Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh 'unequivocally' denies sexual misconduct allegation

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Friday denied a sexual misconduct allegation from when he was in high school.

In a statement released by the White House, Kavanaugh said: "I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time."

Kavanaugh's statement comes after Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate's judiciary committee, said she has notified federal investigators about information she received about the nominee but won't disclose publicly.

The New Yorker reported the alleged incident took place at a party when Kavanaugh, now 53, was attending Georgetown Preparatory School. The woman making the allegation attended a nearby school.

The magazine says the woman sent a letter about the allegation to Democrats. A Democratic aide and another person familiar with the letter confirmed Friday to The Associated Press that the allegation is sexual in nature. Two other people familiar with the matter confirmed to the AP that the alleged incident happened in high school. They were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The AP has not confirmed the details of the alleged incident in The New Yorker's account.

Alex Brandon/Associated Press

Rallying to Kavanaugh's defence, 65 women who knew him in high school issued a letter, released by Republicans on the Senate judiciary committee, saying he has "always treated women with decency and respect."

"We are women who have known Brett Kavanaugh for more than 35 years and knew him while he attended high school between 1979 and 1983," wrote the women, who said most of them had attended all-girl high schools in the area. "For the entire time we have known Brett Kavanaugh, he has behaved honourably and treated women with respect."

Feinstein, from California, said she has notified federal investigators about information she received concerning Kavanaugh, Donald Trump's nominee to replace retired Justice Anthony Kennedy on the court.

She said the person "strongly requested confidentiality, declined to come forward or press the matter further, and I have honoured that decision."

The FBI confirmed it received the information Wednesday evening and included it in Kavanaugh's background file, which is maintained as part of his nomination. The agency said that is its standard process.

The judiciary committee, which has finished confirmation hearings for Kavanagh, is scheduled to vote next Thursday on whether to recommend that he be confirmed by the full Senate.

Kavanaugh vetted 'thoroughly': White House

The White House called Feinstein's move an "11th-hour attempt to delay his confirmation."

Feinstein's statement that she has "referred the matter to federal investigative authorities" jolted Capitol Hill and threatened to disrupt what has been a steady path toward confirmation for Kavanaugh by Republicans eager to see the conservative judge on the court.

Ted Shaffrey/Associated Press

Some senators, including the No. 2 Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois, learned about the information for the first time at the meeting, according to one of the aides.

A White House spokesperson, Kerri Kupec, said the FBI has vetted Kavanaugh — Donald Trump's nominee to replace retired Justice Anthony Kennedy on the court. "thoroughly and repeatedly" during his career in government and the judiciary.

She said Kavanaugh has had 65 meetings with senators — including with Feinstein — sat through over 30 hours of testimony and publicly addressed more than 2,000 questions.

"Not until the eve of his confirmation has Sen. Feinstein or anyone raised the spectre of new 'information' about him," she said.

Booker criticized for leaking documents

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the second-ranking Republican and a member of the committee, was also skeptical.

"Let me get this straight: this is (sic) statement about secret letter regarding a secret matter and an unidentified person. Right," he tweeted.

Chairman Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, was unaware of the information until it was made public, according to a Republican committee aide. Kavanaugh has undergone six federal background checks over time in government, including one most recently for the nomination, the aide said.

Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

Democrats don't have the votes to block Kavanaugh's nomination if Republicans are unified, but they are fighting it and decrying the process that Republicans used to compile his government records for review.

Feinstein had sought a subpoena for documents from Kavanaugh's time as President George W. Bush's staff secretary. She said senators "should be able to see this record" and wondered, "What in Judge Kavanaugh's records are Republicans hiding?"

The Republicans have declined to pursue Kavanaugh's staff secretary documents, saying it would be too cumbersome. They rejected Feinstein's motion and several others, including motions to subpoena documents and witnesses and a motion to adjourn.

New documents released ahead of Thursday's meeting included Kavanaugh's 263-page written response to questions from senators, along with 28 files from the judge's work in the Bush White House that had been available to senators only on a "committee confidential basis." Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey made the Bush documents public.

The documents released by Booker show Kavanaugh's involvement in Bush's nomination of Charles Pickering to an appellate court in the South as Pickering faced questions about his views on race relations. Kavanaugh had indicated in 2006 testimony that he was not substantially involved in the nomination.

In releasing a new batch of committee confidential documents about Kavanaugh, Booker was repeating a tactic that could prompt a review from the Senate's ethics committee.

Alex Brandon/Associated Press

The conservative group Judicial Watch delivered a letter Wednesday to the ethics committee seeking an investigation. It says Booker violated Senate rules against disclosing confidential documents and could face Senate expulsion.

Booker has welcomed the fight. He says the documents about Kavanaugh's work "raise more serious and concerning questions" about his honesty during his testimony before the committee.