Three women now accuse Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault

Brett M. Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, one of three women who's accused him of sexual assault, are due to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

  • On Wednesday, a third woman came forward to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual assault.
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee has hired a female outside counsel to question Ford on behalf of GOP senators on Thursday.
  • The accusations could possibly derail the confirmation of Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court in the vote that's currently scheduled for Friday.


Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, a woman who says he sexually assaulted her in the early 1980s, are due to testify about the allegations before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

The committee has tentatively scheduled a confirmation vote for Friday morning. There are 51 Republican senators and 49 senators who caucus with Democrats, and six Republicans currently remain undecided. The GOP can only afford to lose one vote; in the event of a 50-50 split, Vice President Mike Pence could cast a tie-breaking vote.

On Sunday, The New Yorker broke a story containing a second sexual assault allegation against Kavanaugh from Deborah Ramirez, a woman who attended Yale University with the judge and claims he exposed himself to her at a party during college, causing her to touch his penis without her consent.

On Wednesday, a third woman came forward to accuse the Supreme Court hopeful of sexual assault. Julie Swetnick, a 55-year-old certified systems engineer who says she'd held multiple government clearances, claimed in a three-page sworn declaration that during high school parties she routinely witnessed Kavanaugh drunkenly engage in inappropriate contact with girls, even suggesting that he and his friends would "spike" punch with drugs at parties so that girls could be gang-raped in side rooms. Swetnick says she was one of those girls. Details about this latest accusation are still emerging.

Kavanaugh has denied all of the allegations.

"The truth is I've never sexually assaulted anyone in high school or otherwise," Kavanaugh said in a Fox News interview Monday night.

On Wednesday, Ford's lawyers said they sent sworn affidavits to the Senate committee from four people who say she told them about the alleged incident involving Kavanaugh before President Donald Trump had selected him as a nominee for the Supreme Court.

The president has expressed varying stances on the allegations.

In early stages of the story, Trump expressed doubt about the accusations but also said he wanted Ford to have an opportunity to speak to senators.

"I want her to have her voice," he said. "Let her have her voice. Let her say whatever she has to say. Let him say what he has to say. And in the end senators will make their choice."

But on Tuesday night, Trump suggested that Democrats are playing a cynical con game.

What the Ford affidavits say

The affidavits come from three friends of Ford and her husband, Russell Ford, none of whom claim to have been present at the house party where the sexual assault allegedly took place.

Adela Gildo-Mazzon, who said she's a "good friend" of Ford's, said she learned about the allegations at a pizzeria in Mountain View, Calif.

"During our meal, Christine was visibly upset, so I asked her what was going on," Gildo-Mazzon said. "Christine told me she had been having a hard day because she was thinking about an assault she experienced when she was much younger. She said that she had been almost raped by someone who was now a federal judge."

Another friend, Keith Koegler, claimed Ford told him in summer 2016 of having experienced a sexual assault when she was younger. Ford had been reportedly angered by what she considered to be a light sentence for a Stanford University student who had been convicted of sexual assault after raping an unconscious woman. Koegler said Ford was "particularly bothered by it because she was assaulted in high school by a man who was now a federal judge in Washington, D.C."

A third friend, Rebecca White, said she spoke with Ford while walking her dog in 2017. Ford reportedly told her that she had recently read a social media post written by White in which she described her own experience with sexual assault.

"She told me that when she was a young teen, she had been sexually assaulted by an older teen," White said. "I remember her saying the assailant was now a federal judge. I have always known Christine to be a trustworthy and honest person."

Russell Ford said his wife first shared the details of the alleged incident during a couple's therapy session in 2012.

"I remember her saying that the attacker's name was Brett Kavanaugh, that he was a successful lawyer who had grown up in Christine's home town, and that he was well-known in the Washington, D.C. community," Russell Ford says. "In the years following the therapy session, we spoke a number of times about how the assault affected her."

Senate Judiciary hires outside counsel to lead testimony hearings

Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the third day of his Supreme Court confirmation hearing

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the third day of his Supreme Court confirmation hearing

On Tuesday night, the Senate Judiciary Committee announced it had hired outside counsel Rachel Mitchell to question Kavanaugh and Ford on Thursday.

According to a news release from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, Mitchell is currently on leave from her role as deputy county attorney in the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, where she's also chief of the special victims division.

"I promised Dr. Ford that I would do everything in my power to avoid a repeat of the 'circus' atmosphere in the hearing room that we saw the week of September 4," 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."

Grassley said Mitchell will ask questions on behalf of the committee's 11 GOP senators, all of whom are male. Democratic senators will conduct their own questioning.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he wanted to avoid a "political sideshow."

"As I said earlier, and I think you already know, we have hired a female assistant to go on staff and to ask these questions in a respectful and professional way," McConnell said. "We want this hearing to be handled very professionally, not a political sideshow like you saw the -- put on by the Democrats when they were questioning Judge Kavanaugh."

Michael Bromwich, an attorney for Ford, said Thursday's hearings aren't analogous to a criminal trial.

"This is not a criminal trial for which the involvement of an experienced sex crimes prosecutor would be appropriate," wrote Bromwich in a letter to the committee. "The goal should be to develop the relevant facts, not try a case."

Ramirez also willing to testify

On Wednesday, Ramirez's lawyers signaled that she'd be willing to testify before the committee.

Critics have noted that even Ramirez herself admitted to memory gaps of the decades-old allegations. However, in an interview on CBS This Morning on Wednesday, an attorney for Ramirez, John Clune, suggested those gaps actually make her claims more credible.

