- Brett Kavanaugh defiant as he denies allegations
- Insists that he will not withdraw from confirmation process
- Christine Blasey Ford recalled her version of 1982 events
- She said she was scared judge was going to "accidentally kill her"
- Who are the women making accusations?
- Why the Republicans are in such a hurry
Brett Kavanaugh on Thursday called his confirmation process for the US Supreme Court a “national disgrace” which had “permanently destroyed” his reputation.
Speaking through tears, Mr Kavanaugh furiously denied allegations of sexual assault as he accused Democrats of orchestrating a “grotesque and coordinated character assassination”.
He said the claims had put him “through hell and then some” in the last fortnight, and warned “the whole country will reap the whirlwind” if they are allowed to prevent his nomination during a historic hearing in Washington, DC, which was broadcast live to millions of Americans.
His angry performance won him praise from the president who nominated him.
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
The extraordinary testimony came just hours after his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, a California professor, had appeared before the same Senate Judiciary Committee to outline an alleged sexual assault from the summer of 1982.
Prof Ford, her voice cracking at times, described how she was allegedly pinned to a bed by Mr Kavanaugh at a high school house party as he drunkenly groped her and attempted to take off her clothes.
She said she feared rape and being “accidentally” killed when Mr Kavanaugh allegedly covered her mouth after she screamed, adding she was “100 per cent” certain that he was the man who carried out the assault.
Prof Ford said she was only able to escape when Mark Judge, a friend of Mr Kavanaugh’s who she alleges was in the room, jumped on the pair, allowing her to run out of the room. Mr Judge has denied the claims but refused to give evidence.
The emotional testimony from both figures appeared to split the senators on the committee and left Mr Kavanaugh’s nomination hanging in the balance. Ultimately a majority of the US Senate must vote yes for him to be confirmed.
Some Democratic senators said that Prof Ford had proved a “credible” witness and that they believed her claims, noting she had made them privately before Mr Kavanaugh had been nominated and had little to gain from going public.
But Republicans rowed behind Mr Kavanaugh. Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator close to Donald Trump, called the treatment of Mr Kavanaugh the “most unethical sham since I’ve been in politics” and pledged to vote yes to his nomination.
Mr Graham’s intervention was cheered by some senior White House figures on Twitter.
The dramatic hearing on Capitol Hill came as Mr Kavanaugh attempted to fill the open seat on the Supreme Court, a lifetime appointment that would allow him to shape American society for generations to come.
Selected by Mr Trump, Mr Kavanaugh had been cruising to confirmation until Prof Ford went public with her allegation. She was followed by two more women, Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick, who made accusations of sexual misconduct.
For a fortnight Mr Kavanaugh, 53, has remained largely quiet, issuing measured statements denying every committing sexual assault. Even a recent Fox News interview, unprecedented in modern confirmation hearings, saw him remain calm and restrained.
But when he appeared before senators after Prof Ford’s testimony, Mr Kavanaugh made clear the anger he felt over the allegations, how late they had emerged in his confirmation process and how Democrats had handled them.
“This confirmation has become a national disgrace. The constitution gives the Senate an important role in the confirmation process, but you have replaced advice and consent with search and destroy,” he said.
The Republican race to confirm Brett Kavanaugh
Mr Kavanaugh broke down repeatedly during his opening statement, which lasted close to an hour, often pausing to sip water and regain his composure. His wife, Ashley, looked on in the row behind, also appearing to hold back tears.
Mr Kavanaugh said: “This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fuelled with a pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons and millions of dollars in money from outside, left-wing opposition groups.
“This is a circus. The consequences will extend long past my nomination. The consequences will be with us for decades. This grotesque and coordinated character assassination will dissuade competent and good people of all political persuasions from serving our country.”
He admitted he had drunk beer during his high school years, and sometimes had “too many beers”, but repeatedly said he had never sexually assaulted anyone.
Who is Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee?
Mr Kavanaugh categorically denied ever having been in a room alone with Prof Ford and Mr Judge, ever covering Prof Ford’s mouth with his hand or trying to remove her clothes.
The testimony directly contradicted that of Prof Ford, who said she was “terrified” to speak publicly at the start of her statement yesterday but thought it was her “civic duty” to do so.
Asked which part of the alleged assault she could remember most vividly, Prof Ford said, voice wavering: “The uproarious laughter between the two. They’re having fun at my expense.”
