WASHINGTON – It was a historic day on Capitol Hill that could determine whether Judge Brett Kavanaugh becomes "Justice Brett Kavanaugh."
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Kavanaugh testified Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, with both parties releasing prepared statements ahead of today's testimony. WATCH THE HEARING BELOW:
Ford said in her testimony that in the summer of 1982, while attending a party together, Kavanaugh "groped me and tried to take off my clothes and put his hand over my mouth to stop me from screaming."
Meanwhile, there was yet another last-minute development just before the hearing. Two men came forward to say they – not Kavanaugh and his friend, Mark Judge – were the ones who had a sexual encounter with Christine Blasey Ford at a 1982 house party.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley revealed his aides had met with the men separately this week, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) says the men's claims are not credible. During the hearing Thursday, Ford said she's 100 percent sure it was Kavanaugh and Judge.
Kavanaugh is defending his reputation, calling the allegations last-minute smears and character assassination.
"I categorically and unequivocally deny the allegation against me by Dr. Ford," the 53-year-old judge said. "I never had any sexual or physical encounter of any kind with Dr. Ford. I am not questioning that Dr. Ford may have been sexually assaulted by some person in some place at some time. But I have never done that to her or to anyone. I am innocent of this charge."
During today's hearing, each senator was allowed one 5-minute round of questions for each of the witnesses. The Republican senators gave their time to someone else to ask questions – Rachel Mitchell, a very experienced sex crimes prosecutor from Arizona. Ford's backers, however, called that move unfair, saying Ford is the victim here, not a criminal.
Nevertheless, Republicans stood by their decision. Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) said, "We hired her because she has an extraordinary reputation for being able to ferret out the truth in allegations of sexual assault."
On the eve of Thursday's hearing, new allegations were levied by a third woman, Julie Swetnick, who is represented by porn star Stormy Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti.
She says she knew Kavanaugh during his high school years and that she attended multiple parties where he was part of a group of guys who gang-raped women. Swetnick says she was raped but not specifically by Kavanaugh.
While some have questioned her credibility – including a former boyfriend who filed a restraining order against her and told Politico she's not credible – Senate Democrats want to know more.
"This allegation is a game-changer because it's under oath and it names corroborating witnesses. The specificity here is absolutely gut-punching," Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said.
Meanwhile, Sen Lindsey Graham echoed Kavanaugh's charge that "this is getting into the Twilight Zone."
"You're talking about Brett Kavanaugh being a serial rapist in high school – as a sophomore in high school," said an incredulous Graham. "I have a hard time believing you did it then and you've never done it before."
Despite the litany of allegations, President Donald Trump is firmly backing his Supreme Court pick.
"This is one of the highest quality people that I have ever met," he said, noting that his own experiences facing accusations have shaped his view of the Kavanaugh claims.
"It does impact my opinion. You know why? Because I've had a lot of false charges made against me," Trump said. "I'm a very famous person. Unfortunately, I've been a famous person for a long time. But I've had a lot of false charges made against me – really false charges."
Still, President Trump says he is willing to keep an open mind going into today's hearing. Now it's up to the Senate – especially key swing senators in both parties – to decide.