U.S. Sen. John Cornyn calls Kavanaugh hearing "embarrassing," draws McCarthy comparisons

Earlier, Cornyn had declined to directly question Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault.

Rachel Mitchell, counsel for Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans, questions Christine Blasey Ford as Sens. Mike Crapo, Jeff Flake, Ben Sasse, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and John Cornyn listen during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on September 27, 2018.
Rachel Mitchell, counsel for Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans, questions Christine Blasey Ford as Sens. Mike Crapo, Jeff Flake, Ben Sasse, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and John Cornyn listen during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on September 27, 2018.  Tom Williams/Pool via REUTERS

Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.

*Correction appended.

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. John Cornyn had strong words about Thursday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

"I can't think of a more embarrassing scandal for the United States Senate since the McCarthy hearings," he told Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Thursday afternoon.

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Cornyn and fellow Texas Republican Ted Cruz had earlier in the day declined to directly question Christine Blasey Ford, the first woman to accuse Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, as allegations of sexual misconduct by the nominee continue to mount.

But Cornyn did talk to Kavanaugh, telling the nominee, "You're not guilty if someone makes an allegation against you in this country. We're not a police state. We don't give the government that kind of power."

Later during Cornyn's time, Kavanaugh said, "I'm never going to get my reputation back. My life is totally and permanently altered."

"Judge, don't give up," Cornyn replied.

When it was Cruz's turn to question Kavanaugh, he echoed Cornyn, calling the past few months "one of the most shameful chapters in the history of the United States Senate" and saying the accusations against the nominee lacked corroboration.

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"I think the committee did the right thing in giving Dr. Ford a full and fair opportunity to tell her story," Cruz told Kavanaugh. "I do not believe Senate Democrats have treated you with respect."

Earlier in the day, instead of questioning Ford personally, U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz delegated their time to sex crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell, whom committee Republicans hired to ask questions of Ford for the GOP senators, a move widely viewed as saving the panel's 11 Republican men from the optics of questioning a woman who has alleged sexual assault.

The decision by Cruz, Cornyn and other Republicans on the panel went against the wishes of Ford, who finished her opening statement by stating she wanted to interact with all the senators.

“Because the committee members will be judging my credibility, I do hope to be able to engage directly with each of you,” Ford said.

During Cornyn’s time, Mitchell asked Ford to tell the committee how she narrowed down the timeline of when the assault occurred. Since she originally sent her letter detailing her allegations to her congresswoman, Democratic U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo of California, Ford has narrowed down the timeframe of the alleged assault from the mid-1980s to the summer of 1982. She said she can’t give the exact date of the party where she says the assault allegedly occurred.

“I'm just using memories of when I got my driver's license,” Ford said. “I was 15 at the time and I did not drive home from that party or to that party.”

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Ford testified that, since she came forward, no one has told her that they drove her to or from this party.

Mitchell also asked Ford during Cornyn's five minutes to clarify notes from her therapist from 2012 that describe the night of the sexual assault, which Ford confirmed didn’t include the name of Kavanaugh. Ford also acknowledged that the sexual assault was described incorrectly by her therapist, who wrote that she was sexually assaulted by four boys. Ford said she was only assaulted by Kavanaugh, while another boy, Mark Judge, was in the room. Ford said she corrected that error in an interview with The Washington Post.

Ahead of the hearing, there was uncertainty over whether Cornyn would question Ford directly. He told reporters Wednesday that he would reserve the right to question Ford during the five-minute period given to him.

Cruz, who is in the middle of a re-election fight against Democratic U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, also delegated his time to Mitchell. She questioned Ford about how she decided to come forward with her allegations. Ford contacted The Washington Post on July 6 and around the same time contacted Eshoo, her congresswoman. Mitchell asked why Ford contacted The Washington Post first.

"I was panicking because the timeline was short for the decision,” Ford said.

Trump nominated Kavanaugh for the open U.S. Supreme Court seat on July 9.

“Unfortunately, neither got back to me before the selection of the nominee,” Ford said.

Her allegations weren't published in The Washington Post until Sept. 16. According to that story, Eshoo forwarded the letter to Feinstein's office in late July.

Since the story came out, various Republicans have questioned whether Ford’s accusation was a case of "mistaken identity." Feinstein asked if Ford could be mistaken about what happened to her or the identity of her attacker.

“Absolutely not,” Ford replied.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, asked Ford how certain she was that Kavanaugh assaulted her.

“100 percent,” she said.

Ford recalled that Kavanaugh and Judge were "extremely inebriated" at the time and had "clearly been drinking prior." During his questioning, Durbin asked her what she remembers best from the night of the assault.

Ford replied, the "uproarious laughter between the two and their having fun at my expense."

She told the committee that the assault has haunted her since 1982. She told the committee that the alleged assault has left her struggling with anxiety and PTSD-like symptoms. She added that in the four years following that night, she struggled academically and had trouble making friends, particularly with boys.

After Ford's testimony, Cornyn told MSNBC that he "found no reason to find her not credible."

Cornyn had said midday Thursday that a vote on Kavanaugh's nomination remains scheduled for Friday and is unlikely to change, according to TIME reporter Alana Abramson.

It was Kavanaugh's turn to testify Thursday afternoon, and he came out swinging with an incendiary opening statement, accusing the Democrats of playing political games to sink his nomination because they couldn't defeat him "on the merits." He called the confirmation process "a national disgrace" and a "search-and-destroy mission," referred to the behavior of the Democrats at his first committee hearing an "embarrassment" and added that the process will discourage people from public service in the United States.

In his statement, Kavanaugh said he "never attended a gathering like the one Dr. Ford describes in her allegation. I never sexually assaulted Dr. Ford or anyone."

He pointed to his calendars that he said proved he didn't attend such a party because the calendars detailed his summer workouts, football and basketball practices, and his summer work cutting lawns. He mentioned various messages of support he's received from numerous women he's met throughout his career. He also said that no allegations ever came up in his six previous FBI background checks.

The hearing and confirmation process has grabbed the attention of many politicians across the country, including in Texas. During the hearing Thursday, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush came to Kavanaugh’s defense on Twitter.

“Judge Kavanaugh is a fine jurist and a good man,” Bush said. “I am saddened to see his good name tarnished when there is little evidence to support the attacks.”

Bush also urged the Senate “to do the right thing and confirm him.”

The hearing echoed moments from Anita Hill’s testimony regarding sexual assault allegations from 27 years ago against now-Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Throughout Thursday's hearing, senators continuously referred back to the hearings featuring Hill. There are four current senators that were members of the Senate during those hearings: current Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont.

"The Senate failed Anita Hill," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont.

Kavanaugh said during the hearing that he will not withdraw his nomination.

"You may defeat me in the final vote, but you'll never get me to quit," Kavanaugh said.

Cornyn said Thursday night that the committee will vote on Kavanaugh's nomination Friday, The Washington Post reported.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled sex crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell's name.

Matt Zdun contributed reporting.