Asked if she may have mistaken the attacker’s identity, she said: “Absolutely not”.
Democrats repeatedly called for the FBI to look into the allegations, but the Republicans rejected the demands.
The White House is keen to secure a confirmation before the November midterms, after which the Republican majority could be lost in the Senate. If that happened, the Democrats could block any nomination.
Trump: Hearing was 'brutal'
President Donald Trump described Thursday’s heated Senate hearing as "brutal" and "hard to watch" during an evening Republican fundraiser.
But he also praised his Supreme Court nominee for defending himself against allegations of sexual assault.
Mr Trump described Mr Kavanaugh as a "great guy" and a "great man" as he headlined a fundraising dinner at his Washington hotel, according to an attendee who spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to describe Trump’s speech publicly.
He made no mention of Mr Kavanaugh’s accuser Christine Blasey Ford, the person said.
The president arrived late at the fundraiser, leaving the White House only after Mr Kavanaugh had finished his testimony.
The fundraiser was for "Protect the House," a joint committee that benefits the National Republican Congressional Committee and other groups.
What happened to the prosecutor?
Republicans appointed Rachel Mitchell, an Arizona sex crimes prosecutor to question Prof Ford, and she led off the questioning of Mr Kavanaugh. Then she quickly faded away.
After Ms Mitchell asked the judge several detailed questions about the allegations, the Republican senators took matters into their own hands. Lindsey Graham led the way with a scorching denunciation of Democrats for raising the allegations against Mr Kavanaugh in the final days of the confirmation process. From there, each GOP senator handled his own questions, while Ms Mitchell sat silently nearby.
Hours earlier, she had opened her questioning of Prof Ford by expressing sympathy for the professor, who said she was "terrified" to testify.
"I just wanted to let you know, I’m very sorry. That’s not right," she said.
As her time for questioning Prof Ford was coming to an end, the prosecutor rhetorically asked the witness about the best way to question victims of sex crimes.
"Would you believe me that no study says that this setting in five-minute increments is the way to do that?" she asked.
Friday's vote confirmed
Republican members of the Senate judiciary committee have been meeting privately to discuss their next move. Word is filtering out that they will press ahead with a committee vote at 9.30am on Friday as planned. According to CNN’s Manu Raju that will be followed by a procedural vote on the Senate floor on Saturday that could lead to a full confirmation vote early next week.
Just one question: Do they have the numbers? I suspect they don’t know yet.
Five things we learned
There were many new details to pick through. Here are five key points from today:
- Brett Kavanaugh is angry. His opening statement was a lesson in outrage as he offered a different persona to his meek performance in a TV interview this
- The judge likes beer. He frequently admitted to enjoying beer, but Democratics seemed sceptical that he never drank to the point of losing his memory
- Christine Blase Ford makes for an eloquent, consistent witness. Her fear of coming forward offered a convincing explanation to why she waited so long
- Five-minute segments are no way to question anyone, much less an alleged victim of sexual assault. Particularly in front of any audience
- Donald Trump likes a fighter. His support – issued in a tweet – could yet be enough to keep a majority of Republicans on side to vote through Mr Kavanaugh
Mark Judge disputes account
A lawyer for Mark Judge says he "does not recall the events" described by Prof Ford during her dramatic testimony. Mr Kavanaugh’s school friend is one of the few possible witnesses to the events that Prof Ford said happened in 1982.
Barbara Van Gelder said after the hearing ended that her client "does not want to comment about these events publicly" and "will not respond to any media inquiries".
She added that he was "willing to answer written questions, and he has. In addition, he is willing to participate in a confidential, fact-finding investigation."
Before 'God and country'
The final question to Brett Kavanaugh at the Senate Judiciary Committee was a spiritual one. John Kennedy of Louisiana asked the Supreme Court nominee if he believed in God.
When Mr Kavanaugh said he did, Mr Kennedy told him this was a "last opportunity" to testify before "God and country."
The senator asked the judge to look him in the eye. Then he asked Mr Kavanaugh if the allegations of sexual assault from Christine Blasey Ford were true.
Mr Kavanaugh replied: "They’re not accurate."
He again insisted that he did not question her testimony that she had been assaulted "by someone, some place".
But Mr Kavanaugh said he had "never done this to anyone, including her."
