The FBI's probe of sexual assault allegations against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh continues in the face of new allegations of Kavanaugh's heavy use of alcohol during his youth.
Christine Blasey Ford testified last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee that Kavanaugh assaulted her at a party in 1982 when they were both in high school. Kavanaugh angrily denied the charges to the committee during an appearance immediately after Ford gave her testimony. He also denied allegations he drank so heavily that he would "blackout," meaning he would never remember his actions after becoming sober.
But Chad Ludington, a former classmate of Kavanaugh's at Yale University, issued a statement earlier this week that the judge was "a frequent drinker and a heavy drinker" who often became "belligerent and aggressive" during his binges.
Ludington, now a college professor in North Carolina, said that during one of those occasions, Kavanaugh threw his beer in a man's face who made a "semi-hostile remark" toward him and started a fight that ended with one of their mutual friends landing in jail. The New York Times published a detailed story about the alleged incident Monday, which took place in 1985 after a concert by the English band UB40.
President Donald Trump told reporters at the White House Monday that the FBI had the authority to interview anyone it wanted to in its probe, pushing back against intense criticism by Senate Democrats that the White House may have been trying to limit the scope of the investigation.
The New York Times said the FBI has already interviewed four witnesses that the White House and Senate Republicans approved for questioning -- Kavanaugh's friends Mark Judge and P.J. Smith; Ford's friend Leland Keyser; and Deborah Ramirez, one of two other women besides Ford who have accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct.
Trump said it "wouldn't bother me at all" if the FBI questioned all three women who have accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct and also said it would be "fine" if Kavanaugh is questioned.
But the president also said the FBI needs to take directions from Senate Republicans, whose 51-vote majority will determine if Kavanaugh is elevated to the Supreme Court.
Late Monday, Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate will vote on Kavanaugh this week.
"The time for endless delay and obstruction has come to a close," McConnell declared. But as of Monday, Kavanaugh lacked the simple majority he needs for confirmation.
It was Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona who stunned the country last Friday by insisting on a one-week delay on a Senate confirmation vote so the FBI could conduct another investigation of Kavanaugh.
Flake said he would have voted against confirmation if Senate leaders rejected the delay.
He told an audience in Boston Monday that he will make sure the FBI does a "real investigation" into Kavanaugh
“The Supreme Court is one of the last bastions of trust. The Senate is having issues as well,” Flake said. “We certainly want the FBI to do a real investigation, and we are working to make sure that that happens. It does us no good to have an investigation that just gives us more cover."
Flake has said he will only vote yes if the latest FBI probe fails to uncover anything else. Two Republican women – Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski – were undecided.
Ford testified last Friday that she is "100 percent" sure it was Kavanaugh who pinned her to a bed and tried to tear her clothes off at a 1982 party, covering her mouth with her hands to stop her screams. She says Kavanaugh's friend, Mark Judge, witnessed the attack and that two laughed at her. Ford says she escaped after Judge jumped on the bed during the assault.
In his testimony denying Ford's allegations, Kavanaugh accused Democrats of orchestrating a smear campaign against him, in order to exact revenge for Trump's surprise defeat of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. Democrats say Kavanaugh's behavior was unbecoming of a federal judge, who is supposed to remain impartial and objective, and makes him unfit to sit on the nation's highest court.
Deborah Ramirez charged in a New Yorker magazine report that Kavanaugh exposed himself at a drunken dormitory party at Yale University, and shoved his penis in her face, forcing her to touch it while pushing him away.
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Another woman, Julie Swetnick, has alleged Kavanaugh was at high school parties in which she claims to have been gang raped.
Trump has maintained his support for Kavanaugh, saying that “hopefully at the conclusion, everything will be fine.”
VOA's Steve Herman contributed to this report.