US President Donald Trump’s conservative Supreme Court pick, Brett Kavanaugh, struck back on Monday at an allegation that he committed sexual assault as a teenager, saying he was ready to defend his “integrity” before the Senate.
“I have never done anything like what the accuser describes – to her or to anyone,” Kavanaugh said in a statement released by the White House in response to the accusation made by a California college professor.
“I am willing to talk to the Senate Judiciary Committee in any way the Committee deems appropriate to refute this false allegation from 36 years ago and defend my integrity.”
Kavanaugh’s defiance promised a major fight in the Republican-led Senate, where his candidacy had appeared poised to sail through, giving Trump the opportunity to tilt the constitutional court to the right for years to come.
Shortly before Kavanaugh’s statement, the accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, announced through her lawyer that she too was ready to testify before the committee.
Ford claims that at a party Kavanaugh – then a schoolboy – drunkenly lay on top of her, tried to pull off her bathing suit and put his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream. She has reportedly backed up her allegation by passing a lie detector test and providing evidence that she had previously talked about the incident, even if she never went to the authorities.
Trump’s top female aide said on Monday that Ford’s claims should be given a hearing.
“This woman should not be insulted and she should not be ignored,” said Kellyanne Conway.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is due to vote on the Kavanaugh nomination on Thursday. That would keep to a timetable in which the Republicans would see the judge safely confirmed before November midterm congressional elections in which Trump’s party risks losing control of the legislature.
A number of committee members have urged holding off on a vote following the bombshell allegation. However, Conway said any new testimony “should not unduly delay the vote”.
Ford, a professor at Palo Alto University, initially detailed the allegations about Brett Kavanaugh in confidential letters to her local congresswoman and later to California Senator Dianne Feinstein, a senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.
Ford told The Washington Post she had decided to waive her anonymity because she felt her “civic responsibility” was “outweighing my anguish and terror about retaliation” after the basic outlines of the story emerged in media last week.
Kavanaugh had previously released a statement on Friday denying the incident, saying: “I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time.”
Ford, who is a registered Democrat herself, told the Post in an interview that one summer in the early 1980s Kavanaugh and a friend, both of whom were “stumbling drunk,” cornered her in a bedroom at a teenagers’ party in a house in Montgomery County, just outside Washington.
Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed while his friend watched, she said, then groped her while attempting to remove her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing on top of it.
When she attempted to scream for help, Kavanaugh put his hand over her mouth.
“I thought he might inadvertently kill me,” said Ford, who is now 51 years old and lives in northern California. “He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing.”
She said she was finally able to escape when another of Kavanaugh’s classmates at his prestigious private school, Mark Judge, jumped on top of them, whereupon all three were sent tumbling and she was able to escape the room, first locking herself in a bathroom before fleeing the house.
She added she did not tell anyone about the attack until 2012 when she brought it up during couples counseling therapy with her husband.
The therapist’s notes from the time, seen by the Post, do not mention Kavanaugh by name but otherwise echo the claim, describing an attack by students “from an elitist boys’ school” who went on to become “highly respected and high-ranking members of society in Washington”.
Notes from a subsequent therapy session a year later describe the attack as a “rape attempt”.