Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee have hired Rachel Mitchell, a prosecutor from Arizona who specializes in sex crimes, to handle questioning in today's hearing about sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Two other women have also come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh since Christine Blasey Ford first claimed the judge pinned her to a bed, covered her mouth and tried to remove her clothes when they were both in high school in the 1980s. Deborah Ramirez, the second woman to speak out against Kavanaugh publicly, claims he exposed himself to her at a party during college. The third woman, Julie Swetnick, said in a sworn affidavit released Wednesday that Kavanaugh was "present" at a party in 1982 where she said she was gang raped. Kavanaugh has denied the claims from all three women. On Wednesday, Kavanaugh released a statement denying Swetnick's claims, calling them "ridiculous and from the Twilight Zone."
Here's what to know about Mitchell, a Republican, whom chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley said has "decades of experience prosecuting sex crimes," in a statement announcing her hiring.
Who is prosecutor Rachel Mitchell?
Mitchell has worked as a prosecutor since 1993, according to Grassley's statement. She is the deputy county attorney for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office and chief of the Special Victims Division, two positions from which she is currently on leave, Grassley said.
Prior to heading the Special Victims Division, Mitchell ran the Maricopa County Attorney's Office sex-crimes bureau, which is responsible for prosecuting sex-related felonies, such as adult sexual assault, child molestation and child prostitution offenses. Mitchell supervised the bureau for 12 years, according to Grassley.
" She is a widely recognized expert on the investigation and prosecution of sex crimes, and has frequently served as a speaker and instructor on the subject," Grassley said.
Maricopa County attorney Bill Montgomery told the Arizona Republic that Judiciary Committee staffers contacted him about Mitchell over the weekend and commended his deputy, referring to her as a "professional, fair, objective prosecutor."
"The people of America are well served with her involvement in this process," he said.
What will Rachel Mitchell's role be in the Kavanaugh hearing?
Mitchell is expected to question both Kavanaugh and Ford, who are both set to testify in the hearing on Thursday.
Ford's accusations and the Thursday hearing have promoted some to question the optics of the all-male GOP contingent on the Judiciary Committee asking Ford about her claims against Kavanaugh. "I'm very appreciative that Rachel Mitchell has stepped forward to serve in this important and serious role," Grassley said. "Ms. Mitchell has been recognized in the legal community for her experience and objectivity."
What cases has Rachel Mitchell prosecuted?
One high-profile case Mitchell prosecuted is the sentencing of Paul LeBrun, a former Catholic priest who was accused of molesting six boys in the 1980s and 1990s, to 111 years in prison, according to the Washington Post.
The Associated Press reports that Mitchell in 2014 prosecuted the case of a former church volunteer in Scottsdale, Ariz. who molested children he supervised as a church babysitter and camp counselor over a period of seven years. He received a 30-year prison sentence with lifetime probation.
In a 2012 interview with FrontLine magazine, which is associated with the church group Foundations Baptist Fellowship International, Mitchell said she did not initially plan to go into prosecuting sex crimes but was inspired after working with an attorney who prosecuted a youth choir director.
"It struck me how innocent and vulnerable the victims of these cases really were," she said.
Is Rachel Mitchell a Republican?
Mitchell is a registered Republican, according to the Washington Post. The Post reports Mitchell previously donated to the campaign of Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who is a Republican.