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Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh addressed lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday to deny an allegation that he sexually assaulted a woman decades ago at a high school gathering in Maryland.
In a tearfully-delivered statement he said he had not shared with anyone except for one of his former law clerks, Kavanaugh denied the allegations against him with more forceful terms than he has used since the accusations first surfaced this month.
He told the committee Thursday that he "my family and my name have been totally and permanently destroyed by vicious and false accusations."
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President Donald Trump's 53-year-old nominee to the high court has said that in high school and college he was focused on athletics and his academic career, though some of his former classmates have cast doubt on his account. Democrats have also pointed to captions in his high school yearbook, in which he wrote that he was "treasurer" of "keg city club."
Kavanaugh called the confirmation process a "national disgrace" Thursday.
"You have replaced advise and consent with search and destroy," he said.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., later matched Kavanaugh's tone, accusing Democrats of orchestrating an "unethical sham."
"What you want to do is destroy this guy's life, hold this seat open and hope you win [the presidency] in 2020. You said that! Not me," the South Carolina Republican shouted at Democrats.
Christine Blasey Ford addressed lawmakers earlier in the day. The California professor teared up and emotionally said "I am terrified" as she began telling the committee about her claim of being sexually attacked as a 15-year-old high school girl.
"I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified. I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanaugh and I were in high school," said Ford, a professor at Palo Alto University.
Ford then detailed her allegation against Kavanaugh, which dates to the early 1980s, but was first made public less than two weeks ago in an interview with The Washington Post.
Her voice often cracked as she described the encounter and its aftermath.
"I have been accused of acting out of partisan political motives," Ford said. "Those who say that do not know me."
Democratic senators asked questions directly to Ford. Questions on behalf of Republican committee members were handled by Arizona sex-crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell.
Mitchell sought to poke holes in Ford's testimony, asking her about who paid for her polygraph exam about her allegation, and raising questions about Ford's fear of flying. Ford had said that she was nervous about flying to Washington from California for the hearing, though she acknowledged Thursday that she had previously taken planes for vacation.
When Mitchell asked Ford if she had ever had discussions about how to take a polygraph, Ford said "never."
Republicans have sought to avoid the spectacle of an all-male panel of GOP senators questioning a woman who claims to be a victim of sexual assault. In tapping an experienced female prosecutor, Republicans have also said they plan to avoid turning the hearing into a "political sideshow."
The hearing marked a pivotal moment in what has become a raucous confirmation process. Kavnaugh's chances, once thought to be assured, have been thrust into uncertainty since Ford came forward. On Thursday, a number of senators who are thought to be critical to Kavanaugh's confirmation vote, have said they will be watching closely.
The president himself, who has called all the allegations false, said Wednesday that he was open to Ford persuading him otherwise.
"I'm going to be watching, you know, believe it or not, I'm going to see what's said," Trump said. "It's possible that [Ford] will be convincing."