President Trump's Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh unleashed an emotional rebuke at Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday over what he characterized as a conspiracy to keep him off the court by deploying charges of sexual assault.
Minutes after the hearing concluded, the president backed Kavanaugh in a tweet calling the testimony "powerful, honest and riveting" and urged the Senate to vote.
In a passionate-at times belligerent-defense, the 53-year-old conservative judge insisted before the Senate Judiciary Committee that it never happened, accusing Democrats of destroying his reputation and condemning his confirmation battle as a "national disgrace" and a "circus". He tweeted Thursday that Kavanaugh "showed America exactly why I nominated him". While Trump's comment was meant as a positive review of his nominee's testimony, it also served as a succinct headline for the entire proceeding.
He added: "Democrats' search and destroy strategy is disgraceful and this process has been a total sham and effort to delay, obstruct, and resist".
"Another Democratic senator on this committee said, 'Judge Kavanaugh is your worst nightmare.' A former head of the Democratic National Committee said, 'Judge Kavanaugh will threaten the lives of millions of Americans for decades to come.' I understand the passions of the moment, but I would say to those senators, your words have meaning".
A hearing for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh devolved into a partisan fist-fight on Thursday as Democrats and Republicans - and Mr Kavanaugh himself - sparred over explosive allegations that he had sexually assaulted an acquaintance while both were teenagers. They come against a backdrop of the #MeToo movement-and the hearing included sharp exchanges between Republicans and Democrats mirroring the atmosphere of bitter political partisanship in Washington.
"I categorically and unequivocally deny the allegation by Dr. Ford", said Kavanaugh, whose voice shook with anger during an opening statement that saw him repeatedly shed tears. "I've never sexually assaulted anyone, not in high school, not in college, not ever", he said. Aides said they thought Kavanaugh was effectively fighting back and expressed optimism he could survive the process. The memory - and Kavanaugh's laughter during the act - was "locked" in her brain, she said: "100 percent". "I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me".
Blasey Ford, wearing glasses and a sober dark blue suit, appeared nervous but poised as she sat at the witness table, consulting occasionally with her lawyer. As to whether it could give them a path to defeating Kavanaugh's nomination, "this is the best we can do right now", she said.
"I hope we get to the bottom", he said.
"I believed he was going to rape me", she said. When I did, Brett put his hand over my mouth to stop me from yelling. "I think some lessons have been learned since Ms. Hill was treated the way she was".More news: Liverpool vs Chelsea (EFL Cup)
Ford claimed she was able to escape to a bathroom and then outside of the house when Judge jumped into the fray and sent everyone in the room "tumbling".
Judge also said in the letter that he and Kavanaugh were friends in high school but have not spoken directly in several years.
Kavanaugh slammed what he called a "grotesque and coordinated character assassination" and a "calculated and orchestrated political hit".
"My family and my name have been permanently destroyed by vicious and false accusations", Kavanaugh continued. Will history record the hearing as an inflection point that changed the Supreme Court confirmation process?
"As a recovering alcoholic and a cancer survivor, I have struggled with depression and anxiety", his letter said.
"Even if senators turn vote down his confirmation, he said, "you'll never get me to quit".
Trump nominated Kavanaugh to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, who had been a swing vote on a court now divided between four conservative and four liberal justices.
"I remember one of the questions asked of Anita Hill was something like, 'Are you a woman scorned?'" recalled Helen Anderson, 72, of Sioux City, Iowa. And they praised Blasey Ford for coming forward.
In a letter addressed to Chairman Chuck Grassley and ranking Democrat Dianne Feinstein, the ABA says with "respect for the rule of law and due process under law" the confirmation process should be paused until "an appropriate background check into the allegations made by Professor [Christine Blasey] Ford and others is completed" by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The White House said it was engaging with wavering Republican senators, but provided few details, as Trump publicly stood by his nominee.