ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
President Trump is challenging the woman who has accused his Supreme Court nominee of sexual assault and thrown Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing into turmoil. Earlier today, the president tweeted that if the attack on Christine Blasey Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have immediately been filed with local law enforcement. Meanwhile, Ford's lawyers are in ongoing negotiations with the Senate Judiciary Committee over how and when and if she will testify before the committee.
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Well, we have reached someone who knows professor Ford well, Kirsten Leimroth. She's a close friend, and she joins me now from Palo Alto, Calif. Welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.
KIRSTEN LEIMROTH: Thank you.
KELLY: Start by just telling me. When did you two meet? How do you know each other?
LEIMROTH: Christine and I met when our older children who are now sophomores were in kindergarten. And we both volunteered in the classroom for helping with math. And then now our kids do summer camp at the beach. So I spend hours a day with her for about a month every summer.
KELLY: So you've stayed close even as your kids have gotten older.
LEIMROTH: Yeah, I'd say we're even much closer now than 10 years ago.
KELLY: And I want people listening to know she knows that you're speaking to the media. You have her permission to talk.
LEIMROTH: She does. I don't know that she knows in particular that I'm speaking with you today, but she said I could do whatever I was comfortable doing.
KELLY: If you were describing her to a total stranger, somebody who's never met her who only knows her from the headlines, how would you describe her?
LEIMROTH: I would say she's a very kind, diligent person. She has a high degree of integrity. She really loves her career, especially the teaching part of it. She's always telling me in the summer, like, how she loves to spend time mentoring her students.
KELLY: Quiet person, somebody who seeks the limelight.
LEIMROTH: No, not at all. That's why it's, you know, really ridiculous that someone would think she's doing this for that. I mean, she's not going to go on talk shows. She's not going to write a book. She just thought it was important that her situation got out there because I think probably what she intended was that she put it out there that this had happened and that maybe they would investigate that side of his background a little more without her actually having to come forward. And then there were, you know, reporters showing up at her doorstep.
KELLY: When did she first talk to you about the events that she alleges happened at a high school party three decades ago?
LEIMROTH: I knew something had happened in her past before, but I hadn't heard any details. And then when it became clear that Trump was going to nominate someone, she got a bit agitated about it on this list of six.
KELLY: When you say agitated, what do you mean?
LEIMROTH: She was upset about him potentially being on there. And she told me something had happened with one of them in high school, and she hadn't told me the name yet. And then when he was the chosen one of the short list, she gave me the details. And she was trying to decide what to do.
KELLY: And how did that conversation come about? Was it a phone call, or were you all together?
LEIMROTH: No. Like I said, our children did this camp on the beach. So most days, we were there probably for six or seven hours. And so we talked quite a bit.
KELLY: And how was she talking about it? I mean, what was she like as she told you about what had happened?
LEIMROTH: It was upsetting. You know, she also had never told her parents or her brothers, who were I believe in the same social circle as the Kavanaughs were way back then. They're Republicans. And, you know, so she was trying to decide how does she tell her family? Was it worth putting their whole lives in the spotlight?
KELLY: Oh, wow, so she was talking to you before she talked to her parents, to her siblings.
KELLY: What you're describing sounds like a woman who really wrestled with trying to figure out how to tell people, whether to come forward.
LEIMROTH: Oh, for sure.
KELLY: So what tipped the balance and prompted her to come forward?
LEIMROTH: I think she still wanted to stay anonymous the last part I'd heard. And then people were showing up at her door anyway. She thought she may as well put her name out there. But I don't - you know, I don't know any of that really for certain. But I don't believe she wanted her name out there.
KELLY: Was it clear to you as you two discussed this over the long summer that she had any idea what she was getting into, of the frenzy that this would create raising allegations like this against a nominee to the Supreme Court?
LEIMROTH: I don't think she did. I think in her mind, it was just not going to be taken very seriously. But she still had to tell.
KELLY: When's the last time you had contact with her?
LEIMROTH: Yesterday or the day before. I'm babysitting her bird, so I have spoken with her in the last week probably but now more on texting.
KELLY: President Trump has questioned why this wasn't reported to the FBI 30-something years ago. Did you talk to her about why she chose not to come forward closer to that time?
LEIMROTH: Not really because I know a lot of people that things like this have happened to, and they don't talk about it. They are embarrassed and ashamed. And, you know, you don't think someone will believe you. And so I don't think it's unusual at all that she didn't tell anyone back then.
She did, as it's been reported in the news, tell a therapist several years ago. And I know that was one of the things this summer when she was waiting to get ahold of them to see if they'd actually written it down because she wanted, you know, something to back up that she wasn't just making up the story right now. And so I know she was glad that the therapist did have notes on that.
KELLY: You've described that one of the reasons she told you she hesitated about coming forward and making a public allegation was she wasn't sure it would make a difference.
KELLY: Having spoken to her fairly recently, where is she now? What does she hope to achieve here?
LEIMROTH: You know, I don't know. We kind of keep it a little lighter than that.
LEIMROTH: You know, I send her notes of nice things people have said. And we don't really discuss that in detail. My sense is she'd probably just be glad when it's over. But I think all she wanted was for them to look into that side of him.
KELLY: To have the story come to light and for the senators voting whether to confirm or not to have all the facts.
LEIMROTH: Yeah. I don't think she wanted someone who thought that way about women to be up there. So she wanted that out there.
KELLY: Kirsten Leimroth - she is a close friend of Christine Blasey Ford's. They met years ago when their kids were in kindergarten together, and they have been friends ever since. Kirsten Leimroth, thank you very much for speaking with us.
LEIMROTH: Thank you.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.