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The Circus is over. Millions watched as Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh combined to create one of the most dramatic and memorable hearings in Senate history. A calm, credible, and well-coached Ford was in stark contrast to rightfully furious Kavanaugh who choked back tears and anger at what the left had put him and his family through.

Here are what The Hill believes are the five key takeaways...

Ford came off as credible

As Ford wrapped her testimony, both sides praised the 51-year-old professor for being credible and effective under hours of interrogation by senators and Rachel Mitchell, the lawyer hired to question her on behalf of Republicans. Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.) told reporters that he found Ford to be “credible.” Meanwhile, GOP Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the No. 2 GOP senator and member of the committee, told reporters he “found no reason to find her not credible.” Ford’s testimony left Republicans grim faced, and commentators on Fox News pronounced it a disaster for the GOP. Democrats rallied behind her, with Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), a 2020 White House candidate, telling Ford: “I believe you and I believe many Americans across this country believe you.”

Kavanaugh’s aggressive tact paid off

Ford’s testimony was so powerful and so good, commentators said Kavanaugh really needed to deliver. He did with a forceful denial notable for its passion and indignation. Kavanaugh was visibly angry, red faced and appeared to be at times on the verge of yelling at senators as he began his opening statement. He ripped the committee process, and specifically Democrats, calling the attacks a “national disgrace,” and saying senators had gone from “advise and consent to search and destroy.” It seemed to light a fire under the GOP, as some panel members began laying into Democrats themselves. No one was more fiery than Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

"What you want to do is destroy this guy’s life, hold this seat open and hope you win in 2020. You’ve said that not me,” Graham told committee Democrats in his viral video moment.

“You’ve got nothing to apologize for,” he then said, turning to Kavanaugh. “When you see [Supreme Court justices] Sotomayor and Kagan, tell them that Lindsey said ‘Hello,’ cause I voted for them.”

Before Kavanaugh’s testimony, his confirmation was teetering. Afterward, he immediately had new life. The final stamp of approval came from President Trump. A White House official told The Hill that the president was pleased with his performance.

The GOP’s outside counsel didn’t really work

Republicans hired a female outside counsel to question Ford and Kavanaugh as they tried to avoid the optics of 11 male senators questioning the 51-year-old professor, a setup that would have been compared to Anita Hill being questioned in 1991 by an all-male Judiciary Committee. But the counsel, Rebecca Mitchell, failed to really poke holes in Ford’s testimony, and at times appeared to help her.

Fox News’s Chris Wallace said more than an hour into the hearing that Democrats were “scoring points” but Mitchell “hasn't laid a glove” on Ford. And Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano on Fox News that Republicans “made a grave error,” by allowing Mitchell to “craft her questioning the way she did.”

It’s possible things would have gone worse without Mitchell, since that would have led to the scenes of the all-male GOP panelists questioning Ford. Regardless, as Kavanaugh gained momentum through his own testimony, Mitchell disappeared from the hearing. Starting with GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Republican members one-by-one asked Kavanaugh their own questions, a move that gave them the chance to also try to defend him. Mitchell declined to answer questions after the hearing.

Grassley looks defensive

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grasley (R-Iowa) began the hearing on the defensive and remained that way throughout. Grassley interjected and interrupted during both Ford and Kavanaugh's questioning, often sparring with Democratic senators over criticisms of his committee. During his opening remarks, Grassley lamented how Democrats had treated the allegations from Ford, doubling down on his accusation that Feinstein “took no action” after receiving Ford’s letter alleging the Kavanaugh attack in July.

“We did not know about the ranking member’s secret evidence” during Kavanaugh's lengthy vetting process, he said.

He addressed the allegations from two other women publicly accusing Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct, saying his staff had put in “eight requests” for evidence from Deborah Ramirez and “six requests” for evidence from Julie Swetnick.

Grassley spoke up throughout the hearing to staunchly defend the committee's actions, speaking over other senators when they posed criticisms of him or his staff. He also went after Feinstein several times, including interrupting when she began her opening remarks by saying she wanted to introduce Ford because “the chairman chose not to do this.”

