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Judiciary Committee Reviews New Sexual Misconduct Allegations Against Kavanaugh

Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh leaves his home on Wednesday in Chevy Chase, Md.
Mark Wilson
Getty Images
Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh leaves his home on Wednesday in Chevy Chase, Md.

Updated at 8:59 p.m. ET

The Senate Judiciary Committee is reviewing a statement from a third woman who has come forward with sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

The allegations, from a woman identified as Julie Swetnick, were made public by attorney Michael Avenatti on Wednesday morning. Avenatti posted Swetnick's three-page sworn declaration onTwitter.

Hours later, the Senate Judiciary Committee released transcripts that revealed the panel also questioned Kavanaugh about two other accusations that were previously unknown.

In the transcripts, Kavanaugh denies the allegations, which were made anonymously and without corroboration.

On Wednesday, he also denied Swetnick's allegations.

"This is ridiculous and from the Twilight Zone," he said in a statement released by the White House. "I don't know who this is and this never happened."

NPR has not corroborated Swetnick's claims; attempts to contact her were not successful.

The allegations further complicate a much-anticipated hearing scheduled for Thursday with Kavanaugh and another of his accusers, Christine Blasey Ford.

Trump: New charges 'ridiculous'

President Trump, who has been accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct, has strongly backed Kavanaugh even as more allegations have emerged against the high court nominee.

Speaking to reporters in New York after a visit to the United Nations, Trump suggested he was open to changing his mind on Kavanaugh after Thursday's hearing, but at the same time he doubled down in his support for the federal appeals court judge.

"I'm going to see what happens tomorrow. I'm going to be watching. You know, believe it or not I'm going to see what's said," Trump said. "It's possible that they will be convincing. Now with all of that being said, Judge Brett Kavanaugh has been for many years, one of the most respected people in Washington."

At the same time, he called the allegations "ridiculous" and repeated his counter-accusation that Democrats are playing a "con game."

Trump also fired back on Twitter against Avenatti, who has become a political enemy since his suit against Trump on behalf of porn actress Stormy Daniels.

Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court once appeared to be a sure thing. Those prospects now are left uncertain.

New allegations

In the sworn declaration posted on Twitter, Swetnick alleges that from 1981 to 1983, she went to several parties that Kavanaugh also attended.

Swetnick writes that she observed Kavanaugh drunk, pressing himself against girls without their consent and engaging in other such behavior. Swetnick also writes that she was raped at one party that Kavanaugh attended.

Judiciary Committee spokesman Taylor Foy said in a statement that the panel has received Swetnick's statement and is looking into the allegations.

"This morning Michael Avenatti provided a declaration to the Judiciary committee," Foy said. "Committee lawyers are in the process of reviewing it now."

The committee's minority Democrats, led by California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, asked Trump on Wednesday to either direct the FBI to investigate the allegations or withdraw Kavanaugh's nomination.

Two other allegations surfaced late Wednesday evening in transcripts released by the Judiciary Committee, which handles Supreme Court nominations.

One accusation is anonymous and dates to 1998. A woman said in a letter sent to Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner that her daughter socialized with Kavanaugh at the time. She alleges that Kavanaugh shoved a woman against a wall after an evening of drinking at a bar.

In the second allegation, a man accused Kavanaugh and his friend, Mark Judge, of assaulting a woman in Newport, R.I., in August, 1985. The name of the man making the accusation was redacted. The transcript indicates that the accuser has an anti-Trump stance on Twitter.

Kavanaugh addresses high school parties

The Judiciary Committee posted a statement from Kavanaugh on Wednesday morning in which he acknowledged partying and drinking but denied any sexual impropriety.

"I drank beer with my friends, usually on weekends," he wrote. "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 misbehavior."

Those prepared comments to lawmakers echoed remarks that the federal appeals court judge made earlier this week in an interview that aired on Fox News.

