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Tierney Sneed

Tierney Sneed is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked for U.S. News and World Report. She grew up in Florida and attended Georgetown University.

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After a few words of sympathy for Christine Blasey Ford, Rachel Mitchell, the outside conusel brought in by Senate Republicans to question Blasey Ford about her sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, began her questioning in earnest by asking Blasey Ford to review the previous statements she made about the assault, including a letter she wrote to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) about it.

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Christine Blasey Ford, the professor who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, spoke quietly, her voice at times wavering, as she began her testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified,” Blasey Ford said. “I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanuagh and I were in high school.”

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Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley kicked off the hearing where Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh will testify about allegations he groped her with an apology to both witnesses.

“They and their families have received vile threats,” Grassley said. “What they have endured ought to be considered by all of us as unacceptable and a poor reflection on the state of civility in our democracy.”

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I did a little bit of poking around on Rachel Mitchell, the sex crime prosecutor in Arizona whom Republicans have tapped to lead their questioning during the Christine Blasey Ford-Brett Kavanaugh hearing Thursday.

She doesn’t have much of an online presence, besides an interview with a website affiliated with the Foundations Baptist Fellowship International, a Christian fundamentalist group. However going through old articles from Arizona newspapers, it’s clear that she’s been involved in a number of noteworthy sexual conduct cases there, including those involving a Catholic priest and an ex-cops.

I didn’t find her quotes in those stories to be particularly revelatory about the type of prosecutor she is. And while the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office — where she has worked — has been plagued with plenty of scandals, I didn’t find anything controversial about her record there.

She was also a candidate for a judgeship Maricopa County Commission on Trial Court Appointments in 2014.

Rob Delgar, an attorney who served on the commission that year, told me he “didn’t see any weaknesses” when considering her qualifications and that “we had nothing but positive comments.”

“She was well respected in the office in which she worked,” he said. “She was well respected by defense counsel.”

He did say he was a “little surprised” to see her named for Thursday’s hearing, given the “unique situation.” But he still thought she was “going to be more interested in what the actual facts” are in her questioning Thursday.

I got similar sentiments via email from Dan Raynak, a local defense attorney.

“I believe that Rachel was always fair when I dealt with her as a prosecutor,” he said, calling her abilities in trying cases “not exceptional, but good.”

“I do not expect her to be caustic or acerbic during questioning,” he said, adding that it was “interesting that she will now be questioning an alleged victim.”

Raynak said he was “surprised she was picked over a more aggressive prosecutor.”

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The question of what standard — legal or otherwise — should be used to assess the sexual misconduct allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh has dominated the halls of the Capitol this week.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) — a member of the Judiciary Committee, who also served as a prosecutor and a judge in the military — told reporters Tuesday that he has come up with his own answer to that question. He said he is treating the allegations brought by Christine Blasey Ford, who says Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were in high school, the same way a judge would treat them if someone were seeking a search warrant.

“I am not applying a criminal law standard,” Graham said. “I’ll apply can-you-get-a-warrant-here standard. You can’t.”

The Constitution’s Fourth Amendment standard for issuing a search warrant is “probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Graham sounded skeptical that anything Blasey Ford says, in a hearing scheduled for her and Kavanaugh Thursday, would change his mind.

“I am going to ask myself: Would this allegation in a legal system go anywhere? and the answer is no,” Graham said. “You wouldn’t get a warrant. You wouldn’t be able to sue. You wouldn’t be able bring a criminal charge, because you couldn’t tell the accused when it happened or where it happened. And if you’re a judge, they’re seeking a warrant, you’d ask, is there anybody else involved that we know of? The names that we have been told all say they don’t know what Mrs. Ford is talking about, or it didn’t happen. That’s the setting of the accusation.”

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Two days before Christine Blasey Ford is set to appear in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss her allegations that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh groped her when they were in high school, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) used his floor speech Tuesday to try to dismantle her account.

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