Focus shifts again to undecideds

While the testimony from both witnesses could have an impact on the midterm elections and beyond, the immediate concern is whether Kavanaugh will get to 51 votes. A handful of senators in both parties are undecided, and only they know whether their minds were changed by Thursday’s events. Republicans hold a razor-thin 51-seat margin in the Senate, meaning they can only lose one GOP senator before they need help from Democrats for Kavanaugh to be confirmed.

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UPDATE XIV: Republicans emerged from a closed-door caucus meeting on Thursday night saying they will move forward Friday with a committee vote on Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination. As The Hill reports, several Republicans, including GOP Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), said the plan is for the Judiciary Committee to hold a vote on Friday, which would pave the way for a vote to end debate in the full Senate on Monday and a final vote on his nomination Tuesday.

"I'm optimistic, yeah. I don't see any reason why he wouldn't be voted out positively," Cornyn told reporters as he left the Capitol for the night.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters that the committee would vote Friday and said Republicans were "very optimistic we're going to succeed."

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) refused to answer most questions except to tell reporters that the committee will be holding its business meeting at 9:30 a.m. on Friday. "It depends on what happens tomorrow. We're meeting at 9:30 p.m.," Grassley said.

Once that vote is over, there are reports of a Saturday morning vote for the full senate.

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UPDATE XIII: The testimony is now over, while Republicans are set to meet at 7:15 p.m. EST to see where they are. Rep. Cornyn says it's time to vote because more false allegations could come forward at any time. 

Towards the end of the session, Reps. Kamala Harris and Cory Booker attempted to corner Kavanaugh over whether he would ask the White House to order an FBI investigation, and whether he has taken a polygraph test - which Kavanaugh deflected. 

During a tense exchange between Committee members, Sen. Cornyn asked Sen. Feinstein if her office leaked Ford's letter, to which Feinstein swore she didn't. 

Meanwhile, towards the end of the session, someone - allegedly from the House of Representatives, began doxxing GOP members on the Senate Judiciary committee. 

Finally, President Trump chimed in after Kavanaugh's testimony, tweeting: "Judge Kavanaugh showed America exactly why I nominated him. His testimony was powerful, honest, and riveting. 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!" 

Democrats, meanwhile, are spitting mad: 

Update XII: It only took seven hours, but a Bill Cosby reference has finally been dropped - and by a Republican no less. In a fiery statement that was more of a rhetorical question, Lindsey Graham said that Kavanaugh's spotless record is all the evidence lawmakers should need to confirm. "If you start drugging in raping girls in high school, my guess is you probably don't stop."

He ended by demanding that his colleagues vote in favor of Kavanaugh because he deserves to serve on the Supreme Court.

"To my Republican colleagues, if you vote no, you are legitimizing the most disgraceful thing that I have seen during my time in politics."

Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse was up next, and quizzed Kavanaugh about certain yearbook references. The highlight of the exchange was Kavanaugh explaining certain collegiate drinking games to Mr. Whitehouse ("have you ever played quarters?") More importantly, Kavanaugh explained that the Renate Club - something that has been the subject of intense media speculation.

Later, Chairman Grassley reminded his Democratic colleagues that the FBI doesn't reach a conclusion during intensive background investigations like the one being conducted on Kavanaugh.

"They report evidence, they do not reach conclusions."

Though readers could be forgiven for believing otherwise due to the media coverage.

"The letter was sent to the FBI the FBI sent it to the White House saying case is closed."

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Update XI: "I am giving you the evidence now."

With that statement, Kavanaugh rebutted a question from Dianne Feinstein, making her look scattered and ineffectual by comparison.

In a statement that apparently surprised Feinstein, Kavanaugh categorically denied his accusers allegations, leaving her utterly baffled and struggling for a response. Asked about why he didn't support an FBI investigation, Kavanaugh responded that he wanted to immediately address the allegations at a hearing - a wish that was ultimately not granted, allowing the aspersions cast by his accusers to linger unaddressed for more than a week. "I'll do what the committee wants me to do," he said.

