Real estate and other records undercut a key part of Christine Blasey Ford’s account of why she finally came forward with charges of attempted rape against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh after some 30 years.
Ford testified last week that she had never revealed the details of the alleged attack until 2012, when she was in couples therapy with her husband. She said the memories percolated up as they revisited a disagreement they’d had over her insistence on installing a “second front door" when they had remodeled their Palo Alto, Calif., home.
The need to explain a decision her husband “didn’t understand,” Ford testified, pushed her to say she wanted the door to alleviate symptoms of “claustrophobia” and “panic attacks" she still suffered from an attempted rape allegedly perpetrated by Kavanaugh in high school during the early 1980s.
"Is that the reason for the second door — front door -- is claustrophobia?” asked Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. “Correct,” Ford replied.
Ford never specified when the renovation took place, leaving a possible impression that it and the therapy session happened around the same time.
But documents reveal the door was installed years before as part of an addition, and has been used by renters and even a marriage counseling business.
“The door was not an escape route but an entrance route,” said an attorney familiar with the ongoing congressional investigation. “It appears the real plan for the second front door was to rent out a separate room."
The discrepancy raises fresh doubts about Ford's candor and credibility amid other inconsistencies, congressional and other knowledgeable sources say, including her purported "fear of flying." Ford initially refused to submit to an interview with the committee because of an alleged airplane phobia, but investigators established that she had taken a number of flights back East this summer, and had previously flown to Hawaii, Costa Rica, French Polynesia and other South Pacific islands.
Palo Alto city records show that a building permit for an additional room and exterior door was issued to Ford and her husband on Feb. 4, 2008 — more than four years before the May 2012 therapy session where, she says, she first identified Kavanaugh as her attacker.
All the remodeling, including a new bathroom, was completed by February 2010. The only additional permits issued to Ford at her Palo Alto address are for "solar panels" on the roof, a "solar hot water system” in the garage, and an “electric vehicle charge station” for the driveway -- all of which were issued after 2012.
Other documents, including health care-provider registration records, reveal that a marriage counselor listed Ford’s home address as her place of employment, ostensibly using the extra room and door for her clinical practice. That marriage therapist, Sylvia Adkins Randall, sold the home to the Fords in 2007, but continued to maintain the address for her business.
Contacted by phone, Dr. Randall expressed concern about her real estate transaction and prior relationship with Ford being reported.
“I don’t want it to be mentioned,” she said. "It’s personal.”
Randall is a licensed therapist who specializes in treating “disturbing memories from the past." She supports Ford and described her allegation against Kavanaugh as “credible.”
Since the second front door was installed, moreover, students from local colleges have lived in the additional room with the private door. In fact, under congressional questioning Thursday, Ford testified she has “hosted” various other residents there, including “Google interns.”
The attorney said the tenants call into question Ford’s claims about why she installed the additional exterior door in her home.
“Renters and a business operating out of Dr. Ford’s home would explain the added door,” he said. "Clearly, there were business purposes [for it], not just ones related to her anxieties."
Also casting doubt on Ford's story is the fact she installed no such escape door at a second home, which property records show she and her husband own in Santa Cruz, Calif., less than five blocks from the beach.
Yet she recently told a close friend, according to media reports, that she has resisted purchasing a home without a second exit from the master bedroom. Without it, she said she would never feel safe.
“Obviously, something happened that traumatized her so much that she’s afraid of being trapped,” her friend Jim Gensheimer, a photojournalist who worked for the San Jose Mercury News, told the Los Angeles Times on Sept. 19.
Property records show Ford and her husband, Russell Ford, bought the beach house in 2007. This July – the same month Ford sent a letter to Feinstein accusing Kavanaugh of attacking her -- Ford applied for permits to build a front porch and new decks at the home, located on Seaside Street in Santa Cruz. There is no application for a second front door, however, and the recent permits are the only ones applied for since 2007.
No evidence has emerged of any other exterior door construction at either of Ford's homes, authorized or not.
"If she rents out the room to Google employees, how does she get access to the second door to escape a perceived attacker?” noted the attorney, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “Renting out the room is completely contrary to her stated reason of why she wanted the second front door."
Randall said she is not the therapist who counseled Ford in 2012. She said "it’s just a weird coincidence” that the two are connected through the property and share the same profession. Ford is a research psychologist.
