Did Republicans make a mistake by having Rachel Mitchell, a veteran sex crimes prosecutor from Arizona, question Christine Blasey Ford during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing?
That’s what some people on both sides of the aisle are arguing on social media. Some Republicans and others who support Brett Kavanaugh are frustrated that Mitchell is asking the methodically fact-based questions for Republican Senators – meaning the Senators have ceded any chance to ask tough questions of Ford themselves or build a narrative. Meanwhile, Democratic senators were using their time to praise Ford’s courage and the like. Some felt the 5-minute limit per segment was also hobbling Mitchell’s ability to question Ford.
However, some Democrats and others who support Ford and oppose Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination are upset that a prosecutor is questioning Ford as if she’s on the witness stand when she is the accuser. Either way, there’s a lot of criticism of Rachel Mitchell’s performance and the GOP’s decision to cede questioning of Ford to her. Mitchell’s approach seemed to be taking Ford through the timeline in painstaking fashion, and unearthing any contradictions she might have. Some Kavanaugh supporters were upset that Mitchell wasn’t doing more to highlight the fact that the three other people Ford says were at the party – including a female friend – say they have no recollection of it.
Other observers were just waiting for the inevitable SNL skit (paging Melissa McCarthy.)
It was widely believed that Republicans asked Mitchell to lead their questioning because they were worried about the optics of an all-male GOP side of the panel interrogating Ford.
Not everyone was critical, and some argued that Mitchell was handling the hearing like a trial – like a lawyer would – when it’s also a political hearing.
But many were – in both directions.
Here are some of the reactions on Twitter:
Mitchell is an award-winning sex crimes prosecutor in Arizona, although her position in Maricopa County has caused some criticism online due to a rape kit backlog and the proximity to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office once helmed by Donald Trump-backing Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The Sheriff’s Office is a different agency from the prosecutor’s office that has employed Rachel Mitchell for more than two decades.
Grassley Called Rachel Mitchell a Career Prosecutor With Decades of Experience but Dr. Ford’s Attorneys Opposed an Outside Counsel
In his statement, Chuck Grassley praised Rachel Mitchell’s career. Grassley said that Mitchell has “decades of experience prosecuting sex crimes,” calling her a “career prosecutor.”
He added, “As I have said, I’m committed to providing a forum to both Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh on Thursday that is safe, comfortable and dignified. 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 witnesses at Thursday’s hearing.”
Although critics have alleged the GOP Senators just don’t want the bad optics of an all-male panel questioning Ford, Grassley gave another motive. “The goal is to de-politicize the process and get to the truth, instead of grandstanding and giving senators an opportunity to launch their presidential campaigns,” Grassley said.
“I’m very appreciative that Rachel Mitchell has stepped forward to serve in this important and serious role. Ms. Mitchell has been recognized in the legal community for her experience and objectivity. I’ve worked to give Dr. Ford an opportunity to share serious allegations with committee members in any format she’d like after learning of the allegations. I promised Dr. Ford that I would do everything in my power to avoid a repeat of the ‘circus’ atmosphere in the hearing room that we saw the week of September 4. I’ve taken this additional step to have questions asked by expert staff counsel to establish the most fair and respectful treatment of the witnesses possible.”
However, Ford’s attorneys have repeatedly objected to the Senate Judiciary Committee using an outside lawyer to question Ford. Michael Bromwich, an attorney for Ford, said previously in a statement, “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.”
Rachel Mitchell Is on Leave From the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office in Phoenix, Arizona
Rachel Mitchell is a prosecutor from Arizona, but she’s now on leave.
“Mitchell worked in the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office in Phoenix as the chief of the Special Victims Division, which covers sex crimes and family violence,” reported 12News.
CNN reported that Mitchell is currently on leave from her position as “the deputy county attorney and as the chief of the Special Victims Division” in Maricopa County.
Mitchell was pictured in the County attorney’s newsletter as part of a team that won an award, and a post on Twitter indicates she spoke at a conference about medical findings in child sex abuse cases.
“Operation Safe Treat is a partnership between the MCAO, US Marshal’s Office, several local police departments and the Maricopa County Probation Department which sends teams of officers out to the community in the weeks leading up to and on Halloween checking on registered sex offenders to ensure they are following the rules,” the caption with the photo in the County Attorney’s newsletter read.
In 2014, a commission recommended her as a possible judicial candidate in Arizona.
Rachel Mitchell Is a Registered Republican Who Was Drawn to Her Prosecution Area Because of the Vulnerability of Children
Rachel Mitchell is a registered Republican, according to the Washington Post, which reports that she’s worked in the Maricopa County office for 26 years.
She has donated to the campaign of Mark Brnovich, Arizona’s Republican attorney general, according to The Post.
Tracey Westerhausen, a Democratic defense attorney in Arizona, praised Rachel Mitchell to The Post, calling her a “very nuanced and wise prosecutor.” She has been a team member responsible for developing sexual assault prosecutor protocols for the Maricopa County office.