Responding specifically to questions about Julie Swetnick, Kavanaugh called her claims a "joke" and a "farce".

Feinstein asked Kavanaugh if he had anything more to say about Swetnick. He responded with a resounding "no."

So far, his performance is earning rave reviews.

Trump Jr. also weighed in.

 

 

Meanwhile, Lindsey Graham accused Ford of using her purported "fear of flying" as an excuse to delay the hearing as long as possible.

During the hearing, Graham accused Democrats of colluding with Ford to stall until the midterms in the hopes that they might be able to win back the Senate and keep the seat open. He blasted the accusations against Kavanaugh as "unethical" and claimed he "never would have done this" to a Democratic pick.

 

 

Sarah Huckabee Sanders praised his performance.

 

 

"You could not get a search warrant or an arrest warrant," off Ford's claims, he pointed out.

Here's Kavanaugh's opening statement.

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Update X:  Kavanaugh's statement is far deeper, angrier and more detailed than pundits could have guessed. And while some pundits scolded him, others pointed out that his response is completely justified, as the Washington Examiner pointed out.

And maybe, on the "optics," the anger is not helpful. But on the score of justice, Kavanaugh's anger is totally fitting.

But if half the political machinery of the federal government, the leaders of one party, and about half of the media came after you with a campaign of lies - which is what this is, if Kavanaugh isn't guilty of rape and sexual assault - you would be angry.

If you fielded death threats, were called a rapist, and attacked not just by random Internet trolls and juvenile protests, but by major politicians who are still welcomed in polite society, you would be angry.

As Kavanaugh said about 30 minute into his opening statement, "we live in a land of due process and rule of law...and if we allow decades old allegations to stand...we will have abandoned that virtue."

"I swear before the nation, my family and God, I am innocent of this charge," Kavanaugh said, concluding his statement.

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Update IX: Judge Kavanaugh has come out of the gate swinging, visibly furious and accusing Democrats of a "coordinated effort" to destroy his good name and his family, and pledging that he will continue fighting back. He firmly declared that he "has never sexually assaulted anyone - not in high school, not in college, not ever." He added that one of his closest female friends is a sexual assault survivor.

Kavanaugh described the last-minute flurry of allegations as "a calculated and orchestrated political hit," fueled in part by anger at Trump, the 2016 election and "revenge" on behalf of the Clintons. These smears were "expected if not planned by his opponents."

Kav

He accused the minority of replacing "advice and consent" with "search and destroy."

"Listen to the people I know," Kavanaugh pleads. "Listen to the witnesses who allegedly were at the event 36 years ago." Regardless of the outcome of the vote, Kavanaugh said that he would not be intimidated, even though the allegations have "destroyed my family and made me fear for our future."

"I will not be intimidated into withdrawing from this process. You have tried hard. You given it your all. No one can question your effort. Your coordinated and well-funded effort to destroy my good name and destroyed my family will not drag me out."

The judge became visibly choked up while talking about his mother, then had to pause as he struggled to describe how his daughters said their prayers for Ford Wednesday night.

"That's a lot of wisdom for a 10-year-old."

He added that, throughout his career, he has been vetted numerous times, despite hundreds of hours of interviews and dozens of meetings with lawmakers. "Never a hint of anything of this kind and that's because nothing of this kind ever happened." 

He clarified that he socialized in high school with women from numerous private all-girls schools - but not Holton-Arms, the school attended by doctor Ford. He went on to emphasize how none of the people whom Ford said also attended the party corroborated her story, and that none of them lived near the location where the party allegedly took place - and neither did Ford.

Moving on to the calendars that he turned over, the party happened in a summer in 1982 on a weekend night, "my calendar shows all but definitively, I was not there."

In an effort to give the committee "a full picture of who I was" Kavanaugh reiterated that he didn't have sex in high school, or for many years after. He attributed boasts about the "Renata Club" and other sexually charged comments from his high school yearbook to his insecurity about his inexperience.