"If somebody's going to make something up they're not going to put gaps in their memory, right? She was very, very conscientious about only putting forth the information that she was comfortable with and acknowledging the things that were the gaps in her memory. So that -- as a former prosecutor, I can tell you that only helps her credibility because somebody's not going to falsify a report that has that kind of gap," Clune said.

If Thursday's testimony fails to change the minds of more than one Republican senator, Kavanaugh could be confirmed to the Supreme Court on Friday.

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Yale scientists restore brain function to 32 clinically dead pigs

Researchers hope the technology will further our understanding of the brain, but lawmakers may not be ready for the ethical challenges.

Still from John Stephenson's 1999 rendition of Animal Farm.
Surprising Science
  • Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine successfully restored some functions to pig brains that had been dead for hours.
  • They hope the technology will advance our understanding of the brain, potentially developing new treatments for debilitating diseases and disorders.
  • The research raises many ethical questions and puts to the test our current understanding of death.

The image of an undead brain coming back to live again is the stuff of science fiction. Not just any science fiction, specifically B-grade sci fi. What instantly springs to mind is the black-and-white horrors of films like Fiend Without a Face. Bad acting. Plastic monstrosities. Visible strings. And a spinal cord that, for some reason, is also a tentacle?

But like any good science fiction, it's only a matter of time before some manner of it seeps into our reality. This week's Nature published the findings of researchers who managed to restore function to pigs' brains that were clinically dead. At least, what we once thought of as dead.

What's dead may never die, it seems

The researchers did not hail from House Greyjoy — "What is dead may never die" — but came largely from the Yale School of Medicine. They connected 32 pig brains to a system called BrainEx. BrainEx is an artificial perfusion system — that is, a system that takes over the functions normally regulated by the organ. The pigs had been killed four hours earlier at a U.S. Department of Agriculture slaughterhouse; their brains completely removed from the skulls.

BrainEx pumped an experiment solution into the brain that essentially mimic blood flow. It brought oxygen and nutrients to the tissues, giving brain cells the resources to begin many normal functions. The cells began consuming and metabolizing sugars. The brains' immune systems kicked in. Neuron samples could carry an electrical signal. Some brain cells even responded to drugs.

The researchers have managed to keep some brains alive for up to 36 hours, and currently do not know if BrainEx can have sustained the brains longer. "It is conceivable we are just preventing the inevitable, and the brain won't be able to recover," said Nenad Sestan, Yale neuroscientist and the lead researcher.

As a control, other brains received either a fake solution or no solution at all. None revived brain activity and deteriorated as normal.

The researchers hope the technology can enhance our ability to study the brain and its cellular functions. One of the main avenues of such studies would be brain disorders and diseases. This could point the way to developing new of treatments for the likes of brain injuries, Alzheimer's, Huntington's, and neurodegenerative conditions.

"This is an extraordinary and very promising breakthrough for neuroscience. It immediately offers a much better model for studying the human brain, which is extraordinarily important, given the vast amount of human suffering from diseases of the mind [and] brain," Nita Farahany, the bioethicists at the Duke University School of Law who wrote the study's commentary, told National Geographic.

An ethical gray matter

Before anyone gets an Island of Dr. Moreau vibe, it's worth noting that the brains did not approach neural activity anywhere near consciousness.

The BrainEx solution contained chemicals that prevented neurons from firing. To be extra cautious, the researchers also monitored the brains for any such activity and were prepared to administer an anesthetic should they have seen signs of consciousness.

Even so, the research signals a massive debate to come regarding medical ethics and our definition of death.

Most countries define death, clinically speaking, as the irreversible loss of brain or circulatory function. This definition was already at odds with some folk- and value-centric understandings, but where do we go if it becomes possible to reverse clinical death with artificial perfusion?

"This is wild," Jonathan Moreno, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, told the New York Times. "If ever there was an issue that merited big public deliberation on the ethics of science and medicine, this is one."

One possible consequence involves organ donations. Some European countries require emergency responders to use a process that preserves organs when they cannot resuscitate a person. They continue to pump blood throughout the body, but use a "thoracic aortic occlusion balloon" to prevent that blood from reaching the brain.

The system is already controversial because it raises concerns about what caused the patient's death. But what happens when brain death becomes readily reversible? Stuart Younger, a bioethicist at Case Western Reserve University, told Nature that if BrainEx were to become widely available, it could shrink the pool of eligible donors.

"There's a potential conflict here between the interests of potential donors — who might not even be donors — and people who are waiting for organs," he said.

It will be a while before such experiments go anywhere near human subjects. A more immediate ethical question relates to how such experiments harm animal subjects.

Ethical review boards evaluate research protocols and can reject any that causes undue pain, suffering, or distress. Since dead animals feel no pain, suffer no trauma, they are typically approved as subjects. But how do such boards make a judgement regarding the suffering of a "cellularly active" brain? The distress of a partially alive brain?

The dilemma is unprecedented.

Setting new boundaries

Another science fiction story that comes to mind when discussing this story is, of course, Frankenstein. As Farahany told National Geographic: "It is definitely has [sic] a good science-fiction element to it, and it is restoring cellular function where we previously thought impossible. But to have Frankenstein, you need some degree of consciousness, some 'there' there. [The researchers] did not recover any form of consciousness in this study, and it is still unclear if we ever could. But we are one step closer to that possibility."

She's right. The researchers undertook their research for the betterment of humanity, and we may one day reap some unimaginable medical benefits from it. The ethical questions, however, remain as unsettling as the stories they remind us of.

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