U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, appearing angry and raising his voice, on Thursday rebuffed allegations that he sexually assaulted a teenager decades ago in a drunken stupor, saying Democrats pushed the claims as part of a last-minute attempt to “blow me up and take me down.”

Kavanaugh, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, called the sexual assault allegations a “political hit” by the left to derail his likely confirmation to the Supreme Court. “This has destroyed my family and my good name,” he declared in an opening statement. At times, he fought back tears.

“This confirmation process has become a national disgrace. You have replaced advice and content with search and destroy,” Kavanaugh said. He said he would not be “intimidated” into withdrawing his nomination. “You may defeat me in the final vote but you’ll never get to me to quit,” Kavanaugh said.

Kavanaugh said he would not question claims from Christine Blasey Ford that she was sexually assaulted at some point in her life. But he denied being her attacker. “I have never done anything like this. I am innocent of this charge,” he said. Kavanaugh, repeatedly fighting back tears, said all of the people Ford said were at the suburban Washington party where the assault allegedly occurred have denied being there.

Ford has accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her during a summer party in 1982 when they were in high school. Ford alleges she was pushed into a bedroom and onto a bed where Kavanaugh, on top of her, groped her and tried to remove her clothes. When she tried to scream, she testified Thursday, he put his hand over her mouth. Ford said she only escaped when Kavanaugh’s friend, Mark Judge, jumped on them, propelling them off the bed, which allowed her to get out of the room.

Ford, testifying for nearly four hours before Kavanaugh, sometimes in a quavering voice, sometimes tearful, left the committee with two particularly strong moments. First, she said she was “100 percent” certain that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her.

When Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, asked what was her strongest memory of the alleged assault, Ford replied, “The uproarious laughter between the two and their having fun at my expense.” Judge has denied any recollection of the alleged attack. “They were laughing with each other,” Ford testified.

Ford, a research psychologist in California, sometimes used the language of how memory is implanted on the brain to explain the clarity of her memories of the alleged assault under questioning by committee members and Rachel Mitchell, an Arizona sex-crimes prosecutor hired by Senate Republicans to question Ford on their behalf. Ford appeared with her lawyers Debra Katz and Michael Bromwich, who said they are serving pro bono.

Mitchell used her questions to probe the accuracy of Ford’s memory of the alleged sexual assault. She also attempted to uncover whether anyone, besides her lawyers, had been advising her or encouraging her to come forward.

Mitchell, playing both prosecutor and defense lawyer, at one point probed Ford about who paid for a polygraph test that she took in recent weeks. Katz. of Washington’s Katz Marshall & Banks, sitting next to Ford, leaned in to the microphone, telling Mitchell she’d put an end to the questioning: Ford’s lawyers paid for the polygraph. Bromwich asserted moments later: “As is routine.”

Democrats on the committee repeatedly praised Ford for her courage in stepping forward with her allegation. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, echoing some of his Democratic colleagues, told Ford he believed her because of her consistent statements, her request for an FBI investigation, her polygraph test and her urging for other witnesses to be called to testify.

“Also you have been very honest about what you cannot remember,” Blumenthal said. He added: “Someone composing a story can make it come all together in a seamless way. But someone who is honest is also candid about what she or he cannot remember.”

Ford said she came forward with claims out of a sense of “civic duty.” The judiciary committee has scheduled a vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination on Friday.

 

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