"I doubt we are alone in looking back in high school and cringing at some things," says Kavanaugh.

"For one thing our yearbook was a disaster. I think some editors and students wanted the book to be some combination of Animal House, Caddyshack, and Fast Times at Ridgemont High", which he notes, "were all popular movies at the time."

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Update VIII: Following six hours of relatively persuasive testimony from Ford, it is now Kavanaugh's turn to rebut her allegations.

Betting odds of Kavanaugh's confirmation plunged on Thursday as pundits said Ford's testimony could be enough to convince moderate Republicans - and possibly even the president - to withdraw their support for the one-time "sure thing." That Kavanaugh's nomination will fall through is now the most likely outcome according to one popular online betting market. In second place was Kav squeaking by with a one-vote margin (with Vice President Mike Pence presumably casting the tie-breaking vote).

Odds

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Update VII: While we're waiting for Kavanaugh's testimony, here's a summary of where we are at:

  • Ford says that she didn't have a political motivation in coming forward
  • Ford says she didn't authorize the release of the letter to the public and doesn't know how her allegations were made public
  • Senator Booker says the way sexual assault survivors are treated is `unacceptable' and submits seven letters supporting Ford
  • Ford says she would be happy to cooperate with FBI and would submit to interviews from staff on the committee
  • Ford testifies that Kavanaugh attended four or five parties with her where there was no sexually inappropriate behavior, except for the night in question
  • Ford says that Feinstein recommended Katz as an attorney
  • Ford says she didn't tell Leyland Keyser about alleged assault but expects Judge would remember
  • Mitchell's questioning didn't appear to deter Ford as she answered most questions without issue

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Update VI: More anonymous White House officials have spoken to WSJ with their reaction to Ford's testimony. The upshot? It's not looking good for Kavanaugh.

Barring a major stumble by Ford, Kavanaugh will need to knock it out of the park to survive.

Former Trump White House officials described Thursday's hearing as a "disaster" for Republicans that ramps up the pressure on Judge Kavanaugh's testimony later in the day.

One former official called the hearing "worse than any Republican could have expected," describing Dr. Ford as a "very credible witness" and criticizing the performance of Rachel Mitchell, the prosecutor hired by Republicans.

"Barring a big f***up by Ford, I don't see how Kavanaugh has a chance to save his own ass in his testimony," the official said.

Another former official said the hearing was "not very good" for the White House.

"Ford's testimony puts all the pressure on Kavanaugh," the official said. "He really needs to knock it out of the park."

Oddly enough, the Trump campaign sent out a fundraising message during Thursday's testimony calling the allegations against Kavanaugh "a witch hunt."

"They did it to Justice Clarence Thomas. They did it to Judge Robert Bork," the message read. "Now it's happening again."

As Ford teared up in response to declarations of sympathy from Kamala Harris - who declared "I believe you, we believe you" - and Corey Booker - who praised Ford's testimony a "nothing short of heroic" - some pundits questioned why the GOP prosecutor's questions haven't been nearly as penetrating as one might ahve expected.

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Update V: Despite the lapses in Ford's story highlighted by the prosecutor and senators, political pundits have sounded off on Ford's testimony. And the overarching view is that she seemed credible enough to cast serious doubt on Kavanaugh's candidacy.

Ross Douthat from the NYT said the testimony was "too credible" to elevate Kavanaugh.

Despite the somber subject matter, the testimony included more than a few humorous moments.

Others pointed out that Ford's claim that the experience has been a source of enduring trauma appeared to clash with the numerous lapses in her memory.

Others pointed out that her testimony seemed rehearsed and inauthentic.

Meanwhile, Fox News' Chris Wallace - a host on Trump's favorite network - said he didn't see how "we could disregard [Ford]" and that her testimony was a "disaster" for Republicans.

During the committee's break for lunch, Senator Orrin Hatch stirred up a minor controversy when he told a group of reporters that he thought Ford was "attractive" and "pleasing" and that "she's a very nice person and I wish her well."

