Christine Blasey Ford has no contemporaneous evidence to support her allegation that in 1982, when she was 15, a drunken, 17-year-old Brett Kavanaugh forced her onto a bed, tried to undress her, and, when she tried to scream, covered her mouth with his hand. Ford says she told no one about the alleged attack for 30 years.
But even then, in 2012, when Ford said she shared her secret, it was under circumstances that are not at all clear today. In statements to the press and in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Ford has said that in 2012 and 2013 she told therapists about the alleged attack. She said she has reviewed the therapists' notes from those sessions. But by all accounts those notes do not mention Kavanaugh by name. Instead, Ford has explained that her husband, who was present at some of the therapy sessions, remembered that she identified Kavanaugh by name as the person who allegedly attacked her.
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Over the summer, as Ford began to pursue her allegation, she provided the therapists' notes to the Washington Post. But she has refused to provide them to the Judiciary Committee. When the committee requested the notes, the Ford legal team said no, arguing that the records "contain private, highly sensitive information that is not necessary for the committee to assess the credibility of [Ford's] testimony."
The first the public heard of Ford's therapists' role in the Kavanaugh allegation was on Sept. 16, when the Post published a story naming Ford and describing how her claim came to light:
Ford said she told no one of the incident in any detail until 2012, when she was in couples therapy with her husband. The therapist's notes, portions of which were provided by Ford and reviewed by The Washington Post, do not mention Kavanaugh's name but say she reported that she was attacked by students "from an elitist boys' school" who went on to become "highly respected and high-ranking members of society in Washington."
The Post also reported that "notes from an individual therapy session" in 2013 said that "Ford described a 'rape attempt' in her late teens." The paper added that Ford's husband, Russell Ford, whom she married in 2002, did not learn details of her claim until 2012 "when the therapist asked her [Christine Blasey Ford] to tell the story."
The first thing to note: One would normally assume that Ford's interactions with her psychotherapist are confidential and protected from disclosure. But Ford has "provided" portions of the couples therapy notes to a press outlet, the Post, and the paper also quoted "notes from an individual therapy session," as well. When one gives medical records to the press, and they are spread around the world on the Internet, it is hard to claim they are confidential.
During her testimony before the Senate committee, Ford told at least some of the story of how she came to use her therapists' records against Kavanaugh.
She said she "never named Mr. Kavanaugh as my attacker" to anyone, other than in the therapy sessions, until July 2018, when she saw press reports that Kavanaugh was on President Trump's Supreme Court short list. She said she then thought it was her "civic duty" to go to the press about her experience.
Rachel Mitchell, the prosecutor hired by Republicans to question Ford, asked how that worked. Mitchell noted that on July 6, when Ford sent a text to the Post tip line, she said she possessed "therapy records talking about it."
Mitchell wanted to know if Ford had already collected her therapy records before contacting the Post. Yes, Ford answered. "I had looked at them online to see if they existed, yes."
Did that mean the records were online? "Actually, no," Ford said. "It was in the office of a provider. She helped me go through the records to locate whether I had a record of this conversation that I had remembered."
"Did you show a full or partial set of those marriage therapy records to the Washington Post?" asked Mitchell.
"I don't remember," said Ford. "I remember summarizing for her [the Post reporter] what they said. So I'm not — I'm not quite sure if I actually gave her the record."
"OK, so it's possible that the reporter did not see these notes?" said Mitchell.
"I don't know if she's — I can't recall whether she saw them directly or if I just told her what they said," Ford answered. (As quoted above, the Post reported that "portions of [the notes] were provided by Ford and reviewed by The Washington Post," suggesting that the reporter physically viewed them.)
Later, Mitchell asked, "Dr. Ford, the Washington Post reported in their Sept. 16 article that you did show them therapist's notes. Is that incorrect?"
"I don't remember physically showing her a note," Ford said, again referring to the Post reporter. "Perhaps my counsel did. I don't — I don't remember physically showing her my copy of the note. I just don't remember. I'm sorry. I have retrieved a physical copy of those medical records."
Ford said she had not shown the notes to anyone else, besides her lawyer. And then, referring specifically to the marriage therapy notes, Mitchell asked, "Would it be fair to say that Brett Kavanaugh's name is not listed in those notes?"
"His name is not listed in those notes," said Ford.
"You also attended individual therapy," Mitchell said. "Did you show any of those notes to the reporter from the Washington Post?"
"Again, I don't remember if I showed her — like, something that I summarized or if I just spoke about it or if she saw it in my counsel's office. I can't — I don't know for sure, but I certainly spoke with her about the 2013 record with the individual therapist."
"And Brett Kavanaugh's name is not in those notes, is that correct?"
If Kavanaugh's name is not in the therapists' notes, how can investigators today be sure that whatever incident Ford told her therapists about was actually an incident involving Kavanaugh? Ford told the Senate that her husband remembered her mentioning the name in their therapy sessions.
"My husband recalls that I named my attacker as Brett Kavanaugh," Ford testified.
Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota walked Ford through the notes issue, touching on the fact that the therapist did not write down Kavanaugh's name.
"I understand that your husband was also present when you spoke about this incident in front of a counselor and he recalls you using Judge Kavanaugh's name," Klobuchar said. "Is that right?"
"Yes," answered Ford, adding that the incident was referred to twice in the notes. "I just happen to have it in my record twice. So the first time is in 2012 with my husband in couples therapy with the quibbling over the remodel, and then in 2013 with my individual therapist." ("Quibbling over the remodel" referred to an argument Ford had with her husband about putting two front doors in their house; Ford claimed she wanted two doors because of lingering fears from the 1982 alleged Kavanaugh incident.)
Klobuchar seemed concerned with establishing that the therapists' notes had credibility, even though they did not mention Kavanaugh.
"OK, so if someone had actually done an investigation, your husband would have been able to say that you named his name at that time?" Klobuchar asked.
After Ford's testimony, when Mitchell wrote an assessment of the evidence, she zeroed in on the notes' credibility issue. "[Ford] has not turned over her therapy records for the committee to review," Mitchell wrote. "No name was given in her 2012 marriage therapy notes. No name was given in her 2013 individual therapy notes."
Mitchell continued: "Dr. Ford's husband claims to recall that she identified Judge Kavanaugh by name in 2012. At that point, Judge Kavanaugh's name was widely reported in the press as a potential Supreme Court nominee if Governor Romney won the presidential election."
"Dr. Ford refused to provide any of her therapy notes to the committee."
On Tuesday, the Judiciary Committee renewed its request for the notes. "The Washington Post reported that some notes were provided to the Post, and Dr. Ford's testimony indicated that these notes were highly relevant to her allegations," Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, wrote in a letter to the Ford legal team. "These notes have been repeatedly cited as corroboration even while written 30 years after the alleged event and in apparent contradiction with testimony and other public statements regarding several key details of the allegations."
Now, of course, Ford's allegation is also under investigation by the FBI, as Ford requested. Given the therapy notes' central role in the allegation, and given the fact that Ford has already shared them with the press, it seems reasonable to think the FBI will want to see the notes, as well as to interview Ford's husband and her therapists about them. The notes are no longer confidential, and the public importance of the Kavanaugh matter is high. The notes could contain evidence to shed light on this bitter, divisive affair.
[Also read: Kavanaugh accuser has 'psychological' problems, likes group sex, says former Democratic candidate]