Photo via Lorie Shaull
Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump’s choice to fill the impending vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court, has been accused of sexual assault by a woman who says that when they were teenagers in the early 1980s, Kavanaugh held her down and groped her against her will, covering her mouth to stop her from screaming.
The significant accusation comes in the middle of Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings with the U.S. Senate, in which Democratic legislators have deviated from standard procedures to pressure Kavanaugh and attempt to delay a final decision, fiercely questioning the federal judge’s record on women’s rights issues like abortion. In the wake of the allegation of sexual assault in his youth, Democratic legislators have once again pushed to postpone the proceedings and better assess his personal history.
First reported by the Washington Post, the assault allegations come from Christine Blasey Ford, 51, a psychologist at California’s Palo Alto University. As a high schooler in the Washington D.C. suburbs in the 80s, Ford says that she attended a house party with Kavanaugh, who, along with a friend, drunkenly led her to a bedroom, where the would-be-judge allegedly pinned her to a bed, groped her, and held his hand over her mouth to prevent her from screaming. Ford says that she was only able to escape the situation after Kavanaugh’s friend, Mark Judge, jumped on top of them and disrupted the assault.
“I thought he might inadvertently kill me,” Ford said about the incident, according to the Post. “He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing.”
In the days after the allegation was published in the Post, both Kavanaugh and former classmate Judge have unequivocally denied the accusation. Similarly, White House officials have said that the newly released claim will not change Trump’s support for Kavanaugh or the status of his nomination.
In the Senate Judiciary Committee, though, legislators from both sides of the aisle have already requested interviews with Ford and more information about the allegation, with a number of Democratic senators hoping to delay Kavanaugh's planned confirmation vote, scheduled for this Thursday, September 20th.
“It is more important than ever to hit the pause button on Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote until we can fully investigate these serious and disturbing allegations,” Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) wrote on Twitter shortly after the Post story was published. “We cannot rush to move forward under this cloud.”
Still, standing with the president no matter what, many Republican lawmakers haven’t wavered in their support for Kavanaugh, painting Ford’s accusations as a partisan ploy to discredit the judge, calling the timing of the disclosure into question.
“It raises a lot of questions about Democrats’ tactics and motives to bring this to the rest of the committee’s attention only now,” a statement from Republicans in the Senate Judiciary said, according to the New York Times.
The two most closely watched Republicans in the confirmation process, Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME), have expressed interest in learning more about Ford’s claim, but have not publicly announced whether or not they plan to help Democrats postpone a decision or vote against Kavanaugh.
With only three days until the scheduled Senate confirmation vote, the controversy will come to a head sooner than later, no matter the eventual outcome.