Donald Trump tweets support for his nominee
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
Perhaps the only verdict that mattered today. Mr Kavanaugh retains the president support. So he’s not going anywhere and we are set for a judiciary committee vote in the morning.
Ashley Kavanaugh looks on
Mr Kavanaugh’s emotional 45-minute opening statement was watched intently by his wife, Ashley, whose lips were trembling.
Republicans intent on full steam ahead
Sr WH official tells me “President Trump is very pleased with Brett Kavanaugh’s righteous indignation regarding the personal destruction of his good name and his family. He’s confident in his choice.”
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) September 27, 2018
The word around Capitol Hill, among staffers, remains that the judiciary committee is preparing for a vote first thing on Friday, with a rapid timetable to get the confirmation to the full Senate in the first couple of days next week.
Judge Kavanaugh says questions are an 'absurdity'
In a heated exchange with a Democratic senator Judge Kavanaugh dismissed the scrutiny of his high school yearbook as an "absurdity".
Democratic senators have been bringing up his yearbook as they question him.
Patrick Leahy, the Vermont senator, asked Judge Kavanaugh about the "drinking" and "sexual exploits" it mentions.
Judge Kavanaugh said: "I’m going to talk about my high school record if you’re going to sit here and mock me."
The judge said he had "busted his butt" on academics and played sports in high school.
Lindsey Graham calls process the 'most despicable thing I've seen in politics'
In a furious outburst Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator, accused his Democrat colleagues on the committee of setting out to destroy judge Kavanaugh.
He said Democrats had sat on allegations and then sprung them on the nominee at the last minute in a desperate attempt to prevent his confirmation.
The South Carolina senator said Democrats wanted to hold the Supreme Court seat open in the hope of winning the White House in 2020.
Mr Graham said he would be voting for Judge Kavanaugh.
He said any vote against would "legitimise the most despicable thing I have ever seen in politics".
He also called the Democrats’ tactics an "unethical sham."
Donald Trump 'riveted' by Judge Kavanaugh's testimony
Word is emanating from the White House that Mr Trump, who is watching on television, is liking Judge Kavanaugh’s extraordinary appearance at the hearing
President Trump is "riveted" and telling people, "This is why I nominated him," in a positive way, per person close to him. Talking to lots of people inside WH about how he likes how Kavanaugh is fighting back. Admires the defiance.
— Robert Costa (@costareports) September 27, 2018
Mr Trump was said to have been displeased by the judge’s recent, softer interview on Fox News, and wanted him to be more aggressive and fight for his spot on the Supreme Court.
Judge Kavanaugh calls allegation a 'joke and farce'
Judge Kavanaugh had an angry exchange with Dianne Feinstein, the Democrat senator.
He said he "emphatically" denied all the allegations against him, singling out the one made by Julie Swetnick involving gang rapes.
He said: "The Swetnick thing is a joke. It’s a farce."
The judge also admitted to having sometimes drunk too much beer in high school. "I like beer. i still like beer," he said.
But he denied ever having drunk to the point of passing out.
Judge Kavanaugh says he was a virgin in high school and long after
The judge said he wanted people to know "who he was" as a young man.
He said: "I never had sexual intercourse or anything close to it in high school or for years afterwards."
The judge said he was "outwardly shy about my inexperience" at the time, but "inwardly proud" of it.
He said it was a matter of "faith and caution".
Judge Kavanaugh defiant
In a defiant and sometimes tearful opening statement Judge Kavanaugh blamed Democrats, saying they were pursuing revenge on behalf of the Clintons.
He described how one Democrat senator on the committee called him "evil". He added: "Think about that."
The judge said the confirmation process had become a "national disgrace" and an exercise in "search and destroy".
He said: "There has been a frenzy on the left to come up with something, anything, to block my nomination. They want to blow me up and take me down.
"You sowed the winds for decades to come. I fear the whole country will reap the whirlwind.
"You may defeat me in a final vote but you’ll never get me to quit. This is a circus and the consequences will be with us for decades."
'No wonder Republicans are in a rush'
Rob Crilly says it’s "no wonder are in a rush"
Republicans are desperate to bulldoze this issue away by getting Mr Kavanaugh through the process. And it is no wonder that Democrats are so keen to stall progress.
The Republicans’ worst case scenario is that the issue drags on beyond the midterms. With the way the numbers are going there is every chance that the party could lose two seats and control of the Senate – unthinkable only a few weeks ago because most of the competitive races are in Republican-leaning states.
