Republican lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee, aware of criticism and optics surrounding “old, white men” interrogating Dr. Christine Blasey Ford on Thursday, decided to bring in a female independent counsel, in the form of veteran sex crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell. This was an apparent attempt to alleviate these concerns and concerns of politicization on the Committee.
While appearances of having a prosecutor question Ford has caused in some uneasiness in its own right, many are actively seeing some issues with the actual format of the hearing, which was set by the majority on the Senate Judiciary Committee (i.e. Republican senators).
In case you are not aware of the format, the idea was to have each senator on the Committee (there are 21) have five minutes each to ask Dr. Ford their questions. The senators would be able to yield their time to another senator or special counsel. Republicans were expected to, and have, yielded their time to Mitchell to ask questions in 5-minute blocks.
Law&Crime founder Dan Abrams noted on Twitter that Mitchell is in a “tough spot to have her questioning interrupted every five minutes.”
Abrams also said that Republicans would soon “realize that they are at a distinct disadvantage having a methodical prosecutor looking for subtle points” only to then see Democrats “publicly advocating and encouraging the witness at each turn.”
Many other observers saw some issues with the 5-minute format, and the appearance of this political event as trial. One of the issues is that Mitchell doesn’t have enough time to meaningfully accomplish what she seeks to do.
Senior editor of the Hollywood Reporter Eriq Gardner summed up this issue nicely.
“I wonder whether Republicans will have to adjust strategy. Clearly, Rachel Mitchell is establishing facts and probing for inconsistencies similar to a deposition, but she may be in wrong format w/o enough time and too many interruptions to pull off whatever she’s attempting.
Even Ari Fleischer, former White House Press Secretary for George W. Bush, had a caveat about the proceedings, even though he agreed that having Mitchell ask questions “makes sense.”
Then the caveat.
“The 5-minute format the keeps interrupting her is jarring. At some point, Mitchell will need to sum things up and make a point,” he said.
Matt Walsh chimed in to say that Mitchell is “trying to ask relevant questions” but that “every time she gets somewhere, Democrats jump in to give a campaign speech.”
“This is ridiculous,” he said.
As University of Texas law Prof. Steve Vladeck noted, however, this format was “set by the majority.”
[Image via CSPAN screengrab]
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