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Allegra Kirkland

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.

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Brett Kavanaugh admitted Thursday that aspects of his Georgetown Prep yearbook, which documented a hard-partying atmosphere at the exclusive high school, make him “cringe.” But he told the Senate Judiciary Committee that they do not reveal evidence of his own misconduct.

“For one thing, our year book was a disaster,” Kavanaugh said.

“This past week my friend and I have cringed when we read about it and talked to each other,” he added.

Kavanaugh’s page listed him as “treasurer of the Keg City Club” and a “Renate Alumnius.”

Kavanaugh told the committee that the latter label, which appeared on the pages of several other classmates, was most painful for him. A New York Times story reported that it was a boasting reference to sexual conquests of a female classmate, Renate Schroeder.

“The media has determined the term was related to sex,” Kavanaugh said. “It was not related to sex. She and I never had any sexual interaction at all. So sorry to her for that yearbook reference.”

Michael Walsh, a fellow Georgetown Prep student, included this short poem along with the term: “You need a date / and it’s getting late / so don’t hesitate / to call Renate.”

Kavanaugh also reiterated comments he first made in a Fox News interview about remaining a virgin throughout high school and for “many years after that.”

Christine Blasey Ford testified earlier Thursday that Kavanaugh tried to force himself on her at a high school gathering in 1982.

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President Trump has officially delayed the meeting he’d planned to hold with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein Thursday. The White House said the pair made this decision out of deference to the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing regarding sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh.

“They do not want to do anything to interfere with the hearing,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.

Trump had suggested at a Wednesday press conference that he might postpone the conversation with Rosenstein for this reason. Though he dismissed sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh as a “con job” manufactured by Democrats, Trump said he wanted to assess Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony himself.

During the freewheeling presser, Trump also said that he would prefer to keep Rosenstein in his position, calling him a “very nice” man.

That response came as a surprise given the uproar that ensued following reports that Rosenstein last year suggested trying to produce evidence of Trump’s erratic behavior to force him from office. Trump called the reports “very sad,” but noted that Rosenstein denied trying to invoke the 25th Amendment or to secretly record him.

Rosenstein himself reportedly believed he was going to be fired on Monday. Reports circulated that he’d offered his resignation.

But decisions about Rosenstein’s job were repeatedly postponed until he could sit down for an in-person meeting with Trump once the President returned from New York, where he was meeting with foreign leaders at the UN, on Thursday.

Rosenstein and Trump now plan to meet next week, according to the statement released by Sanders.

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Testifying before the Senate on Thursday, Christine Blasey Ford recalled the story of her alleged sexual assault by Brett Kavanaugh as a teenager and described the trauma of having to relive that experience at a public hearing aired live on TV.

For some on the far-right, her account was mockable. In Twitter posts, they heaped scorn on Blasey Ford as a Democratic Party pawn who was unreliable because some details of the 36-year-old account changed over multiple retellings.

At one point Ford, a psychologist, said that what stuck with her most is the “uproarious laughter” Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge shared during the alleged assault.

“’Indelible in the hippocampus’ Ford says,” tweeted conservative radio host Buck Sexton. “She is an expert in memory, you see, but is missing some very important memories here.”

Conservative commentator Michelle Malkin joked about the “giant black hole through which” the details of Ford’s account “disappeared.”

Several others mocked Ford as faking the emotion she expressed while reading her prepared statement and answering questions.

“I wonder if she cried the first hundred times she practiced the stmt prepared by her lawyers for her to read?” legal blogger Scott Greenfield wrote.

“Oooo I’m such a baby that I need coffee in order to stop fake crying and I’m going to use a baby voice so you all think I’m a little girl,” Pizzagate conspiracy theorist Laura Loomer said in one of a stream of mocking tweets.

“I’m laughing,” senior Townhall columnist Kurt Schlichter said in response to author Molly Jong-Fast’s tweet: a photo of Ford speaking captioned “I’m crying.”

Stefan Molyneux, a prominent voice on the far-right, claimed that Ford was only providing this account publicly because “the Democrats hate Kavanaugh, and she is a Democrat.”

Donald Trump Jr. retweeted over a dozen posts casting doubt on Ford’s credibility and noting that she could not recall details of some conversations she had this year. He also joked that she managed to fly to Washington, D.C. for the hearing and make other trips via airplane despite a professed fear of flying.

Many mainstream conservatives distanced themselves from these critiques and cruel jokes, saying that they found Ford to be a credible, compelling witness.

GOP congressional aides told TPM that the proceedings were a “mess” and that Ford’s testimony “was bad for Kavanaugh and Republicans.”