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Update IV: Ford's testimony has resumed, with Democrats including Rhode Island's Sheldon Whitehouse once again pontificating about the injustice of the fact that the FBI hasn't been called upon to investigate Ford's claims for Kavanaugh's background file. In addition, he said once again that Mark Judge, the alleged witness to the assault, should have been subpoenaed.

Mitchell then asked Ford if there might be other contributing factors to the post-traumatic symptoms she has experienced in the wake of the assault. Mitchell then clarified that Ford had told her husband that she had experienced a sexual assault before they were married, then divulged more details during a therapy session in 2012.

In response to another one of Mitchell's questions, Ford described her fear of flying. After which, Mitchell asked how Ford had made it to Thursday's hearing.

"I flew," she replied.

Following this, Grassley struggled to make clear to Ford that he offered to send staff out to California to take her testimony. Ford eventually acknowledged that she appreciated the offer, though she says she was not made aware of it at the time.

Meanwhile, a WSJ reporter asked a senior White House official for Trump's thoughts on the hearing. "Too early for me to answer that," they said.

She had said she wanted to delay the hearing from Monday to Thursday so that she could drive to Washington.

In a statement to reporters during a break in the testimony, Chairman Grassley said that he likely wouldn't have a comment on the proceedings on Thursday., per Axios.

"During a break, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley told reporters, "I don’t think I can make any comments at all today, maybe it’s something I ought to sleep on. This is pretty important. We ought to be thinking about it a lot and not making hasty comments."

Asked about the delay in Ford's disclosure, Ford said it took her Congresswoman Anna Eshoo's office a few weeks to get back to her. She also said that "beach friends" in Delaware had advised her to hire a lawyer and contact either the New York Times or the Washington Post - which inspired her to send an encrypted text to the Post.

Meanwhile, WSJ's Kimberly Strassel pointed out a few holes in Ford's story, including the fact, uncovered by the prosecutor, that nobody has actually seen Ford's therapy session notes from 2012.

 

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Update III: In a sign that the rift between Trump and Kavanaugh is worsening, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the two hadn't spoken in "the last couple of days."

In response to a question from Sen. Dick Durbin, Ford said she remembers encountering Mark Judge once following the assault during a trip to the Potomac Safeway, and that he appeared extremely uncomfortable, despite the two of them being friendly before the assault. Asked by Durbin about whether she could be mistaken about Kavanaugh's identity, she said she is "100% certain" that it was Kavanaugh who had assaulted her.

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Update II: Rachel Mitchell's questioning has begun with an examination of texts between Ford and a Washington Post reporter, as well as the letter Ford wrote to Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Ford offered a few minor corrections. Afterward, answering a question from Feinstein, Ford recounted how the assault impacted her mental health over the following four years, saying she struggled in her studies and in her "relationships with boys."

Ford likened coming forward to "jumping in front of a train" and said she had feared she would be "personally annihilated."

Asked if her accusation of Kavanaugh could be a case of mistaken identity, Ford replied "absolutely not" adding that she was flooded with adrenaline and norepinephrine.

Asked about the atmosphere of the party, Ford said she remembers a modestly furnished living room, and that Kavanaugh and Mark Judge were extremely inebriated. Ford clarified that the event "wasn't a party" saying instead that it was a gathering that she expected would lead to a party later.

In response to a question from Sen. Patrick Leahy, Ford said the most indelible memory from that night was "the laughter" shared by Kavanaugh and Judge. "It sounded like two friends having a really good time."

Shifting back to Mitchell, the prosecutor asked about inconsistencies in Ford's testimony, like the number of people in attendance at the party (at one point Ford claimed there were four boys and two girls at the party, and at another time she said there were only four boys).

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Update: With Ranking member Dianne Feinstein (who initially helped publicize Ford's allegations) nearly finished with his opening remarks, the headlines are starting to roll in...