"And yes, people might have had too many beers on occasion and people generally in high school — I think all of us have probably done things we look back on in high school and regret or cringe a bit, but that's not what we're talking about ..."

"We're talking about an allegation of sexual assault. I've never sexually assaulted anyone."

Some of Kavanaugh's classmates have said they remember him as a heavy drinker in high school and at college. Others have sprung to his defense: More than 60 of Kavanaugh's former classmates from high school signed a letter on Wednesday to the Judiciary Committee calling Swetnick's allegations "nonsense."

A sure thing no more

Swetnick's allegations follow those of two other women who have said they were victims of sexual misconduct involving Kavanaugh more than three decades ago, when they and he were in high school or college.

The charges have disrupted what had appeared to be a sure confirmation for Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court following his hearings before the Judiciary Committee in early September, which took place before the sexual misconduct allegations became public.

The allegations that appeared on Wednesday also further complicate a much-anticipated hearing scheduled for Thursday with Kavanaugh and another of his accusers, Christine Blasey Ford.

Preparations continued for that session. An attorney for Ford sent the Judiciary Committee a report from a polygraph examination that Ford underwent in August.

Later in the day, the Judiciary Committee posted Ford's prepared testimony.

"I am here today not because I want to be," Ford plans to tell the committee, according to the document. "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."

Opponents of Kavanaugh have called for the Judiciary Committee to hear testimony from the other accusers; Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has so far not agreed but he said on Twitter the committee is "talking to all witnesses & gathering all evidence."

Grassley's post suggested federal investigators have been detailed to the committee from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The FBI, however — which Democrats say should investigate the claims by Kavanaugh's accusers — apparently is not involved.

Another Judiciary Committee leader, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told reporters at the Capitol that he'd be open to Swetnick talking with the committee's professional staff, but it wasn't clear whether Grassley agreed or whether Swetnick might follow up with the committee in person.

Partisan feud intensifies

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he thinks Kavanaugh should bow out altogether.

"I strongly believe Judge Kavanaugh should withdraw from consideration," he said. "If he will not, at the very least, the hearing and vote should be postponed while the FBI investigates all of these allegations. If our Republican colleagues proceed without an investigation, it would be a travesty for the honor of the Supreme Court and our country."

Key Republicans said they thought the hearing scheduled for Thursday should go forward. It remains on the Judiciary Committee's schedule, as does a meeting scheduled for Friday at which the committee could vote on whether to recommend Kavanaugh to the full Senate.

Maine Sen. Susan Collins, who does not sit on the Judiciary Committee but whose vote might be critical to confirming Kavanaugh, told reporters she wasn't familiar with Swetnick's allegations but that she thought Thursday's session should go ahead "because we'll find out some valuable information."

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas agreed and called for the Thursday hearing to take place as planned.

"These most recent allegations don't have anything to do with Dr. Ford," he said.

Avenatti, a Trump antagonist

It wasn't clear how Avenatti had become involved with the Kavanaugh case, but he has spent months cutting out a role for himself as an antagonist of the president.

He sued on behalf of Daniels, whose given name is Stephanie Clifford, to escape a nondisclosure agreement she signed with Trump's then-lawyer, Michael Cohen. That kept alive Daniels' account of a sexual relationship with Trump in 2006, a story which Cohen has acknowledged paying her to not tell ahead of Election Day in 2016.

Daniels also is telling her story in a book scheduled to be published in early October.

Trump has acknowledged the payment to Daniels ahead of the election but denies underlying allegations about sexual relationships with Daniels and another woman, Karen McDougal.

Avenatti also surfaced business relationships that Cohen forged with corporate clients early in the Trump administration. Trump's onetime personal lawyer was paid because he said he could provide access to Trump for companies such as AT&T and Novartis.

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Corrected: September 25, 2018 at 9:00 PM PDT
An earlier Web version of this story incorrectly said Brett Kavanaugh spoke to Fox News on Tuesday. The interview aired on Monday.
Ryan Lucas covers the Justice Department for NPR.