Brett Kavanaugh says family name ‘destroyed’ by sex assault claim

Update - 8.15pm: US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is now testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

He told a Senate panel that his family and his name “have been totally and permanently destroyed”.

Mr Kavanaugh spoke after Christine Blasey Ford gave evidence that Mr Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when both were in high school.

She said she was terrified to come forward but did so because she felt it was her civic duty.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh is sworn in to give evidence (Andrew Harnik/PA)
Judge Brett Kavanaugh is sworn in to give evidence (Andrew Harnik/PA)

He said his confirmation process has become “a national disgrace” and a “character assassination”.

Ms Ford said the attack was seared in her memory and she was “100%” certain that it was Mr Kavanaugh who attacked her.

President Donald Trump has nominated Mr Kavanaugh for a vacancy on the Supreme Court, the body that has the final word on key issues like abortion and same-sex marriage.

Update - 5.30pm:Christine Blasey Ford has told a US Senate committee and a riveted nation that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in a locked room at a 1980s high school gathering.

“I believed he was going to rape me,” said Ms Ford, 51, her voice breaking during the extraordinary hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Expressing certainty that Mr Kavanaugh was her alleged attacker, the California psychology professor explained how the brain remembers traumatic events.

“Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter, the uproarious laughter of the two,” she said, referring to Mr Kavanaugh and a friend who was with him.

Ms Ford told the committee that, one night in the summer of 1982, a drunken Mr Kavanaugh forced her down on a bed, “groped me and tried to take off my clothes”, then clamped his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream before she was able to escape.

Mr Kavanaugh, 53, has denied Ms Ford’s and other women’s allegations of sexual misconduct in a clash that has underscored America’s political and cultural fault lines.

But the accumulating accusations have raised questions about whether Republican leaders will be able to hold Republican senators behind President Donald Trump’s nominee.

Brett Kavanaugh (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
Brett Kavanaugh (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

The conservative jurist, whose Senate confirmation had seemed assured until Ms Ford and the other women emerged, awaited his own chance to give evidence later in the day.

With millions watching on television, Ms Ford told the top committee Democrat, California Senator Dianne Feinstein, that she had “agonised daily” over coming forward about the alleged decades-old attack.

She said she feared the personal consequences would be akin to “jumping in front of a train”.

In fact, both she and Mr Kavanaugh have received death threats.

Republicans have challenged Ms Ford’s and the other women’s allegations, in part because it took them years to come forward.

Christine Blasey Ford before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington (Andrew Harnik/AP)
Christine Blasey Ford before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington (Andrew Harnik/AP)

But when Ms Feinstein asked her how she could be sure that Mr Kavanaugh was the alleged attacker, Ms Ford said: “The same way I’m sure I’m talking to you right now.”

The judiciary panel’s 11 Republicans – all men – let Rachel Mitchell, a veteran sex crimes prosecutor from Arizona, ask their questions.

She began by expressing sympathy for Ms Ford, saying: “I just wanted to let you know, I’m very sorry. That’s not right.”

Rachel Mitchell (Andrew Harnik/AP)
Rachel Mitchell (Andrew Harnik/AP)

Ms Mitchell led Ms Ford through a detailed recollection of the events she says occurred on the day of the alleged incident.

But under the committee’s procedures, the career prosecutor was limited to five minutes at a time, interspersed between Democrats’ questions, creating a choppy effect as she tried piecing together the story.

Before she began, committee chairman Chuck Grassley defended the Republicans’ handling of the confirmation proceedings so far.

Chuck Grassley (Win McNamee/Pool Photo via AP)
Chuck Grassley (Win McNamee/Pool Photo via AP)

Ms Feinstein criticised Republicans who have rejected Democratic demands to slow Mr Kavanaugh’s confirmation process and let the FBI investigate all the allegations, saying: “What I don’t understand is the rush to judgment.”

Mr Kavanaugh and Ms Ford are the only witnesses invited to give evidence before the panel.

But the conservative jurist is facing allegations of sexual misconduct from other women as well, forcing Republican leaders to struggle to keep support for him from eroding.

Mr Grassley complained that lawyers for other accusers have not provided information to his panel, and said: “The committee can’t do an investigation if attorneys are stonewalling.”

Christine Blasey Ford is sworn in by Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley (Tom Williams/Pool Photo via AP)
Christine Blasey Ford is sworn in by Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley (Tom Williams/Pool Photo via AP)

Republicans acknowledged that much was riding on Mr Kavanaugh’s performance.

Even Mr Trump, who fiercely defends his nominee, said he would be watching and was “open to changing my mind”.

Republicans are pushing to seat Mr Kavanaugh before the November midterms, when Senate control could fall to the Democrats and a replacement Trump nominee could have even greater difficulty.

Mr Kavanaugh’s ascendance to the high court could help lock in a conservative majority for a generation, shaping dozens of rulings on abortion, regulation, the environment and more.

Republicans also risk rejection by female voters in November if they are seen as not fully respecting women and their allegations.

Update 4.15pm: Christine Blasey Ford has said she “agonised daily” over the decision on whether to come forward to speak about sexual assault allegations against US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Ms Ford’s voice cracked as she spoke to the Senate Judiciary Committee, calling Mr Kavanaugh “the boy who sexually assaulted me”.

She said the alleged assault has been seared into her memory and has haunted her.

Watch live here:

Christine Blasey Ford before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington (Andrew Harnik/AP)
Christine Blasey Ford before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington (Andrew Harnik/AP)

Ms Ford said Mr Kavanaugh barricaded her in a bedroom at a house party during high school and got on top of her and assaulted her.

