WASHINGTON • Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh angrily, tearfully and unequivocally denied sexually assaulting Dr Christine Blasey Ford when they were teenagers.
In testimony that turned the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing into a partisan shouting match, Judge Kavanaugh accused one Democrat of mocking him and listened while a Republican called the session an "unethical sham".
"I was not at the party described by Dr Ford," Judge Kavanaugh said as he tried to save his nomination in the face of public claims of sexual misconduct by three women. "This confirmation process has become a national disgrace. I will not be intimidated into withdrawing from this process."
Judge Kavanaugh made no secret of his anger at Democrats on the committee. In a remarkable turnabout from the confirmation hearings earlier this month in which he presented himself as the model of neutrality, he fumed over the sexual assault allegations brought against him in recent days.
"This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fuelled with apparent pent-up anger about President (Donald) Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons and millions of dollars in money from outside, left-wing opposition groups. This is a circus," he said.
"You may defeat me in the final vote, but you'll never get me to quit. Never," he added.
Judge Kavanaugh repeatedly flashed his anger at Democrats on the panel, scowling, arguing with them and jabbing his finger towards the table in front of him.
Democratic Senator Dick Durbin challenged Judge Kavanaugh to ask the White House to order the FBI to question other witnesses about Dr Ford's allegations against him, a suggestion rejected by Mr Trump and Senate Republicans. "You know that's a phoney question because the FBI doesn't reach conclusions," Judge Kavanaugh said.
Soon afterwards, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham erupted in anger. "What you want to do is destroy this guy's life, hold this seat open and hope you win in 2020," he said, pointing angrily at his Democratic colleagues. "This is the most unethical sham since I've been in politics."
Judge Kavanaugh said he intends "no ill will to Dr Ford and her family". He choked back tears while saying that his 10-year-old daughter, in saying her evening prayers recently, told his wife Ashley that "we should pray for the woman".
He was tearful through portions of his opening statement: while expressing gratitude to his friends, saying he had no sexual intercourse until well after high school, and saying he drank beer in high school. "But I did not drink beer to the point of blacking out, and I did not sexually assault anyone."
Judge Kavanaugh said Dr Ford's allegation is "refuted by the very people she says were there", including a female friend of Dr Ford who says she does not remember the party. He said his calendar for the summer of 1982 "shows all but definitely that I was not there".
If an unproven allegation "is enough to destroy a person's life and career we will have abandoned the basic principles of fairness and due process that define our legal system and our country", he said.
Republicans are looking to Judge Kavanaugh to cement a conservative majority on the court.
Forcefully assailing the committee's handling of Dr Ford's claims, Judge Kavanaugh said that during the 11 days since the allegation became public, "my family and my name have been totally and permanently destroyed by vicious and false accusations".
A second woman, Ms Deborah Ramirez of Colorado, has claimed that Judge Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a drunken party when they were freshmen at Yale University. And in the most lurid allegation yet, Ms Julie Swetnick of Washington said in a sworn statement released on Wednesday that Judge Kavanaugh took part in efforts during high school to get girls intoxicated so that a group of boys could have sex with them. "The Swetnick thing is a joke, that is a farce," Judge Kavanaugh said at the hearing.