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Law & the Courts

Where Is the Polygraph Trail Leading?

Rachel Mitchell questions Christine Blasey Ford during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, September 27, 2018. (Michael Reynolds/Pool/Reuters)

Chuck Grassley has sent a letter to Dr. Ford’s lawyers requesting more information. Specifically, Grassley wants the therapist’s notes, “all audio or video recordings produced during the course of Mr. Hanafin’s polygraph examination of Dr. Ford,” and “all written, audiovisual, or electronic materials relating to the allegations raised by Dr. Ford against Judge Kavanaugh that Dr. Ford or her representative previously provided to any reporter or anyone else at a media organization.” That some of this material has been passed “to a nationally circulated newspaper” but not provided to the Senate, Grassley proposes, “suggests a lack of candor.”

Adjacent to these requests is a curious paragraph:

The full details of Dr. Ford’s polygraph are particularly important because the Senate Judiciary Committee has received a sworn statement from a longtime boyfriend of Dr. Ford’s, stating that he personally witnessed Dr. Ford coaching a friend on polygraph examinations. When asked under oath in the hearing whether she’d ever given any tips or advice to someone who was planning on taking a polygraph, Dr. Ford replied, ‘Never.’ This statement raises specific concerns about the reliability of her polygraph examination results,” he continued. “The Senate therefore needs this information.

The “sworn statement from a longtime boyfriend of Dr. Ford’s” is now online. In it, the ex-boyfriend claims that he

witnessed Dr. Ford help McLean [Ford’s friend] prepare for a potential polygraph exam. Dr. Ford explained in detail what to expect, how polygraphs worked, and helped McLean become familiar and less nervous about the exam.

He also writes that “Dr. Ford never brought up anything regarding her experience as a victim of sexual assault, harassment, or misconduct”; that she “never mentioned Brett Kavanaugh”; that she “never indicated a fear of flying”; that she “never expressed a fear of closed quarters, tight spaces, or places with only one exit”; that she was “unfaithful”; and that she committed “fraud” by using a credit card from which she had been removed long after she had broken up with the cardholder.

These statements are of varying use, and, at this stage, it is impossible to tell how true they are. Nevertheless, it seems clear that Rachel Mitchell knew some of this during last week’s Senate hearing, because she asked Ford two extremely specific questions on the subject of polygraphs. They were:

MITCHELL: Had — have you ever given tips or advice to somebody who was looking to take a polygraph test?

FORD: Never.


MITCHELL: Have you ever had discussions with anyone, beside your attorneys, on how to take a polygraph?

FORD: Never.

Ford also told Mitchell that she was “scared” of the test, and “didn’t expect it to be as long it was going to be.” (These answers were a little odd, in my view, given that, unusually, the test consisted of just two general questions, and Ford’s written statement contained a host of corrections that could have come before or after it was administered.)

At the time I thought Mitchell’s inquiries were strange — especially the first one. Now, I can see why they were asked. Or, rather, now I think it is pretty likely that they were asked because Mitchell knew the answer to them ahead of time (or thought she did; the ex-boyfriend could, of course, be lying). Perhaps this was a straightforward attempt to catch Ford in a lie. Or perhaps this is going somewhere else — somewhere none of us can intuit quite yet.


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