When Christine Blasey Ford testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee today about her sexual-assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Republicans on the committee did not ask her questions. Instead, they yielded their time to Rachel Mitchell, who questioned Ford about her claims.
The Republicans were trying to avoid the optics of an all-male committee challenging a woman about sexual assault. (Democratic senators on the committee — including Dianne Feinstein, Mazie Hirono and Kamala Harris — used their individual time for questions and statements.) So who is Rachel Mitchell, and how was she chosen for a prominent role in the hearings. We break it down.
What you need to know about Rachel Mitchell
1. She is an experienced sex-crimes prosecutor in Arizona
Mitchell has been a prosecutor since 1993. She is chief of the Special Victims Division and deputy county attorney in the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office in Phoenix, Arizona. (Maricopa is the state’s largest county.) Mitchell’s work is well regarded; she is considered thorough and measured. She has won awards for her accomplishments in Maricopa County, including her prosecution of a Catholic priest who abused children; he was sentenced to 111 years in prison. In 2015, she prosecuted a police officer who groped two women, one of whom was unconscious at the time.
2. Mitchell is a registered Republican
But her former boss, Cindy Nannetti, whom she replaced as Special Victims Division chief, said Mitchell is not known let politics color her work “Rachel will do her job as a professional,” Nannetti told The Washington Post. “And she will do it with the utmost respect to the committee. She does not play politics when it comes to anything involving her work.”
“She’s going to be so good that both sides are going to have problems with her,” said former Arizona Republic reporter Joseph Reaves, who wrote a book about the Catholic sex abuse scandal in Arizona.
3. She was chosen by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley
“The majority members have followed the bipartisan recommendation to hire as staff counsel for the committee an experienced career sex crimes prosecutor to question the witness at Thursday’s hearing,” said Grassley, who added the intention was to “depoliticize the process and get to the truth.”
4. Republicans are said to regret her participation already
After Mitchell’s questioning of Ford ended and the committee recessed before calling on Kavanaugh, reports surfaced that Republicans believed their strategy of a questioner-by-proxy was ill-advised. New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman tweeted: “Almost every person close to Trump who had told me having a sex crimes prosecutor question Ford was good strategy is saying they think it was a mistake after the first portion of the hearing.” On Fox News, Chris Wallace said, “This was extremely emotional, extremely raw, and extremely credible … This is a disaster for the Republicans.” Conservative Times columnist Ross Douthat tweeted his agreement: “Kavanaugh could be innocent, memories of trauma can be wrong, but absent more dramatic exculpatory evidence than a calendar this is too credible to elevate him,” he wrote.