Woman who accused U.S. Supreme Court nominee of sexual misconduct goes public

U.S. President Donald Trump's nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court was thrust into turmoil Sunday after the woman accusing him of high school-era sexual misconduct told her story publicly for the first time.

Democrats call for delay in Senate committee vote on Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation

Christine Blasey Ford has come forward as the woman accusing U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct. (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

U.S. President Donald Trump's nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court was thrust into turmoil Sunday after the woman accusing him of high school-era sexual misconduct told her story publicly for the first time.

Democrats immediately called for a delay in a key committee vote set for this later week, and at least one Republican panel member said he's willing to hear from the woman, but that the confirmation process must not be derailed.

The woman, Christine Blasey Ford, said in the interview with the Washington Post that Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed at a Maryland party they attended in the early 1980s, clumsily tried to remove her clothing and put his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream

"I thought he might inadvertently kill me," Ford said. "He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing."

The 51-year-old clinical psychology professor at Palo Alto University in California says she was able to get away after a friend of Kavanaugh's who was in the room jumped on top of them and everyone tumbled.

Kavanaugh repeats denial

Kavanaugh, a 53-year-old federal appeals judge in Washington, on Sunday repeated an earlier denial of Ford's allegation.

"I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time," Kavanaugh said.

The allegation first came to light late last week in the form of an anonymous letter that has been in the possession of Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Senate judiciary committee, for some time.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein said Sunday the FBI should investigate Ford's allegations against Kavanaugh and that the probe should occur before the Senate proceeds with the judge's confirmation. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

The committee recently concluded four days of public hearings on the nomination and the panel's Republican chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, scheduled a Thursday vote on whether to recommend that the full Senate confirm Kavanaugh for a lifetime appointment to the nation's highest court.

Democrats, led by New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, immediately called for the vote to be postponed, though the Republican leadership gave no indication Sunday that it would accede to the calls by Democrats, most of whom already publicly oppose Kavanaugh.

Chairman arranging follow-up calls

A spokesperson for the judiciary committee said late Sunday that Grassley is trying to arrange separate, followup calls with Kavanaugh and Ford, but just for aides to Grassley and Feinstein before Thursday's scheduled vote.

But Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake told Poltico and the Post that he's "not comfortable" voting in favour of Kavanaugh's nomination until he learns more about the allegation against him. He said the closely divided committee needs to hear from Kavanaugh's accuser before it can decide on his confirmation.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina and a committee member, said he's willing to hear from Ford provided that it's "done immediately" so the confirmation process can continue as scheduled. Graham said he'd compare her story against all the other information the committee has so far considered about Kavanaaugh.

Critics have accused Republicans of fast-tracking the process to get Kavanaugh seated on the court ahead of the first day of the fall term, Oct. 1.

A spokesperson for Sen. Chuck Grassley said the judiciary committee chairman is trying to arrange separate, follow-up calls with Kavanaugh and Ford in advance of Thursday's vote. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press)

Senate Republicans, along with the White House, see no need to postpone voting over what they consider uncorroborated and unverifiable accusations, according to a person familiar with the situation but not authorized to speak publicly.

In considering their options Sunday, Republicans largely settled on the view that Ford's story alone was not enough to delay Kavanaugh's confirmation.

Grassley could invite Ford to testify, likely in closed session before Thursday. Kavanaugh would also probably be asked to appear before senators. The panel would also likely seek testimony from Mark Judge, Kavanaugh's friend and classmate. Ford identified Judge as the friend who jumped on top of her and Kavanaugh. Judge has denied that the incident happened.

Confirmation still likely

Republicans say the allegations have already cast a shadow over Kavanaugh but that it does not appear to be enough to change the votes in the narrowly divided 51-49 Senate. Key will be the views of Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who did not immediately comment publicly Sunday.

A spokesperson for Grassley said Kavanaugh already went through several days of hearings and was investigated by the FBI. 

The White House has accused Feinstein, who revealed the letter's existence late last week, of mounting an "11th-hour attempt to delay his confirmation." The White House has sought to cast doubt about Ford allegation, noting that the FBI has repeatedly investigated Kavanaugh since the 1990s for highly sensitive roles he has held, including in the office of independent counsel Ken Starr, the White House and his current post on the federal appeals court in Washington.

Ford came forward after story came out

Ford told the Post that Kavanaugh and a friend — both "stumbling drunk," she says — corralled her into a bedroom during a house party in Maryland in the early 1980s when she was around 15 and Kavanaugh was around 17. She says Kavanaugh groped her over her clothes, pushed his body against hers and tried to take off her one-piece swimsuit and the outfit she wore over it.

Kavanaugh covered her mouth with his hand when she tried to scream, she says. She escaped when Kavanaugh's friend jumped on them and everyone tumbled, she says.

In the interview, Ford says she never revealed what had happened to her until 2012, when she and her husband sought couples therapy.

Portions of her therapist's notes, which Ford provided to the Post, do not mention Kavanaugh by name but say Ford reported being attacked by students "from an elitist boys' school" who went on to become "highly respected and high-ranking members of society in Washington."

The therapist's notes say four boys were involved, but Ford says that was an error by the therapist. Ford says four boys were at the party, but only two boys were in the room at the time.

Ford told the Post she changed her mind about coming forward after watching portions of her story come out without her permission. She said if anyone was going to tell her story, she wanted to be the one to tell it.