A woman who had anonymously accused US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct in the early 1980s went public on Sunday, but Republicans said they were moving ahead with plans to hold a committee vote this week.
In an interview with the Washington Post, the victim said that as a high school student in suburban Maryland just outside of Washington, a “stumbling drunk” Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed, groped her and attempted to remove her clothing.
Last week, Kavanaugh, Republican President Donald Trump’s second nominee for a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court, said he “categorically and unequivocally” denies the allegations.
The White House did not immediately reply to a request for comment on Sunday. A spokesman for the Senate’s Republican majority leader, Mitch McConnell, said he had no new scheduling announcements.
Because Trump’s fellow Republicans control a slim 51-49 majority in the Senate, Democrats cannot stop Kavanaugh’s appointment unless some Republicans make a rare decision to break with their party and vote against Trump.
Two moderate Republican female senators who support abortion rights, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, have been under particular pressure not to back Kavanaugh, who is seen as a social conservative.
Responding to the latest developments in the Kavanaugh nomination, a spokesman for the panel’s Republican chairman, Senator Chuck Grassley, said, “It’s disturbing that these uncorroborated allegations from more than 35 years ago, during high school, would surface on the eve of a committee vote.”
Senator Lindsey Graham, a senior Republican committee member, said he “would gladly” hear from the victim if she wanted to appear before the panel, but it would have to be done quickly.
“If the committee is to hear from the victim, it should be done immediately so the process can continue as scheduled,” Graham said in a statement.
PRESSING FOR A DELAY
Democrats sought to put pressure on Republicans to delay the process.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said the Judiciary Committee “must postpone the vote until, at a very minimum, these serious and credible allegations are thoroughly investigated.”
Senator Diane Feinstein, the top Judiciary Committee Democrat, issued a statement calling for a delay.
“I support the victim’s decision to share her story and now that she has, it is in the hands of the FBI to conduct an investigation. This should happen before the Senate moves forward on this nominee,” Feinstein said.
In the Washington Post interview, the victim said that when she tried to scream, Kavanaugh put his hand over her mouth. “I thought he might inadvertently kill me,” the victim told the newspaper, adding, “He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing.”
McConnell has said he would like to have Kavanaugh confirmed by Oct. 1, the start of the Supreme Court’s new term.
That timetable would have Kavanaugh sitting on the Supreme Court – if he is confirmed – before Election Day on Nov 6, when one-third of the 100 Senate seats are up for grabs.
The victim, now a 51-year-old research psychologist in California, told the Washington Post that in July she sent a letter to Democratic Representative Anna Eshoo about the incident but requested confidentiality at the time.
The existence of the letter and some details of its contents became public in recent days, however. The victim did not immediately respond to a request from Reuters for comment.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has completed its hearings on Kavanaugh and planned to vote this week on his nomination. A positive vote would set up a debate by the full Senate.