A veteran Arizona prosecutor with decades of experience handling sex crimes will grill Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and his accuser during a Senate hearing this week.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) named Maricopa County prosecutor Rachel Mitchell late Tuesday as his party’s pick to handle the sensitive session focusing on allegations that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted a teenage girl while he was in high school.
Both Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, who went public with her claims last week, will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.
Ford alleges that a drunken Kavanaugh locked her in a bedroom, pinned her to a bed and covered her mouth to stifle her screams before trying to remove her clothing at a Maryland house party in the 1980s. She was 15 at the time and he was 17. Two other women have since come forward with other sexual misconduct claims against Kavanaugh.
Republicans likely wanted to avoid the bad optics of only having their 11 male members on the Judiciary panel grill Ford about the accusations and turned to Mitchell to handle the questioning.
How exactly they settled on an Arizona prosecutor over a more high-profile D.C.-based lawyer is not clear.
Mitchell “has been recognized in the legal community for her experience and objectivity,” Grassley said.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, Mitchell’s boss, praised her experience, calling her a “professional, fair, objective prosecutor” who has a “caring heart” for victims.
He said he was contacted by staffers to the judiciary committee over the weekend about Mitchell’s availability and qualifications.
“The people of America are well served with her involvement in this process,” he added.
Mitchell has trained others in how to make effective use of children who are victims of abuse, according to The Arizona Republic. She has also headed the major crimes bureau, supervising sex crimes, family violence, and repeat-offender cases.
In 2003, she was recognized as Arizona’s outstanding sexual-assault prosecutor. In 2006, she was the County Attorney’s Office’s Prosecutor of the Year, the newspaper reported.
Paul Ahler, who previously worked at the Maricopa County attorney’s office, described Mitchell as a “really good, solid prosecutor.”
“She’s one of these career prosecutors who specializes in sex crimes,” Ahler, who now works at the Arizona attorney general’s office, told The Republic. “It’s hard to find those people because a lot of people get burned out on those issues, but it’s kind of been her life mission.”
On Monday, when Mitchell’s credentials were known but her name had yet to be made public, a lawyer for Ford wrote a letter to Grassley questioning the need for a prosecutor.
“This is not a criminal trial for which the involvement of an experienced sex crimes prosecutor would be appropriate. Neither Dr. Blasey Ford nor Judge Kavanaugh is on trial. The goal should be to develop the relevant facts, not try a case,” Michael Bromwich said in the letter.
Ford legal team said Wednesday they gave the Senate sworn affidavits from four people who say she told them well before President Trump nominated Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court that she had been sexually assaulted when she was younger.
And according to all four, she either named Kavanaugh as the assailant or described the attacker as a “federal judge.”
Trump, meanwhile, expressed frustration over how the allegations have hampered Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
He said Wednesday that Senate Republicans could have “pushed it through two and a half weeks ago.”