Grassley opened the hearing by assailing Democrats, asking why they didn't publish Ford's allegations sooner, and apologizing to both Ford and Kavanaugh for the "vile threats" levied at their families. He also attacked Feinstein for failing to publicize the allegations until the last minute. The Iowa Republican promised a "safe, comfortable and dignified" atmosphere at the hearing. Ford is expected to testify first, with Kavanaugh following later in the day.

Meanwhile, Feinstein, blissfully unaware of the irony embedded in her statement, accused Republicans of rushing to judgment in promising to move ahead with a confirmation vote on Friday. "This is not a trial for Dr. Ford, it is a job interview for Judge Kavanaugh."

During her opening testimony, Ford, sounding choked up and on the verge of tears, described the alleged assault and explained how it had drastically altered her life, and said that, after finding out that his name was on a short list of SCOTUS candidates, she felt it was her "civic duty" to tell the public about the assault. Ford - who said she first told her husband about the assault during a couples counseling session in 2012 - claimed that, once she read media reports claiming Kavanaugh's confirmation was virtually assured, she decided to stay silent. However, she soon found herself being harassed by reporters, who told her that she would soon be outed with or without her consent. At this point, she said she decided to speak out to "describe the assault in my own words."

Ford says she and her family have paid a heavy price for "speaking out", saying they were forced out of their home because of the volume of death threats.

She concluded her opening testimony with a "request for caffeine."

CNN has published a list of committee members and pointed out that, of the 21 senators on the committee, only four are women.

Eleven Republicans:

Sen. Chuck Grassley, of Iowa
Sen. Orrin Hatch, of Utah
Sen. Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina
Sen. John Cornyn, of Texas
Sen. Michael Lee, of Utah
Sen. Ted Cruz, of Texas
Sen. Ben Sasse, of Nebraska
Sen. Jeff Flake, of Arizona
Sen. Mike Crapo, of Idaho
Sen. Thom Tillis, of North Carolina
Sen. John Kennedy, of Louisiana

Ten Democrats:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, of California
Sen. Patrick Leahy, of Vermont
Sen. Dick Durbin, of Ilinois
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, of Rhode Island
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, of Minnesota
Sen. Christopher Coons, of Delaware
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, of Connecticut
Sen. Mazie Hirono, of Hawaii
Sen. Cory Booker, of New Jeresey
Sen. Kamala Harris, of California

CNN is also reporting that Democratic senators aren't expected to consolidate their questions,

Senate Democrats are not expected to consolidate their questions, meaning no one is giving up their allotted time to ask questions in order to allow others more time. However, they are coordinating their questions.

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After a series of delays and countless hours of haggling and speculation, President Trump's embattled SCOUTS nominee Brett Kavanaugh will face the first of what are now five accusers (two of them anonymous) who have alleged that he sexually attacked or assaulted them, or someone they know, in the distant past.

For the hearing, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford - who went public 11 days ago with allegations that Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed, attempted to remove her clothes and covered her mouth when she tried to scream for help during a high school party 36 years ago - will travel to Room 226 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building to answer questions from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, as well as a female sex crimes prosecutor hired by committee Republicans. Kavanaugh, who has already sat for two days of confirmation hearings, will testify later in the day, where he will answer questions about allegations of past sexual misconduct.

The hearing, which is slated to begin at 10 am ET, is expected to be a media circus that has already drawn comparisons to the confirmation hearings for Justice Clarence Thomas, who was nearly waylaid by accusations of sexual harassment from former law clerk Anita Hill back in the early 1990s. The hearing is expected to last several hours.

Watch the hearing live below:

We've published a guide to everything readers need to know about the hearing a piece explaining the potential repercussions that this hearing could have on the #MeToo movement and a story detailing some of the latest allegations against Kavanaugh.

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Democrats will seek to paint Kavanaugh as scattered and anxious, while Republicans are hoping to discredit Ford by focusing on gaps in her memories. Already, all of the people who Ford claims were at the party have said they either weren't there or that the incident never happened.

Another question that will be on viewers minds: What will Trump think of the hearing?

And will any more accusers step forward between now and the time the marathon session ends?