Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are not expected to question Judge Brett Kavanaugh and the first woman who accused him of sexual assault, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, on Thursday — instead handing the role to Rachel Mitchell, an Arizona prosecutor who specializes in sex crimes.
In enlisting Mitchell, the all-male panel of 11 Republican senators on the committee can overcome concerns about (and poor optics of) a group of men interrogating a woman about an alleged sexual assault, and mark a distinction from Anita Hill’s experience giving testimony at Justice Clarence Thomas’s 1991 confirmation hearing.
Ford had sought to have the senators question her, The New York Times reports.
Democratic senators will be asking their own questions of both Blasey and Kavanaugh, HuffPost reports. The Democratic side of the Judiciary Committee includes women.
In a statement, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, described Mitchell, who heads up the sex crimes bureau of the Maricopa County attorney’s office in Phoenix, as a “career prosecutor with decades of experience prosecuting sex crimes,” adding that “the goal is to de-politicise the process and get to the truth, instead of grandstanding and giving senators an opportunity to launch their presidential campaigns.”
A registered Republican, Mitchell has worked for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office for 26 years, in a 2011 interview for FrontLine magazineexplaining how she became focused on prosecuting sex crimes cases (initially by adults against children), after being paired up with a senior attorney, who was working a case that involved a youth choir director as the offender. “It struck me how innocent and vulnerable the victims of these cases really were,” she said. “When I became an attorney with the office I prosecuted other kinds of cases, but I was drawn back to this area.”
“She’s one of these career prosecutors who specializes in sex crimes,” Paul Ahler, who worked at the county attorney’s office years ago, told The Arizona 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.”
Interviewed by ABC, private investigator Cindy Stine, who has worked cases prosecuted by Mitchell, described her as “not only a good person but an extreme professional and fair.”
“She is not an accusatory type of person — she’s a fact finder — and I think, forensically, she’ll do a great job.
In an interview earlier this year on a local NPR radio station, Mitchell discussed her office’s adoption of a new sex crimes protocol, the first in its history, intended to improve the investigation and prosecution of cases.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery told The Laredo Morning Times that over Mitchell’s career, she “has dealt with victims in this very circumstance of delayed disclosure and circumstances where allegations were difficult to corroborate. She has had to make a decision as a prosecutor whether or not those cases can move forward.”
Since Ford made her allegations against Kavanaugh, that date back to when they were in high school, a second woman — Deborah Ramirez — has come forward to allege that a man she believes to be Kavanaugh exposed himself and shoved his penis in her face during a dorm party at college, causing her to touch it in an effort to get him away from her.
In addressing some misconceptions about sexual assault, Mitchell told Frontline that, “People think that children would tell right away and that they would tell everything that happened to them. In reality children often keep this secret for years, sometimes into their adulthood, sometimes forever.”
For more on Mitchell, watch the video below.