Lose the Senate and the probability of winning the vote to confirm Mr Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court reduces to zero.
That would be a disaster not just for the Republican party but for the president himself.
Lindsey Graham says allegations 'not corroborated'
Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator, says he feels "ambushed" by Democrats.
He accused the Democrats of using Prof Ford’s allegation to delay the nomination until after the midterm elections in November, when they hope to take back control of the Senate.
Mr Graham, himself a lawyer, said: "I didn’t find her allegations to be corroborated against Judge Kavanaugh. The presumption of innocence attaches to the person accused.
"She’s very competent, a very accomplished lady. Something happened, I don’t know what, I don’t know when it happened, and where it happened. This is all delay."
Prof Ford's testimony is over
The witness has concluded after four hours of questioning.
Reaction across the political spectrum appeared to be that she was a sympathetic and honest witness.
She was thanked by both Democrats and Republicans for her testimony.
Prof Ford was treated with respect by Rachel Mitchell, the lawyer representing Republican senators.
Juge Kavanaugh is up after a break.
Fox News anchor says Prof Ford's testimony is a 'disaster' for Republicans
Donald Trump is watching the hearing on Fox News at the White House
Fox News anchor Chris Wallace has called Prof Ford’s testimony a "disaster" for Republicans.
Wallace, and some others on the influential news channel, have used breaks in the committee hearing to say Prof Ford has performed strongly.
The commentators also expressed frustration about the line of questioning pursued by prosecutor Rachel Mitchell, and said Prof Ford was coming across as credible.
Fox News journalist Brit Hume said: "The more hesitant, the more fragile she has seemed, the more credible and powerful she seems to the audience."
Republican senator says: 'I don’t think she’s uncredible'
During a committee break Orrin Hatch, the veteran republican senator, said: "I don’t think she’s uncredible. I think she an attractive, good witness. In other words, she’s pleasing.”
A spokesman for the senator later clarified that he was not using the word "attractive" to describe Prof Ford’s appearance, he meant she was a "good witness".
Prof Ford quizzed over fear of flying
Prof Ford has been questioned by Rachel Mitchell about her fear of flying.
She asked if the professor was afraid of flying, and she said she was.
The lawyer then asked if she took a plane from California to Washington for the hearing. Prof Ford said she had been "able to get up the gumption" to do so, with the help of friends.
Ms Mitchell also outlined a list of exotic destinations Prof Ford had flown to in the past, including Hawaii.
Prof Ford said it was easier for her to overcome her fear of flying when she was going somewhere nice on holiday.
The hearing has been adjourned for a break.
Why are the FBI not investigating?
The Republicans have again today been criticised for refusing to hand Prof Ford’s allegations to the FBI to investigate, writes Ben Riley-Smith.
The Democrats and Prof Ford herself have urged the FBI to look into her claim. It would take inquiries out of the hands of the committee and give it to independent investigators.
To back up their case, they point to the fact that Anita Hill, the woman who claimed in 1991 that a Supreme Court nominee had sexually harassed her, had her claims looked into by the FBI.
However Donald Trump said that the FBI did not want to investigate the claims this time round as it was not the right process, while other Republican congressional figures also rejected the call.
The timing is critical here. Republicans hope to hold a vote on Mr Kavanaugh’s nomination as soon as possible, once those making allegations have been heard. An FBI inquiry would likely lead to a delay.
The key witness who isn't there
There has already been a lot of mention of Mark Judge in this hearing, writes Nick Allen.
Mr Judge, 54, a high school friend of Mr Kavanaugh’s, is said to have been in the room at the time of the alleged attack.
Prof Ford claimed she made eye contact with him and that Mr Judge refused to help her, instead twice jumping on the bed and laughing with Judge Kavanaugh.
Mr Judge has previously released a statement saying he does not remember the alleged incident.
But he is not appearing before the committee, and is not at his home in Maryland, near Washington.
Earlier this week he was tracked down in Bethany Beach, Delaware, about three hours drive away.
When approached by a Washington Post reporter, he said only: "How’d you find me?:
According to his lawyer Mr Judge is a recovering alcoholic.
In a 1997 book called "Wasted: Tales of a Gen X Drunk" he described his time in high school, referencing a "Bart O’Kavanaugh" who drank heavily and threw up in a car.
