Trump's Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh says "I'm innocent" in testimony before US Senate Judiciary Committee after the panel heard testimony from professor Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of trying to rape her 36 years ago.
Emotionally battling to rescue his Supreme Court nomination, a beleaguered Brett Kavanaugh fought back on Thursday against allegations that he'd sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford when both were high school students, telling Congress that allegations by her and others have "totally and permanently destroyed" his family and his reputation.
"I will not be intimidated into withdrawing from this process," Kavanaugh told the Senate Judiciary Committee, insisting "I am innocent of this charge" of sexual assault from decades ago.
"My family and my name have been totally and permanently destroyed by vicious and false additional accusations," said Kavanaugh, fighting back tears as he insisted he has never sexually assaulted anyone.
Kavanaugh's high-stakes testimony followed just minutes after the panel heard from professor Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of trying to rape her at a 1982 party when the two were in high school, adding she is "100 percent" certain it was him.
TRT World's Jon Brain reports.
'You'll never get me to quit'
Kavanaugh told lawmakers that "You may defeat me in the final vote, but you'll never get me to quit. Never," adding "This confirmation process has become a national disgrace."
He lashed out at the committee over the time it has taken to convene the hearing after Ford's allegation first emerged, saying "This is a circus."
He urged senators to listen to the people who know him and not those making grotesque allegations against him.
Behind him in the audience, his wife, Ashley, sat looking stricken. He was close to tears when he mentioned his mother and daughter and, later, his father.
The hearing, which has riveted Americans and intensified the political polarisation in the United States, occurred against the backdrop of the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and assault.
Ford and Kavanaugh, a conservative federal appeals court judge picked by Trump in July for a lifetime job on the high court, were the only two witnesses scheduled for the Judiciary Committee.
Kavanaugh has been accused of sexual misconduct by two other women as well. He has denied all the allegations.
"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," Ford said earlier, reading from her prepared testimony, her voice breaking with emotion.
Ford was seated at a table in the packed hearing room flanked by her lawyers, facing a bank of senators. Cameras from news photographers clicked as she entered the room and took her seat, smiling nervously.
Ford, a psychology professor at Palo Alto University in California, said a drunken Kavanaugh attacked her and tried to remove her clothing at a gathering of teenagers in Maryland when he was 17 years old and she was 15.
"Brett groped me and tried to take off my clothes. He had a hard time because he was very inebriated and because I was wearing a one-piece bathing suit under my clothing. I believed he was going to rape me. I tried to yell for help," Ford said, adding that Kavanaugh and a friend of his were "drunkenly laughing during the attack."
Ford said that when she tried to yell out, he put his hand over her mouth. She said she was able to escape when Kavanaugh and another boy she said was in the room fell off the bed.
TRT World spoke with political analyst Daniel Geltrude, who said the party politics opposes getting to the truth but they should let Ford express her feelings without taking any side.
He said the case is going to come down to "believability".
'Media circus' decried
Republican Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the committee, said at the opening of the hearing that he wanted it to be "safe comfortable and dignified for both of our witnesses."
He decried the "media circus" around the allegations against Kavanaugh and said the nominee and Ford had been through a terrible couple of weeks since Ford levelled her accusation.
"What they have endured ought to be considered by all of us as unacceptable and a poor reflection on the state of civility in our democracy," Grassley said. "So I want to apologise to you both for the way you've been treated."
Dr. Ford has passed a polygraph test and given the Committee the results. Judge Kavanaugh has not. She has called for outside witnesses to testify. Judge Kavanaugh has not. She called for an FBI investigation. Judge Kavanaugh has not.— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) September 27, 2018
At Ford's request, Kavanaugh was not in the room when she testified.
Each of the 11 Republican senators and each of the 10 Democratic senators on the committee will have a chance to ask five minutes of questions.
Series of accusations
Kavanaugh has seen his once seemingly secure Senate confirmation engulfed by accusations of sexual abuse that allegedly took place decades ago in his youth.
Just two weeks ago, there was only one version of Kavanaugh on public display: the 53-year-old, esteemed conservative judicial thinker, irreproachable family man and coach to his daughter's baseball team.
Senator Graham is complaining that he felt ambushed by the allegations against Kavanaugh. You know who felt ambushed? Dr. Ford felt ambushed when Kavanaugh & Judge pushed her into a room, locked the door & sexually assaulted her.— Joyce Alene (@JoyceWhiteVance) September 27, 2018
But since then, three women have come forth with serious allegations that paint a far different portrait of the judge as a young man –– a hard partying, heavy drinking student who two of the women say sexually assaulted or abused them.
A third, who came forward on Wednesday, alleged she was gang-raped at a party Kavanaugh attended as a teenager and that she had seen him on other occasions behave abusively toward girls.