Fox News’ Brit Hume called her “very sympathetic” in the network’s live coverage, while his colleague Chris Wallace called the hearing “a disaster for the Republicans.”

The National Review Online’s Jonah Golberg wrote that Ford appeared “very sympathetic and sincere.”

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The last thing Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee want is a televised Anita Hill redux.

They are taking pains to carefully stage-manage the Thursday hearing in which Christine Blasey Ford will testify about her sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Rather than asking questions themselves, the all-male GOP members of the committee will mostly outsource that responsibility to Arizona sex crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell. Security has been provided to Ford, who received death threats after going public with her allegations.

But the California professor’s allegations are centered around the hyper-sensitive topics of alcohol use and attempted sexual assault, meaning Mitchell will have to tread carefully to avoid appearing to victim-blame or cast Ford as a liar. Attorneys who have represented victims in sexual assault cases told TPM that she will likely make an effort to grill both Ford and Kavanaugh in equal measure.

“This entire show is not for the truth, right, it’s for the show?” D.C. attorney Les Alderman told TPM. “It’s to convince constituents that they’re either justified in voting for the guy or not voting for him. So it’s all about sound-bites and it’s all about the perception of the hearing.”

“If the perception is it’s not fair—he was given softball questions and she was crucified—that’s going to be a problem for Republicans going into the midterms,” Alderman continued. “But if Ms. Mitchell is consistent with her questions of both, then I don’t think there will be a way to attack the process from that standpoint.”

Ford is slated to give her testimony first when the hearing at the Dirksen Senate Building begins at 10 a.m. ET. She will present a statement detailing her allegation that Kavanaugh tried to remove her clothes and force himself on her at a high school party in the summer of 1982. His friend Mark Judge was in the room, alternating between egging Kavanaugh on and telling him to stop, she alleges. Kavanaugh, Ford has alleged, covered her mouth when she tried to scream.

Ford’s lawyers have provided to the committee the sworn affidavits of four people supporting her claims, as well as a copy of a polygraph exam she took this summer.

Those claims have remained very consistent since Ford first went public with her story on Sept. 16. But they are missing key details like the exact date and location where the incident occurred. Though victims of sexual assault often forget these kinds of specifics because of the passage of time or trauma they have suffered, holes in the story allow critics to cast them as dishonest, lawyers say.

“Basically, what you’re looking for is internal consistency in the story,” Paul Mones, an L.A.-based attorney who has represented victims of sexual abuse, told TPM. “And that the level of details is consistent throughout.”

If Ford can’t remember details of the night itself, Mones said, she may be asked about “what else she remembers about that time”—other significant events in the days leading up to or following the party.

Lapses represent the greatest challenge for Ford. For Kavanaugh, it will likely be the mountain of new information that has surfaced just over the past week.

A former Yale Law School classmate has accused him of exposing himself to her at a party, and another woman has alleged that Kavanaugh and his friends participated in a debaucherous high school scene in which women, including her, were routinely used for sex.

Kavanaugh has adamantly denied these new allegations. In a Fox News interview, he even claimed that he was a virgin for “many years” after high school and had never consumed alcohol to the point of blacking out. He also provided a calendar to the Senate Judiciary Committee detailing his activities from that summer.

But a host of former students who attended both high school and law school with Kavanaugh have gone on the record about his history of heavy drinking and the fraternity culture he participated in. Footage has also turned up of Kavanaugh himself joking about his youthful drunken exploits.

“Everybody has a tendency to exaggerate,” Alderman, the D.C. attorney said. “It doesn’t mean you’re lying, it means you’re a human being. One of the things we prep our witnesses on is to stop exaggerating, or be careful about it.”

“From that Fox News interview, he seemed like he didn’t get that message,” Alderman said.

Alderman also brought up the fact that Kavanaugh and his Georgetown Prep friends mentioned a girl named Renate Schroeder in their yearbook pages. While some interpreted the claim as a boast of sexual relations, Kavanaugh and other friends who used the caption said it was just a reference to dates they went on with her.

Alderman said he would focus in on this entry if he was questioning Kavanaugh “because that’s one thing where there’s actual written evidence that contradicts what he’s saying.”

The hearing is limited to questioning of Ford and Kavanaugh. No corroborating witnesses will be called. As of Thursday morning, the committee was still scheduled to hold a confirmation vote for Kavanaugh on Friday.

While President Trump claimed at a Wednesday press conference he “could be persuaded” by Ford’s testimony, the gears still appear to be grinding towards a full Senate vote next week.

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