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A woman alleges Brett Kavanaugh held her down and attempted to sexually assault her

Sen. Dianne Feinstein forwarded a letter detailing the alleged incident, which happened in high school, to the FBI.

kavanaugh, brett kavanaugh, sexual assault
Brett Kavanaugh, Trump Supreme Court nominee, at the September 6 hearing.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Zack Beauchamp is a senior correspondent at Vox, where he covers ideology and challenges to democracy, both at home and abroad. Before coming to Vox in 2014, he edited TP Ideas, a section of Think Progress devoted to the ideas shaping our political world.

For the past week, rumors have swirled about a secret letter — written by a California woman and forwarded to the FBI by Sen. Dianne Feinstein — suggesting that Trump Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh committed some of kind of sexual offense decades ago. The letter was sent to law enforcement rather than made public, according to Feinstein, because the accuser did not want her name to be made public.

But on Friday morning, the New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer published details of the allegations in the letter. They appear to amount to nothing less than attempted sexual assault. Here are the details, as described by the New Yorker:

The woman, who has asked not to be identified, first approached Democratic lawmakers in July, shortly after Trump nominated Kavanaugh. The allegation dates back to the early nineteen-eighties, when Kavanaugh was a high-school student at Georgetown Preparatory School, in Bethesda, Maryland, and the woman attended a nearby high school. In the letter, the woman alleged that, during an encounter at a party, Kavanaugh held her down, and that he attempted to force himself on her.

She claimed in the letter that Kavanaugh and a classmate of his, both of whom had been drinking, turned up music that was playing in the room to conceal the sound of her protests, and that Kavanaugh covered her mouth with his hand. She was able to free herself. Although the alleged incident took place decades ago and the three individuals involved were minors, the woman said that the memory had been a source of ongoing distress for her, and that she had sought psychological treatment as a result.

Kavanaugh, in a statement to the magazine, claimed this was all made up. “I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation,” he said. “I did not do this back in high school or at any time.”

Democrats on the Judiciary Committee have tried to focus on issues of sexual harassment and assault by asking what Kavanaugh knew about the accusations against former federal judge Alex Kozinski, for whom Kavanaugh was a clerk. But the letter is a much more direct, and much worse, allegation.

Many believe Kavanaugh, if confirmed, would be the decisive fifth vote for overturning Roe v. Wade. Several moderate female senators who support abortion rights represent key swing votes in the Senate, so Republicans have gone out of their way to downplay the risk to abortion rights posed by the Kavanaugh nomination.

If they find the accusation credible, the idea that a man who is accused of trying to hold someone down and force himself on her would have the power to decide on abortion rights for all American women may prove too much for some of these senators to bear.

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