By Lawrence Hurley and Susan Heavey
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A third woman came forward in a statement to a Senate panel made public on Wednesday accusing Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump's U.S. Supreme Court nominee, of sexual misconduct in the 1980s, further inflaming an already contentious confirmation process. Kavanaugh immediately denied the allegation.
The woman, Julie Swetnick, detailed her allegations in a statement to the Judiciary Committee a day before the Republican-led panel is set to hold a high-stakes hearing in which Kavanaugh and another woman who has accused him of a sexual assault in 1982 will testify.
Kavanaugh rejected the latest allegations in a statement released by the White House. "This is ridiculous and from the Twilight Zone. I don't know who this is and this never happened," Kavanaugh said.
Swetnick is represented by lawyer Michael Avenatti, who also represents adult film star Stormy Daniels in a lawsuit against Trump to void a non-disclosure agreement under which the president's former personal lawyer paid her $130,000 not to discuss her alleged relationship with Trump more than a decade ago.
Swetnick and Avenatti did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Kavanaugh's lawyer Beth Wilkinson also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In her statement, Swetnick said she attended more than 10 house parties in the Washington area from 1981 to 1983 where Kavanaugh was present. She described gang rapes that she said occurred in which boys would line up to rape incapacitated girls.
"In approximately 1982, I became the victim of one of these 'gang' or 'train' rapes where Mark Judge and Brett Kavanaugh were present," she said, mentioning the name of a close friend of Kavanaugh. She did not identify her attackers.
"During the incident, I was incapacitated without my consent and unable to fight off the boys raping me. I believe I was drugged using Quaaludes (a sedative) or something similar placed in what I was drinking," she said.
Swetnick said Kavanaugh was present but did not accuse him of taking part.
She also said she witnessed efforts by Kavanaugh and others "to cause girls to become inebriated and disoriented so they could then be 'gang raped' in a side room or a bedroom by a 'train' of numerous boys," adding that she remembers boys including Kavanaugh getting in lines to take part in these rapes.
She did not identify the individuals directly involved in those assaults.
Reuters was not immediately able to verify her accusations.
The allegations have risked endangering Kavanaugh's chances of confirmation in the Senate, which Trump's fellow Republicans control by a narrow 51-49 margin. The controversy has unfolded ahead of the Nov. 6 congressional elections in which Democrats seek to take control from the Republicans.
His confirmation to the lifetime job would cement conservative control of the Supreme Court, as Trump moves to shift the high court and the broader federal judiciary to the right.
The allegations represent the latest development in the pitched battle in the Senate over whether to confirm Kavanaugh, a conservative federal appeals court judge picked by Trump in July, for a lifetime job on the top U.S. court.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer called on Kavanaugh to withdraw in light of the allegations, and said if he does not, an FBI investigation is needed before any Senate vote on confirmation.
"If our Republican colleagues proceed without an investigation, it would be a travesty for the honor of the Supreme Court and our country," Schumer said in a statement.
All 10 Democrats on the Judiciary Committee also urged Kavanaugh to withdraw if the FBI does not investigate the allegations.
Lawyers for Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Kavanaugh of a sexual assault in 1982, released signed documents from Ford's husband, Russell Ford, and three friends, seeking to offer corroboration for her account. Ford and Kavanaugh are due to testify before the Judiciary Committee at a high-stakes hearing on Thursday ahead of a vote scheduled in the panel on Friday on his nomination.
Senator Chuck Grassley, who chairs the committee, said the hearing will go forward as planned.
Russell Ford said his wife shared her story during a couples therapy session in 2012.
"I remember her saying that the attacker's name was Brett Kavanaugh, that he was a successful lawyer who had grown up in Christine's home town, and that he was well-known in the Washington, D.C. community," Russell Ford said.
A long-time friend, Keith Koegler, said that in 2016 Ford told her that as a high school student she was sexually assaulted by a boy who became a federal judge in Washington. Before Trump nominated Kavanaugh in July, Ford and Koegler had an email exchange in which she said she had been referring to Kavanaugh, Koegler said.
Two other friends, Adela Gildo-Mazzon and Rebecca White, said Ford had made similar remarks to them, in 2013 and 2017 respectively, describing an alleged assault by a teenager who later became a federal judge.
Ford, a psychology professor at Palo Alto University in California, said in an interview published in the Washington Post last week that Kavanaugh attacked her and tried to remove her clothing when both were high school students in Maryland while he was drunk at a party when he was 17 years old and she was 15.
Another woman, Deborah Ramirez, has accused him of exposing himself during a drunken dormitory party during the 1983-84 academic year when both attended Yale University.
Kavanaugh has denied the allegations.
In testimony released in advance of the hearing, Kavanaugh denied all the allegations against him but said he was "not perfect" during his high school days.
"I drank beer with my friends, usually on weekends. Sometimes I had too many. In retrospect, I said and did things in high school that make me cringe now," he added.
Trump on Wednesday faulted Republicans for not pushing the nomination through the Senate, which must confirmation Supreme Court appointments, more quickly.
"They could have pushed it through two and a half weeks ago, and you wouldn't be talking about it right now, which is frankly what I would have preferred. But they didn't do that," Trump told reporters in New York, where he is attending the annual U.N. gathering of world leaders.
A vote on confirmation in the full Senate could happen as early as Tuesday, according to senior Senate Republicans.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley and Susan Heavey; Additional reporting by David Morgan, Sarah N. Lynch and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Will Dunham)
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Updated Date: Sep 27, 2018 00:07 AM