Prof Ford 'one hundred percent' certain Kavanaugh assualted her
"With what degree of certainty do you believe Brett Kavanaugh assaulted you?" Democratic Senator Richard Durbin asked Ford.
"One hundred percent," she replied.
Holding back tears, Prof Ford delivers emotional retelling of allegation
At times holding back tears and voice cracking, Prof Ford has just delivered an emotional retelling of her allegation before senators and rolling TV cameras, Ben Riley-Smith writes.
She repeated details of the claim – how Mr Kavanaugh allegedly pinned her on a bed, covered her mouth when she yelled, how he appeared very drunk.
But she also gave the fullest picture to date of how shocked she felt. She recalled making eye contact with Mr Judge, Mr Kavanaugh’s friend, as he allegedly stood in the room and wishing he intervene.
She said how relieved she was after having escaped the house and realising that she was not being followed by Mr Kavanaugh and Mr Judge.
Mrs Ford also revealed the impact the alleged assault has had on her life. She said she had experienced anxiety, phobia and PTSD-type symptoms – specifically claustrophobia and panic.
At another point, Mrs Ford shared shocking details of how going public with her allegation has impacted her life.
She has received death threats and had reporters turn up at her work. Personal details for both her and her parents were posted online.
She has been forced to flee her house, staying in various different locations, at times with security guards. Mrs Ford said the experience has “rocked me to my core”.
Prof Ford has to have two front doors as result of alleged attack
The accuser is now being questioned by Senator Feinstein.
Senator Feinstein: "I want to thank you very much for your testimony. I know how very, very hard it is. Why have you held it to yourself for all these years?
Prof Ford: "I haven’t held it all these years. I disclosed it in the confines of therapy where I thought it was an appropriate place for me to cope.
"For me personally, anxiety, phobia and PTSD-type symptoms. More specifically, claustrophobia, panics and things like that."
Senator Feinstein: "And is that why you have two front doors?"
Prof Ford: "Yes. That’s correct."
Senator Feinstein: "How has it affected you?"
Prof Ford: "The initial four years after the event I struggled academically and in college, I had a very hard time, more so than others, forming friendships and friendships with boys."
Senator Feinstein: "You are very clear how deeply you felt, and you wanted to remain confidential. Can you talk about that?"
Prof Ford: "I was watching carefully throughout the summer. I initially saw a list of candidates, equally qualified, and I wanted to get that information out, but I didn’t know how to do that.
"But once he was selected and it appeared he was a sure vote, I was calculating the risk for me coming forward and whether I was jumping in front of a train that was heading where it was heading anyway and I would be annihilated."
The accuser then recalled how a reporter sneaked into one of her lectures and, thinking the reporter was a student, she engaged in conversation.
With reporters outside her home, she decided it was time to come forward.
Asked how she was so sure about what had happened in the house party in 1982, she said it was basic memory functions of how trauma ingrains itself on the mind, stating it definitely wasn’t a case of mistaken identity.
Prof Ford makes amendment to WhatsApp message she sent to Washington Post
Rachel Mitchell is now questioning Prof Ford, who has been handed a cup of coffee.
The accuser is shown a screenshot of a WhatsApp conversation between her and someone at the Washington Post in July.
She wishes to make one amendment – that the man she identified as "PJ" was not a bystander during the sexual assault, but that he was downstairs and a "nice man".
Testimony wraps up as Prof Ford reveals she was forced out of her home
Prof Ford has finished her opening testimony, requesting some caffeine before taking questions.
She said her family have been moved out of their homes in the aftermath of the revelations surrounding the allegations
'I thought Brett was going accidentally kill me', Prof Ford said
Holding back tears at the hearing, Prof Ford said the alleged incident when she and Brett Kavanaugh were in high school: "Have been seared in my memory and haunted me episodically as an adult."
She recalled going to a house party where people were drinking beer. She drank one beer, she told the hearing.
Prof Ford told the hearing Mr Kavanaugh was "visibly drunk" along with his friend Mark Judge.
She said she left the room on the first floor where the group were drinking to go to the bathroom on the second floor.
"When I got to top of the stairs, I was pushed from behind into a bedroom. I couldn’t see who pushed me. Brett and Mark followed me. There was music playing and it was turned up louder by either Mark or Brett.
