Allies of President Donald Trump took issue with Rachel Mitchell, the prosecutor brought in by Republicans to question both professor Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh during a high-stakes Thursday hearing, as the early part of the hearing cemented Ford as a credible witness.
Republicans had Mitchell, an Arizona prosecutor, ask questions to Ford on their behalf. The Thursday hearing was scheduled to question both Kavanaugh and Ford, a research psychologist at Palo Alto University who recently accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her during a high-school party.
In the first segment, Mitchell questioned Ford in five-minute spans that were broken up by five-minute windows for the Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Mitchell questioned Ford about her fear of flying, gaps in her memory not only around the time of the alleged incident, but also in more recent episodes, and about her decision to take a polygraph test.
In her testimony, Ford said she was “100%” certain that Kavanaugh was the person who committed the early 1980s assault. Kavanaugh emphatically denied these claims following Ford’s testimony.
Trump’s allies, however, felt that Mitchell did not press Ford hard enough, failing to poke holes in her story.
A Republican strategist close to the White House told Business Insider that Ford “undoubtedly came across as a sympathetic figure during her testimony,” though this person said the professor “was still unable to present any actual evidence to back up her claims.”
But this person said they were sure that Republicans would’ve been better off having GOP senators, like Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Mike Lee of Utah, and Ted Cruz of Texas, handle the questioning of Ford “because Mitchell was an unmitigated disaster.”
“She didn’t even attempt to poke holes in the many inconsistencies in Ford’s story,” this person said.
On Fox News, legal analyst Andrew Napolitano, a Trump ally, echoed some of that sentiment about Mitchell, saying that Ford “is extremely credible and Rachel Mitchell is not laying a glove on her.”
“The president cannot be happy with this,” he added.
Amid Mitchell’s questioning, Steve Schmidt, an anti-Trump, former Republican operative who ran the late Sen. John McCain’s 2008 president campaign, tweeted that Republican staffers wish “they had the button to open the trap door under Rachel Mitchell’s chair.”
“What a total and complete political disaster for Republicans,” he wrote.
Others on the right praised Mitchell, however, and the answers that came out of her line of questioning were central to much of the conservative pushback on Ford’s credibility. The Federalist Society, as Politico reported, even distributed talking points in defense of Mitchell.
On Ford’s portion of the hearing, a Republican Senate aide said it didn’t present any “big surprises,” though it provided a “big emotional boost for Democrats.”
“But Mitchell established some key facts that undercut her credibility,” this person said of the questioner. “The emotion will fade and the facts will win out.”
Conservatives felt inspired by Kavanaugh’s opening statement. The judge opened up his testimony by emphatically denying the charges against him, alternating between raw anger and holding back tears.
“Brett is on fire,” former Trump campaign official Barry Bennett told Business Insider.