DONALD Trump’s Supreme Court Justice nominee will today learn his fate after a emotionally-charged day of testimony from himself and the woman accusing him of attempted rape.
A furious Brett Kavanaugh yesterday labelled the allegations against him a “joke” after Christine Blasey Ford painstakingly described in excruciating detail the alleged 1982 attack.
Kavanaugh, whose confirmation to the Supreme Court would swing the nine-person US court firmly to the right, hit out at Democrats as he claimed he was the victim of a “political hit”.
Over four hours, Dr Ford, a psychology professor at Palo Alto University in California, choked back tears as she told the committee how she was “100 per cent” certain a drunken Kavanaugh attacked her at a house party as teenagers.
She alleged he pinned her to the bed and lay on top of her covering her mouth with his hand while he tried to remove her clothing when she was just 15-years-old.
Now the Senate Judiciary Committee members who heard the pair’s testimonies will vote on his fate. The vote, which takes place at 9.30am (2.30pm BST), will take place among a committee controlled 12-11 by the Republicans.
What we know so far:
While all Democrats are expected to vote no, of the 11 Republicans, only the vote of Jeff Flake of Arizona remains in doubt.
The retiring senator, who has stayed quiet in recent days, told reporters yesterday: “This isn’t easy. We just do the best we can.”
However, even if the vote passes, Republicans then face the prospect of confirming the nomination in the full Senate.
Currently controlled 51-49 by Trump’s fellow Republicans, a single defection from his camp would require Vice President Mike Pence to break a tie.
Yesterday’s hearing took place against the backdrop of the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and assault, and many labelled her harrowing public testimony as a defining moment in the movement.
President Donald Trump, Kavanaugh’s patron, is accused by more than a dozen women of sexual misconduct and says he’s been falsely accused.
Allies of the movement argue that an allegation of sexual assault should be taken seriously enough to be investigated by the FBI. Ford’s was not.
In many ways, the hearing turned on Ford’s credibility as a victim of and a witness to an event that Kavanaugh staunchly denies.
Many women across the US are also concerned that should he join the Supreme Court, the right-wing majority of Justices could overturn landmark legislation that grants the right to abortion.
Ford first alleged in an interview with the Washington Post earlier this month that Mr Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed and tried to undress her when they were both teenagers.
A second woman, Deborah Ramirez, then came forward to accuse the prospective Supreme Court justice of thrusting his penis in her face when they were both at Yale University in the 1980s.
Finally, Julie Swetnick went public with an accusation Kavanaugh was present at parties where women were drugged and “gang raped” by groups of men.
WHAT DID THEY SAY AT THE HEARING?
Dr Ford told the committee that, one night in the summer of 1982, a drunken 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.
Reading from a prepared statement, Dr Ford said Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge pushed her into a bedroom at a house party.
She said: “Brett groped me and tried to take off my clothes. He had a hard time because he was so drunk, and because I was wearing a one-piece bathing suit under my clothes. I believed he was going to rape me. I tried to yell for help. When I did, Brett put his hand over my mouth to stop me from screaming.
“It was hard for me to breathe, and I thought that Brett was accidentally going to kill me. This was what terrified me the most, and has had the most lasting impact on my life.”
Upon questioning, Ford’s voice cracked as she described her most vivid memory being the “uproarious laughter” of the pair.
“They were laughing with each other. Having fun at my expense. Two friends having a really good time with one another.”
Kavanaugh next took centre stage to angrily and tearfully claimed he was the victim of a “political hit” after Dr Ford said she was “100 percent certain” he attacked her. He branded himself a victim of “grotesque and obvious character assassination”.
He then “unequivocally and categorically” denied Ford’s allegation, adding: “I will not be intimidated into withdrawing from this process.”
“I’m here today to tell the truth, I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone, not in high school, not college, not ever. Those who make allegations always deserve to be heard. At the same time, the subject of the allegations also deserves to be heard.”
WHAT HAPPENS NOW?
The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled its vote for Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court for 9.30am local time (2.30pm BST) today.
Democrats have said the move scheduling the vote was “outrageous” and designed to railroad through Kavanaugh’s nomination. The failure to bring Kavanaugh’s alleged accomplice Mark Judge and his two other accusers before the committee was also criticised.
The committee is narrowly split with an 11-10 Republican majority. Democrats are expected to oppose the nominee.
But even if the panel deadlocks on whether to recommend the judge for confirmation, the full Senate could start taking procedural votes on Saturday, setting up a final vote as soon as Tuesday.
Of the 11 Republicans on the Judiciary Committee, only the vote of Jeff Flake of Arizona remains in doubt. The retiring senator told reporters late Thursday, “this isn’t easy”. He added it left him “with as much doubt as certainty.”
If his nomination is approved, it would be brought to the Senate where a vote in the full chamber – currently controlled by the Republicans – would secure his position on the Supreme Court.
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