28 Sep 2018

Brett Kavanaugh tearfully denies sexual assault allegation

9:45 am on 28 September 2018

US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has angrily and tearfully denied a university professor's accusation that he sexually assaulted her 36 years ago.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh testifies to the Senate Judiciary Committee

Photo: AFP / Getty

Christine Blasey Ford appeared in public for the first time, testifying at the Senate Judiciary Committee to detail her allegation against Mr Kavanaugh when they were both high school students in Maryland.

Read more: Ford accuses Supreme Court nominee in dramatic testimony

Judge Brett Kavanaugh testified after Dr Ford finished her appearance, and they were never in the hearing room together.

"I swear today, under oath, before the Senate and the nation, before my family and God, I am innocent of this charge," Mr Kavanaugh said.

Calling himself a victim of "grotesque and obvious character assassination," Mr Kavanaugh, speaking passionately, said he "unequivocally and categorically" denied Ford's allegation.

Mr Kavanaugh at times choked back tears, especially when he mentioned that his daughter suggested they pray for Dr Ford, when he spoke of his father and when he mentioned women friends who have rallied to support him.

The momentous hearing could determine whether Mr Kavanaugh will be confirmed by the Senate after a pitched political battle between Donald Trump's fellow Republicans and Democrats who oppose the nominee.

Dr Ford, a psychology professor at Palo Alto University in California, said over four hours of testimony that a drunken Kavanaugh attacked her and tried to remove her clothing at a gathering of teenagers in Maryland when he was 17-years-old and she was 15 in 1982.

Dr Ford said in the dramatic committee hearing she was "100 percent certain" Mr Kavanaugh did it.

Christine Blasey Ford, the woman accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her at a party 36 years ago, testifies before the US Senate Judiciary Committee.

Christine Blasey Ford at the committee hearing. Photo: AFP / Pool

Mr Kavanaugh said he wanted to testify as soon as Ford's allegation first emerged and was not surprised that other allegations followed.

"In those 10 long days, as was predictable and as I predicted, my family and my name have been totally and permanently destroyed by vicious and false additional accusations."

The delay in scheduling a hearing "has been horrible to me and my family, to the Supreme Court and to the country," he said.

"I will not be intimidated into withdrawing from this process," he added.

Mr Kavanaugh was accompanied by his wife as he entered the hearing room. He sharply attacked Democratic senators, an unusual move by a sitting judge nominated to the Supreme Court, saying he was the victim of "a calculated and orchestrated political hit" after it earlier appeared he was heading toward confirmation.

He accused the Democrats of "lying in wait," with the Ford allegations, only revealing them publicly after his original confirmation hearing was completed.

He was careful not to denounce Dr Ford, noting that he wished her "no ill will". He said that he was not questioning that Ford may have been sexually assaulted by some person in some place at some time, but that he had never assaulted her or anyone.

Supreme Court appointments must be confirmed by the Senate. The Republicans control the Senate by a narrow 51-49 margin. That means that a handful of moderate Republican senators who have not announced whether or not they support Mr Kavanaugh could determine his fate.

One of them, Senator Lisa Murkowski, told Reuters: "I find Dr Ford's testimony to be credible."

Some Democrats have called on Mr Kavanaugh to withdraw in light of the allegations. At the hearing, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham castigated Democratic senators, seeking to rally Republicans not to abandon the nominee.

"This is the most unethical sham since I've been in politics," Graham said, adding that voting against Kavanaugh would legitimise the attacks on the nominee.

The committee could vote on Mr Kavanaugh's confirmation on Friday, with a final Senate vote early next week.

Mr Kavanaugh's confirmation would cement conservative control of the high court as Trump moves to shift it and the broader federal judiciary to the right.

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