Two other marriage counselors who worked for Randall’s now-defunct Palo Alto clinic -- Couples Resource Center -- also shared an address with Ford’s home.
A Senate Judiciary Committee spokeswoman said that Ford’s lawyers have provided neither the therapist's notes nor the therapist’s name to committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), even though they have furnished that information to Democrats on the committee.
“Democrats won’t share it,” she said, just as they withheld the July 30 letter Ford sent to Feinstein for almost two months.
The aide said that Grassley’s office is following “a ton of leads” to learn the identity of the therapist, and offered that Ford’s story about her therapy session and the so-called escape door is a critical part of the investigation into her allegations.
“The investigative side of the committee thinks it’s a good lead,” she said, “and they are pursuing it."
Ford’s attorneys did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Ford, a registered Democrat who has marched against Trump policies, claims she’s not “political” and that Kavanaugh first “came up in counseling” in May 2012 strictly because of the door.
But something else was going on at the time, and it apparently caught Ford’s attention.
Just weeks earlier, the national media reported that GOP presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney was planning to tap Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court if he won the White House.
In a March 26, 2012, article in the The New Yorker, for example, legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin warned that Kavanaugh was on Romney’s short list. Toobin said Kavanaugh would pose a threat to the Affordable Care Act and other Obama policies. He also slammed Kavanaugh's work as a federal prosecutor during the investigation of President Clinton over the Lewinsky scandal, noting that he wrote “startling” sections of a report for Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr, including that “the President fondled and kissed her bare breasts …"
Striking an ominous tone, Toobin concluded: "If a Republican, any Republican, wins in November, his most likely first nominee to the Supreme Court will be Brett Kavanaugh."
Ford, who is liberal, seemed aware at the time that Kavanaugh was in the running.
"I recall saying that the boy who assaulted me could someday be on the U.S. Supreme Court, and spoke a bit about his background at an elitist all-boys school in Bethesda, Md.,” she testified, recounting her May 2012 therapy session. "My husband recalls that I named my attacker as Brett Kavanaugh."
Still, Democrats point to her 2012 therapy session as evidence her charges are not motivated by politics. They claim she related her accusation to her husband and therapist “long before” Kavanaugh was in the news as a Supreme Court pick.
Asked by a Democratic senator if there is “a political motivation for your coming forward with your account of the assault by Brett Kavanaugh,” Ford responded, “No."
Republicans aren’t buying it.
“So, after telling no one her story about Kavanaugh for decades, she suddenly remembered and spoke about it in couples therapy, triggered by a spat over a door, in 2012 -- which also happens to be when her fellow Democrats were worrying about the possibility that Mitt Romney could win the presidency and appoint Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court? Call me skeptical," a senior GOP congressional staffer said. “There's obviously more to the story than just a door."
After Romney lost the 2012 presidential race, and the threat of Kavanaugh ascending to the high court passed, Ford moved on.
"After that May 2012 therapy session,” Ford said, "I did my best to ignore the memories of the assault, because recounting them caused me to relive the experience, and caused panic and anxiety."
But she said her attitude changed again in early July 2018, when "I saw press reports stating that Brett Kavanaugh was on the shortlist of a list of very well-qualified Supreme Court nominees.” So she decided to come forward with her story.
"I thought it was my civic duty to relay the information I had about Mr. Kavanaugh’s conduct so that those considering his nomination would know about this assault,” she said.
Ford went public with her claim in a Sept. 16 Washington Post story.
Dr. Randall said she does not believe that the door was just a pretext to hide a political motive.
“Part of her trauma was feeling trapped, and that stayed with her,” she asserted.
Randall, who specializes in sexuality, depression, anxiety and fears and phobias, says that Ford’s failure to tell anyone for some 30 years about the high school incident stemmed not from “repressed memory syndrome” but from the simple fact she was "15 years old at the time and couldn’t tell anyone about it.”
“She didn’t want her parents to know she was drinking at a house without parents there,” Randall said. “There was a lot of shame involved.”
But the far more recent story of the “second front door" also seemed to recede in Ford's memory banks, only to pop up after speculation about her political motives grew.
She did not mention it in her original letter to Feinstein in July, or the statement she made for a polygraph exam in August, or a personal letter to Grassley last month. The tale of the door emerged, suddenly, on the eve of her testimony before Congress.