"I was pushed onto the bed and Brett got on top of me. Running his hands over me and he started grinding.
"I tried to yell for help. Brett put his hand over my mouth. This is what terrified me the most and what’s had the most effect on me.
"I thought Brett was going to accidentally kill me. Both Brett and Mark were laughing.
"A couple of times I made eye contact with Mark and thought he was going to help me. He didn’t. He jumped on the bed twice. The second time, we toppled."
Having fallen on the floor, Prof Ford said she was able to escape, hiding in a bathroom before running out of the house and into the street.
She claimed the alleged assault "drastically altered" her life, and she said she did not report it "because Brett did not rape me".
Republicans hire female prosecutor to question witnesses
Republican senators on the committee, who are all men, have decided to hire a female lawyer to put their questions to the witnesses, Nick Allen in Washington writes, writes Nick Allen.
She is Rachel Mitchell, a sex crimes prosecutor from Arizona, who has previously pursued cases against Catholic priests accused of abuse.
According to her colleagues in Arizona she is a a "hard-hitting" prosecutor used to handling high profile cases.
She also has a deep understanding of working with sexual abuse victims.
Mitchell, who is a Republican, is currently chief of the Special Victims Division in Phoenix, where she oversees a team of lawyers handling cases involving sexual assault and child molestation.
Matt Long, a lawyer who worked for her in Phoenix, said: "She is about evidence-based approaches and isn’t an activist on one side or the other."
David Michael Cantor, a defence lawyer in Phoenix, said: "If she gives Kavanaugh a pass, if she doesn’t dig down and get the guy to squirm, it could hurt her reputation.
"But if she grills both of them equally, she’ll be a superstar."
Early Republican V Democrat sparring reiterating row
The early exchanges from the most senior Republican and Democrat on the committee have largely been reiterating a row that has been bubbling along for the last fortnight.
Chuck Grassley, the Republican chairman, did offer an apology for how the process had been run and urged senators to put on a “show of civility”.
But he also chastised the Democrats for sitting on Prof Ford’s allegation until the latter stages of the confirmation process.
That comment refers to how Prof Ford raised her concerns. She initially wrote a letter to a senator outlining her claim but urging it be kept confidential and she was not named.
It was only when the information leaked that Prof Ford agreed to go public
Dianne Feinstein, the most senior Democrat on the committee who did not share Mrs Ford’s letter, put forward her critique – that the Republicans were rushing the process.
She has asked why the FBI has not been asked to investigate Prof Ford’s claim, as had happened with Anita Hill, a woman who accused a Supreme Court judge of sexual harassment in 1991 – a case which has many echoes with today’s row.
“What I find most inexcusable is this rush to judgment,” Mrs Feinstein said. She added that the issue before them was “a real question of character for someone who is asking for a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court.”
'I am not here because I want to be. I am terrified,' says Prof Ford
With her voice emotionally creaking, Prof Ford opened her testimony.
Saying she was at the hearing because of her civic duty, she said: "I am here not because I want to be. I am terrified."
Prof Ford begins her testimony
After a quick fiddle with the microphone, Prof Ford begins her testimony.
'Is this the best we can do?', asks Sen Feinstein
Sen Feinstein said: "We are here to discuss whether we elevate Brett Kavanaugh to one of the most powerful positions in the country.
"It’s not a trial of Prof Ford, it’s a job interview for Mr Kavanaugh. Is this the best we can do?"
Way women treated in US needs reform, says Sen Feinstein
Dianne Feinstein said: "I did receive a letter from Prof Ford, conveyed by Member of Congress.
"We spoke on the phone, she re-iterated. She wanted it confidential, and I did keep it confidential up to a point the witness wanted to come forward.
"How women are treated in the US with this kind of concern is really wanting a lot of reform.
"Thank you (Prof Ford) for coming forward and being willing to share your story with us, I know it wasn’t easy for you."
Democratic Sen Feinstein reeled off Dr Ford’s impressive CV, which includes a bachelor degree, two masters degrees, a University of Southern California PhD and an affiliation on a professor’s level with both Stanford and Palo Alto.
"Sexual violence is a serious problem and largely goes unseen. In the US, it’s estimated one in three women and one in six men will experience sexual violence in their lifetime, she added. Sixty percent of sexual assaults go unreported."
