Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee faces new sexual assault allegations leaving Republicans scrambling to save a confirmation that until recently had seemed all but certain.
The latest claims of impropriety during Kavanaugh’s youth came as he was already facing a dramatic hearing where his testimony was to be weighed against that of a university professor who has separately accused him of assault.
Senate Democrats are now investigating a bombshell claim by Deborah Ramirez, 53, who says Kavanaugh exposed himself to her during a 1980s college party at Yale University, thrust his genitals in her face and caused her to touch them without her consent, according to The New Yorker.
Kavanaugh denied the story, calling it “a smear, plain and simple”.
“The people who knew me then know that this did not happen, and have said so,” the conservative judge said in a statement.
Like Christine Blasey Ford, the professor accusing him of assaulting her when they were teenagers, Ramirez wants the FBI to investigate the incident and Democratic legislators are backing their demands.
Al Jazeera’s John Hendren, reporting from Washington DC, said the latest accusation has put the whole process in turmoil.
“If every Democrat voted against Kavanaugh they will only need two Republicans to vote with them and this might be enough to make up that margin. So, the committee has a lot to think about in the coming days.”
Ford agreed to testify on Thursday after an increasingly ugly week-long standoff that saw her forced to leave her California home as she faced death threats and the president openly attacked her credibility.
Kavanaugh, who strongly denies the allegation, said he wishes to testify as soon as possible to clear his name following Ford’s claims that he attacked her at a 1980s high school party.
According to The New York Times, the federal judge has calendars from the summer of 1982 he plans to share with senators showing he was out of town most of that time with no indication of the party of concern.
The two parties will testify separately – first Ford, followed by Kavanaugh’s response – the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmed.
On Sunday, Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the judiciary committee, urged the panel to halt proceedings in light of the latest allegation.
“I am writing to request an immediate postponement of any further proceedings related to the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh,” she said in a statement.
“I also ask that the newest allegations of sexual misconduct be referred to the FBI for investigation, and that you join our request for the White House to direct the FBI to investigate the allegations of Christine Blasey Ford as well as these new claims.”
Separately, lawyer Michael Avenatti – who represents adult film star Stormy Daniels in the dispute over her claim she was paid to remain silent about an alleged tryst with Trump – shared an email exchange on Twitter in which he promised the committee evidence of further misconduct by Kavanaugh at 1980s house parties.
Avenatti also confirmed he was not representing Ramirez.
At stake is not only the fate of Trump’s hand-picked Supreme Court nominee but also Republican chances in November’s midterm elections that face increased risk if the polarising confirmation battle drags on.
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