Brett Kavanaugh has denied allegations he sexually assaulted a fellow high school student more than 30 years ago.
“I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time,” the US Supreme Court nominee said, responding to a report detailing allegations from a woman who reportedly attended a high school near his in the 1980s.
The woman reportedly sent a letter describing her allegations to senator Dianne Feinstein, the ranking minority member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, weeks before the judge’s Senate confirmation hearing began. According to the New Yorker, the woman felt moved to take action after Donald Trump nominated Mr Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court in July.
Ms Feinstein initially kept the letter private, but revealed its contents to the other Democrats on the committee on Wednesday, amid mounting questions from reporters and other members of Congress.
On Thursday, the senator released a statement saying she had received information on Mr Kavanaugh from a source who requested to remain anonymous, and had referred the matter to federal authorities.
Republicans in Congress quickly leapt to Mr Kavanaugh’s defence.
“Let me get this straight: this is [a] statement about [a] secret letter regarding a secret matter and an unidentified person. Right,” senator John Cornyn tweeted in response to Ms Feinstein’s statement.
On Friday – the same day the New Yorker published its report – judiciary committee chairman Chuck Grassley released a letter from 65 women who knew Mr Kavanaugh in high school. The women wrote that he had “behaved honourably and treated women with respect” during that time.
“Through the more than 35 years we have known him, Brett has stood out for his friendship, character, and integrity,” the women wrote. “In particular, he has always treated women with decency and respect. That was true when he was in high school, and it has remained true to this day.”
But the news also sparked outcry from a number of women’s rights groups, including Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-choice America, and UltraViolet, who urged the judge to withdraw his nomination.
“A woman’s identity should not have to be revealed to take her story seriously and pursue justice on her behalf,” NARAL President Ilyse Hogue said in a statement.
She added: “The charge of sexual assault against Brett Kavanaugh is disqualifying and we call on him to immediately withdraw his nomination for the Supreme Court.”