Hearing will be in 'stark contrast' to the 'chaos' of previous days
Chuck Grassley said the testimony would hear a complex and very serious case.
He added it was only right for "an expert who has deep experience to be asking the questions".
"This will be a stark contrast to the chaos we’ve seen over the previous four days," he said.
The politics of today's hearing
Here’s the politics. To get Mr Kavanaugh confirmed, Mr Trump needs a majority of the US Senate to vote for him.
The Republicans hold a majority of 51 seats to 49 for the Democrats and independents.
That means that if two Republican senators vote against then the nomination will be blocked.
(It is presumed all non-Republicans will vote against. If it is a 50-50 ties then Mike Pence, the vice president, has the casting vote.)
In other words, it all comes down to what a handful of wavering Republican senators decide to do.
At least three – Jeff Flake of Arizona, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska – are said to have concerns and are waiting to see what is said on Thursday.
A vote of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which vets nominees and is holding today’s hearing, would likely proceed a full Senate vote.
There is another factor – timing. The Republicans want to call a vote and complete the process before November 6, when the country goes to the polls for the midterm elections.
Currently the Republicans have a majority in the Senate. But after that date, the Democrats could have won back the Senate, meaning they would be able to block any Supreme Court candidate they wanted.
Accuser and alleged bombarded with 'vile threats', says committee
Opening the committee hearing, chairman Chuck Grassley apologised to both Prof Ford and Mr Kavanaugh for the "vile threats" they had both been subjected to.
He said they "ought to be considered by all of us as unacceptable", adding: "I want to apologise to you both for the way you’ve been treated and I intent for today’s hearing to be sage and dignified."
Christine Blasey Ford takes her place at the hearing
Brett Kavanaugh’s first accuser Christine Blasey Ford has taken her place at the hearing, sitting on the front bench.
Trump 'tells Kavanaugh to be forceful and aggressive'
A CNN journalist has learned Vice President Mike Pence and Donald Trump have called Brett Kavanaugh to offer their support ahead of the hearing.
Trump and Pence have both phoned Kavanaugh to voice their support ahead of today's hearing. Trump had a message for Kavanaugh, per a person familiar with the call: Be aggressive and forceful in your denials. Don't be afraid to push back on these allegations.
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) September 27, 2018
What can we expect from today's hearing?
Judge Brett Kavanaugh and the woman who accuses him of sexually assaulting her at a teenage party 36 years ago are to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee in a hearing which has electrified the United States.
Who are the witnesses?
Judge Kavanaugh, a 53-year-old federal appeals court judge, is President Donald Trump’s nomination for the vacant seat in the US Supreme Court. Christine Blasey Ford, 51, is psychology professor at Palo Alto University in California.
What is the allegation against Judge Kavanaugh?
According to Prof Ford, Mr Kavanaugh assaulted her at a party in the 1980s when she was 15 and he was 17. She claimed that he pinned her to a bed, groped her and tried to pull off her clothes, covering her mouth with his hand when she tried to scream.
What is his response?
Mr Kavanaugh has said he "categorically and unequivocally" denies the allegation. Republicans have criticised the way the claims emerged shortly before his confirmation hearing, claiming they are part of a Democrat plot to derail his nomination.
Is this the only allegation against Mr Kavanaugh?
No. Since Prof Ford went public, two more women have come forward with claims of sexual misconduct during the 1980s. He has denounced them as "smears, pure and simple", saying there has been a last-minute "frenzy" to prevent his appointment.
Why is the case considered so important in the US?
Appointments to the Supreme Court are for life and, if Mr Kavanaugh is confirmed in the post, it will potentially lock in a conservative majority in the court for decades to come, shaping rulings on highly contentious issues including abortion, regulation and the environment.
Mr Trump’s election pledge to nominate only conservatives to the court was seen as key to firing up his voter base, and rejection of Mr Kavanaugh would be a huge blow to the president.
What happens next?
The judiciary committee must vote on Mr Kavanaugh’s confirmation before it goes to the full Senate – where the Republicans have a slender 51 to 49 seat majority – for a vote there.
The Republicans hope it will be settled by early next week, while the Democrats are pressing for a delay to allow the allegations against him to be fully investigated.
