The Senate hearing into sexual allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Friday morning (AEST) was dramatic enough.
But things hit fever pitch when a Democratic senator challenged Judge Kavanaugh to quit the hearing and submit himself to an FBI investigation into the allegations of sexual misconduct that threaten to derail his confirmation process.
In one of the most incendiary moments of the session, Senator Dick Durbin challenged Judge Kavanaugh to immediately suspend the hearing and bring in the FBI – just as the nominee says he’s been willing to do since Christine Blasey Ford first made the sexual assault allegation against him earlier this month.
“I’ve got a suggestion for you: Right now, turn to your left in the front row, to Don McGahn, counsel to President Donald Trump, ask him to suspend this hearing and nomination process until the FBI completes its investigation of the charges made by Dr Ford and others and goes to bring the witnesses forward and provides that information to this hearing,” Senator Durbin said.
Watch the moment here
Judge Kavanaugh was visibly rattled by the challenge, until Senator Grassley interrupted, refusing to suspend the hearing regardless of what Judge Kavanaugh said.
But Senator Durbin continued.
“If you, Judge Kavanaugh, turned to Don McGahn and to this committee and say, ‘for the sake of my reputation, my family name and to get to the bottom of the truth of this, I am not going to stay being an obstacle to an FBI investigation,’ I would hope that all of the members of the committee would join me in saying we’re going to abide by your wishes and we will have that investigation,” Senator Durbin said.
“I welcome whatever the committee wants to do because I’m telling the truth,” Judge Kavanaugh responded, concluding that the FBI would not reach a conclusion if it investigated the allegations, and accusing Senator Durbin of asking “a phoney question.”
The fiery exchange was just one dramatic moment among many during the hearing in which Judge Kavanaugh angrily and tearfully denied Dr Ford’s accusation that he sexually assaulted her 36 years ago.
Mr Kavanaugh is a conservative federal appeals court judge chosen by President Donald Trump for a lifetime job on the top US court, but faces allegations of sexual misconduct not only from Dr Ford, but two further women.
Judge Kavanaugh showed America exactly why I nominated him. His testimony was powerful, honest, and riveting. Democrats’ search and destroy strategy is disgraceful and this process has been a total sham and effort to delay, obstruct, and resist. The Senate must vote!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 27, 2018
Dr Ford appeared in public for the first time on Thursday (US time) to detail her allegation against Mr Kavanaugh, telling the hearing she was “100 per cent certain” he did assault her, and it was not a case of mistaken identity.
Dr Ford, a psychology professor at Palo Alto University in California, said a drunken Mr Kavanaugh attacked her at a house party in Maryland when he was 17 and she was 15 in 1982.
Dr Ford told the hearing she feared Mr Kavanaugh would rape and accidentally kill her during the alleged assault when both were high school students in Maryland.
But Judge Kavanaugh was vehement in his denial.
“I swear today, under oath, before the Senate and the nation, before my family and God, I am innocent of this charge,” he told the committee, calling himself a victim of “grotesque and obvious character assassination”.
At times he choked back tears, especially when mentioning that his daughter suggested they pray for Dr Ford, and when he mentioned women friends who have rallied to support him.