegations and the number of women coming forward were both numerous and consistent in their accounts. Kavanaugh is facing accounts with little direct corroboration and Democratic senators who have announced in advance that they believe the accuser or even equivocating on whether he has a presumption of innocence. There are similar views of bias of some Republican senators who seemed to dismiss the allegations before any testimony is heard. One Republican Senate candidate even said that Kavanaugh should be confirmed even if the alleged attempted rape is true.
Most people I have spoken to simply want a fair and impartial hearing. They are less interested in who asks the questions as much as how those questions are answered. In the meantime, the second accuser, Deborah Rameriz, says that she would be willing to testify but there is no indication that she has been asked. The Committee has scheduled the final committee vote for the very next day, Friday, which would allow the matter to then go to the floor of the Senate.