The broad outlines of the accusation emerged last week following reports that Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the committee reviewing Kavanaugh’s nomination, possessed a letter that contained information about possible sexual misconduct related to Kavanaugh’s high school days.
After the existence of the letter was made public, Feinstein referred the allegation to the FBI, which did not open a criminal investigation. The FBI included the letter in an update to Kavanaugh’s background check.
Nonetheless, the specter of possible sexual misconduct caused an uproar during Kavanaugh’s nomination. While the nominee appears headed toward a swift confirmation vote expected later this month, Democrats have been actively trying to delay the vote.
The debate has also placed a spotlight on lawmakers in the midst of a national reckoning over sexual abuse by powerful men, as they prepare to vote on a nomination that’s now clouded by an allegation from decades ago.
“For too long, when woman have made serious allegations of abuse, they have been ignored,” minority leader Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement. “That cannot happen in this case.”
Schumer and Feinstein both demanded Sunday that the Senate delay considering Kavanaugh’s nomination until an investigation is conducted.
Following the initial reports, Kavanaugh said he “categorically and unequivocally” denied the allegation. “I did not do this back in high school or at any time.”
Judge, a conservative writer who could not immediately be reached, has also denied that the incident took place. Judge told The Weekly Standard last week that the accusation was “just absolutely nuts.” In an interview with The New York Times, Judge said Kavanaugh was a brilliant student who was not “into anything crazy or illegal.”
The White House referred NBC News to Kavanaugh’s earlier denial Sunday.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said on Sunday that it was “disturbing that these uncorroborated allegations from more than 35 years ago, during high school, would surface on the eve of a committee vote after Democrats sat on them since July.”
Grassley said the timing of the article “raises a lot of questions about Democrats’ tactics and motives.” Last week, the GOP lawmaker said that the matter will not delay the committee from voting on Kavanaugh’s nomination, as they are expected to do Thursday.
Feinstein on Sunday called on the FBI to conduct an investigation, and said that the Senate should delay considering Kavanaugh’s nomination until the agency has done so. She said she supported Ford’s decision to tell her story.
“From the outset, I have believed these allegations were extremely serious and bear heavily on Judge Kavanaugh’s character,” Feinstein said. “However, as we have seen over the past few days, they also come at a price for the victim. I hope the attacks and shaming of her will stop and this will be treated with the seriousness it deserves.”