Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
 / Updated 
By Rebecca Shabad

WASHINGTON — Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Friday denied allegations made by a woman who reportedly said that he had held her down at a party when they were in high school in the 1980s and tried to force himself on her.

According to a report Friday in The New Yorker by Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer, the woman, who has asked not to be identified, described the incident in a letter that was sent to the offices of two California Democrats, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Anna Eshoo.

A spokesman for Feinstein released a statement on Friday afternoon offering an explanation for the timing of the information's release, which had drawn sharp criticism from the White House following initial reports on the story.

"Senator Feinstein was given information about Judge Kavanaugh through a third party," the spokesman said in a statement. "The Senator took these allegations seriously and believed they should be public. However, the woman in question made it clear she did not want this information to be public. It is critical in matters of sexual misconduct to protect the identity of the victim when they wish to remain anonymous, and the senator did so in this case.”

The woman claimed, according to The New Yorker, that Kavanaugh and one of his classmates had been drinking and turned up the music in the room they were in to drown out the sound of the woman’s protests and that Kavanaugh covered her mouth with his hand.

The woman was able to free herself, according to the report, and later sought psychological treatment as a result of the experience, which occurred when Kavanaugh attended high school at Georgetown Preparatory School in Bethesda, Maryland, in the early 1980s.

Kavanaugh responded in a statement Friday: “I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time.”

The woman first approached the Democratic lawmakers when President Donald Trump nominated Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court in July, the report said.

Shortly after the report was published Friday morning, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, released a letter signed by 65 women who knew Kavanaugh in high school who wrote: "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. For the entire time we have known Brett Kavanaugh, he has behaved honorably and treated women with respect."

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, a senior member on the committee, said in a statement Friday afternoon that the information should not affect the committee's vote on the nomination, scheduled for next Thursday. "I do not intend to allow Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation to be stalled because of an 11th hour accusation that Democrats did not see fit to raise for over a month," said Hatch.

"The letter sent to investigators has had her name redacted, meaning no further investigation could take place," he added, calling the claims "wholly unverifiable," saying they came "at the tail-end of a process that was already marred by ugly innuendo, dishonesty, and the nastiest form of our politics."

On Thursday, Feinstein confirmed in a statement that she had referred information regarding Kavanaugh to “federal investigative authorities,” but she stopped short of offering any details.

NBC News reported Thursday that Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats met Wednesday night to discuss a vague sexual misconduct allegation against Kavanaugh that dated back to his high school days, two sources familiar with the matter said.

Feinstein had been in possession of the letter for some period of time, two sources said, but the matter was not referred to the FBI until after the Democrats met on Wednesday evening. The meeting was called because members of the committee had heard rumors of the letter's existence from reporters, one source told NBC News.

The FBI has said it is not opening a criminal investigation into the matter.

Feinstein said Thursday: “I have received information from an individual concerning the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. That individual strongly requested confidentiality, declined to come forward or press the matter further, and I have honored that decision. I have, however, referred the matter to federal investigative authorities.”

The allegations are surfacing after a marathon series of confirmation hearings for Kavanaugh's nomination last week in which he testified for two days before the Judiciary panel. The committee was originally scheduled to vote on his nomination on Thursday, but it was delayed until next week, on Sept. 20.

Frank Thorp V and Kasie Hunt contributed.