“I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified,” Dr. Blasey will say, according to her prepared remarks. “I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanaugh and I were in high school.”
She will also come armed with a rebuttal to one of the Republicans’ central plans: that she misidentified Judge Kavanaugh as her accuser. “We did not know each other well,” she will say, “but I knew him and he knew me.”
But Dr. Blasey will also face scrutinizing and at times uncomfortable questioning about the episode, and she has already said that she cannot remember the specific date or location of the assault. Republicans have hired Rachel Mitchell, an Arizona sex-crimes prosecutor, to lead their portion of the questioning, which Dr. Blasey’s lawyers have argued will inappropriately give a political proceeding the feel of a courtroom examination. Democratic senators will question the witnesses themselves.
Will Dr. Blasey’s testimony sway the audience?
A number of key Republican swing votes — Senators Jeff Flake of Arizona, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — have indicated that they will be closely watching Dr. Blasey’s testimony before deciding how to vote. The votes of moderate Democratic senators up for re-election this fall in states that Mr. Trump won in 2016 are also potentially still up for grabs.
Dr. Blasey’s testimony will also be of interest to the president. Though he cast doubt on her story at a news conference on Wednesday, Mr. Trump told reporters that he would be watching the hearing and “could be persuaded” by Dr. Blasey.
“It’s possible I’ll hear that and I’ll say, ‘Hey, I’m changing my mind,’” he said. “That is possible.”
Will the allegations of other accusers come up?
Since Dr. Blasey’s account was published in The Washington Post almost two weeks ago, two other women have come forward and accused Judge Kavanaugh of drunkenly engaging in sexual misconduct at parties they attended. Democrats in particular are eager to press him on both cases.
Deborah Ramirez told The New Yorker that Mr. Kavanaugh exposed himself in front of her when they were both drunk at a party as undergraduates at Yale. And on Wednesday, another woman, Julie Swetnick, came forward and said that in high school, she observed Judge Kavanaugh engaging in misconduct at parties where women were verbally abused, inappropriately touched, made “disoriented” with alcohol or drugs, and “gang raped.” The New York Times has not been able to independently corroborate either woman’s allegation.
There were other, less detailed accusations shared with senators. For example, in an anonymous letter sent to Senator Cory Gardner, Republican of Colorado, a woman said her daughter witnessed Judge Kavanaugh drunkenly push her friend, a woman he was dating, up against a wall “very aggressively and sexually” after they left a bar one night in 1998.
Neither Ms. Ramirez nor Ms. Swetnick will testify before the committee on Thursday. Staff members on the Senate Judiciary Committee have invited them to give a statement, though Republicans on the panel have declined to say whether they would support having another hearing to allow the other accusers to speak.
Can Judge Kavanaugh turn the tables and put senators on the defensive?
Clarence Thomas shocked the all-white Judiciary Committee in 1991 when he testified at his Supreme Court confirmation hearing that the accusations of sexual harassment raised by a law professor he once worked with, Anita Hill, amounted to a “high-tech lynching.”
Judge Kavanaugh is expected to paint himself as the victim of “last-minute smears,” according to the prepared remarks he submitted to the committee on Wednesday, while issuing a broader warning about the danger of the allegations against him.
“Such grotesque and obvious character assassination — if allowed to succeed — will dissuade competent and good people of all political persuasions from serving our country,” he will say, according to the prepared remarks.
Can senators avoid a repeat of the Anita Hill hearing?
The treatment Ms. Hill received before the Judiciary Committee in 1991 — a profusion of abrasive questions from an all-male panel — prompted a cultural firestorm, with outraged women running for office in unprecedented numbers.
While there are many differences between the social and political climate in which Ms. Hill testified and the one in which Dr. Blasey will take the stand, there are still two Republicans on the committee who were there when Ms. Hill testified: Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the panel’s chairman, and Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah. (One current committee Democrat, Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, also sat on the committee then.)
In an effort to avoid the optics of a majority-male panel grilling a female sexual assault victim, Senate Republicans have employed Ms. Mitchell to question both Dr. Blasey and Judge Kavanaugh. But some of the senators have made clear to reporters that they reserve the right to ask Dr. Blasey questions themselves.
Some of the Republicans have already been blunt about their skepticism of Dr. Blasey’s allegations, with Mr. Hatch calling her “mixed up” and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina describing the claims as a “drive-by shooting.”
What is the Democrats’ strategy for questioning Judge Kavanaugh?
Senate Democrats are expected to question Judge Kavanaugh’s credibility, forcing the judge to defend his categorical denials about the accusations and to account for his drinking habits as a teenager and young adult, following news reports and public statements he has made indicating he could be a heavy drinker.
All of the women who have accused Judge Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct said the episodes happened while he was intoxicated.
Judge Kavanaugh described himself in his high school yearbook as a member of the “100 Kegs or Bust” club, and his freshman college roommate told The New Yorker that he recalled that the judge was “frequently, incoherently drunk.”
“I would be wanting to hear what kind of environment it was in high school,” Senator Mazie Hirono, Democrat of Hawaii, who sits on the committee, said on CNN on Sunday, before Ms. Ramirez came forward. “Apparently, there was a lot of drinking and partying going on.”