Actress Alyssa Milano present to 'support' accuser
Alyssa Milano, a guest of Dianne Feinstein, says she's here to show support for Ford. Says she thinks this will be different than Anita Hill. "I think we're standing in solidarity more than we were in 1991." pic.twitter.com/V3lTERw8dX
— Paul McLeod (@pdmcleod) September 27, 2018
Kavanaugh accuser to testify she 'believed he was going to rape' her
Christine Blasey Ford is set to tell Congress that she believed Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, was going to rape her at a party more than 30 years ago, writes Chris Graham.
In testimony released in advance of a key Senate hearing on Thursday, the 51-year-old said she was appearing only because she felt it was her duty, was frankly "terrified" and has been the target of vile harassment and even death threats.
In addition to Prof Ford’s evidence, the Senate Judiciary Committee – 11 Republicans, all men, and 10 Democrats – will also hear from Judge Kavanaugh, who is facing multiple accusations of sexual misconduct. The federal appeals court judge has strongly denied all the allegations.
Much is riding on the testimony of both individuals, with the public Senate hearing expected to determine whether Republicans can salvage Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination and enshrine a high court conservative majority.
The President, who has strongly defended his Supreme Court pick, will be among those watching proceedings closely.
"I want to watch, I want to see," Mr Trump said at a news conference in New York on Wednesday, adding that he was "open to changing my mind".
The hearing will be the first time the world sees and hears from Prof Ford beyond the grainy photo that has appeared in the media in the 10 days since she came forward with her claims.
"It is not my responsibility to determine whether Mr Kavanaugh deserves to sit on the Supreme Court," Prof Ford, a California psychology professor, is to tell the senators. "My responsibility is to tell the truth."
Prof Ford will testify first at the hearing, which starts at 10am (3pm UK time) and at her request is being held in a small hearing room that seats only a few dozen spectators.
She plans to tell the committee that, one night in the summer of 1982, an inebriated 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.
"I believed he was going to rape me," she will say, according to her prepared testimony.
Who is Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee?
"It was hard for me to breathe, and I thought that Brett was accidentally going to kill me," she said, adding that he was laughing during the alleged attack.
Ms Ford also released sworn statements from people who said she had told them about the assault in later years.
Judge Kavanaugh is being challenged on multiple fronts by his accusers, former classmates and college friends. They say the good-guy image he projects in public bears little relation to the hard-partying behaviour they witnessed when he was young.
In his prepared testimony, the 53-year-old judge acknowledges drinking in high school with his friends, but says he’s never done anything "remotely resembling" what Prof Ford describes. He said he has never had a "sexual or physical encounter of any kind" with her.
He also provided the committee with detailed calendar pages listing in green-and-white squares the activities that filled his summer of 1982 when he was 17 years old – exams, movies, sports and plenty of parties. That’s the year when Ms Ford says she believes the assault occurred.
Nothing on the calendar appears to refer to her.
"But I was not perfect in those days, just as I am not perfect today," he is expected to add. "I drank beer with my friends, usually on weekends. Sometimes I had too many. In retrospect, I said and did things in high school that make me cringe now. But that’s not why we are here today. What I’ve been accused of is far more serious than juvenile misbehaviour. I never did anything remotely resembling what Dr Ford describes."
Republican Judiciary committee staffers are trying to interview another woman, Julie Swetnick, who became the third woman to accuse Judge Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct on Wednesday.
Earlier in the day, she said she attended more than 10 house parties in the Washington area from 1981 to 1983 where Judge Kavanaugh was present. She described gang rapes she said occurred in which boys would line up to rape incapacitated girls.
"In approximately 1982, I became the victim of one of these ‘gang’ or ‘train’ rapes where Mark Judge and Brett Kavanaugh were present," she said, mentioning the name of a close friend of Judge Kavanaugh. She did not identify her attackers and did not accuse Judge Kavanaugh or Mark Judge of taking part.
Judge Kavanaugh said in a statement: "This is ridiculous and from the Twilight Zone. I don’t know who this is and this never happened." Mark Judge has also denied the accusations.
Another woman, Deborah Ramirez, has accused Judge Kavanaugh of exposing himself during a drunken dormitory party during the 1983-84 academic year when both attended Yale University. Judge Kavanaugh has denied that allegation as well.
Republican staffers on the committee also asked Judge Kavanaugh about two other incidents involving alcohol and sexual behaviour, according to a transcript of an interview released on Wednesday. Judge Kavanaugh told staffers they did not take place, and nobody has come forward to speak publicly about them.