She said that over the years, she convinced herself that because she was not raped, she should just pretend that it did not happen.

But when it became clear Mr Kavanaugh was likely to be named to the court, Ms Ford said she faced a difficult choice.

She said that she sent a letter detailing the allegations to Senator Dianne Feinstein but had planned not to come forward.

But the letter was leaked to the press and she then decided that she should speak out to tell her story in her own words.

Mr Kavanaugh has denied any allegations.

Brett Kavanaugh (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
Brett Kavanaugh (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

Before Ms Ford began, committee chairman Chuck Grassley defended the Republicans’ handling of the confirmation proceedings so far.

He also apologised for the harsh treatment – which has included death threats – that both Ms Ford and Mr Kavanaugh have endured.

The committee’s top Democrat, Ms Feinstein, told Ms Ford: “I am very grateful to you for your strength and your bravery for coming forward. I know it’s hard.”

She criticised Republicans who have rejected Democratic demands to slow Mr Kavanaugh’s confirmation process and let the FBI investigate all the allegations, saying: “What I don’t understand is the rush to judgment.”

Mr Kavanaugh and Ms Ford were the only witnesses invited to give evidence before the panel of 11 Republicans – all men – and 10 Democrats.

But the conservative jurist is facing allegations of sexual misconduct from other women as well, forcing Republican leaders to struggle to keep support for him from eroding.

Mr Grassley complained that lawyers for other accusers have not provided information to his panel, and said: “The committee can’t do an investigation if attorneys are stonewalling.”

Chuck Grassley (Win McNamee/Pool Photo via AP)
Chuck Grassley (Win McNamee/Pool Photo via AP)

Republicans have derided Ms Ford’s allegation as part of a smear campaign and a Democratic plot to sink Mr Kavanaugh’s nomination.

But after more allegations emerged, some Republican senators have admitted that much is riding on his performance.

Even President Donald Trump, who nominated Mr Kavanaugh and fiercely defends him, said he was “open to changing my mind”.

“I want to watch, I want to see,” he said at a news conference Wednesday in New York.

Protesters gather in Washington (Patrick Semansky/AP)
Protesters gather in Washington (Patrick Semansky/AP)

Mr Kavanaugh, a federal appeals court judge who has long been eyed for the Supreme Court, has repeatedly denied all the allegations, saying he had never heard of the latest accuser and calling her accusations “ridiculous and from the Twilight Zone”.

The hearing was the first time the country had seen 51-year-old Ms Ford beyond the grainy photo that has been flashed on television in the 10 days since she came forward with her contention.

- Press Association

Earlier: Kavanaugh and accuser Ford face historic Senate hearing

Brett Kavanaugh says family name ‘destroyed’ by sex assault claim

Update 3.22pm: The US Senate Judiciary Committee has begun its historic hearing in which Brett Kavanaugh hopes to salvage his Supreme Court nomination by fending off allegations by Christine Blasey Ford that he molested her when both were in high school.

Mr Kavanaugh and Ms Ford are the only witnesses invited to give evidence before the panel of 11 Republicans – all men – and 10 Democrats.

Watch live here:

But the conservative jurist is facing allegations of sexual misconduct from other women as well, forcing Republican leaders to struggle to keep support for him from eroding.

Christine Blasey Ford (Michael Reynolds/Pool Photo via AP)
Christine Blasey Ford (Michael Reynolds/Pool Photo via AP)

Committee chairman Chuck Grassley opened the hearing with an apology to both Mr Kavanaugh and his accuser for the way they have been treated, saying they and their families have received “vile threats”.

The Republican promised a “safe, comfortable and dignified” atmosphere as his committee hears from both.

It will hear first from Ms Ford, a California psychology professor who accuses him of attempting to rape her when they were teenagers.

Republicans have derided Ms Ford’s allegation as part of a smear campaign and a Democratic plot to sink Mr Kavanaugh’s nomination.

But after more allegations emerged, some Republican senators have admitted that much is riding on Mr Kavanaugh’s performance.

Even President Donald Trump, who nominated Mr Kavanaugh and fiercely defends him, said he was “open to changing my mind”.

“I want to watch, I want to see,” he said at a news conference on Wednesday in New York.

Mr Kavanaugh has repeatedly denied all the allegations, saying he had never heard of the latest accuser and calling her accusations “ridiculous and from the Twilight Zone”.

The hearing was to be the first time the country sees and hears from 51-year-old Ms Ford beyond the grainy photo that has been flashed on television in the 10 days since she came forward with her contention.

In testimony released beforehand, she said she was appearing only because she felt it was her duty, was frankly “terrified” and has been the target of vile harassment and even death threats.

“It is not my responsibility to determine whether Mr Kavanaugh deserves to sit on the Supreme Court,” she was to tell the senators.

Protesters gather in Washington (Patrick Semansky/AP)
Protesters gather in Washington (Patrick Semansky/AP)

“My responsibility is to tell the truth.”

Republicans are pushing to seat Mr Kavanaugh before the November midterms, when Senate control could fall to the Democrats and a replacement Trump nominee could have even greater difficulty.

Mr Kavanaugh’s ascendance to the high court could help lock in a conservative majority for a generation, shaping dozens of rulings on abortion, regulation, the environment and more.

Republicans also risk rejection by female voters in November if they are seen as not fully respecting women and their allegations.

- Press Association

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