Brett Kavanaugh

Overnight, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh faced an explosive Senate hearing to address allegations of sexual assault and misconduct made against him. If you haven’t been keeping up with the unfolding controversy and why it’s important, here’s everything you need to know:

What’s the background context?

Over the past month, several allegations of sexual assault have been made against Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump’s nominee to the US Supreme Court. Perhaps most notable, Dr Christine Blasey Ford claimed that during a house party in 1982, a 17-year-old Kavanaugh had attempted to rape her. Ford was 15 at the time.

Kavanaugh denied the claims, but since then, a number of other allegations have been made by women against the judge. The allegations emboldened Democrats seeking to block Kavanaugh’s appointment. As a judge with Republican-approved politics, a Kavanaugh appointment would give the US Supreme Court a conservative majority for decades to come. 

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What happened in the hearing?

Christine Blasey Ford went first, and recounted the alleged assault over several gruelling hours, as Crikey‘s Charlie Lewis reports. The hearing was a study in contrasts. While Ford remained relatively calm, Brett Kavanaugh was bombastic, emotional, and indignant.

Kavanaugh had already submitted a statement to the committee, but he chose to ditch it at the last minute. Instead, he began his testimony with a conspiratorial monologue where he accused the Democrats of “whipping up a frenzy on the left” to try and destroy him. 

Back at The White House, Trump was riveted by Kavanaugh’s attack, reportedly telling a source “this is why I nominated him”. The President reportedly advised Kavanaugh to be more aggressive in front of the Committee, to borrow some of the President’s unhinged style.

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Reactions and reflections

Perhaps unsurprisingly, many have seen the Kavanaugh hearing as a reflection of the general partisan trench warfare so characteristic of Washington. Several Republican senators lined up to defend Kavanaugh. Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, described Kavanaugh as a victim, and railed against Democrats, who he accused of trying to destroy his life.

Senate Republicans are committed to a final vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation on Friday, US time. But with the Senate currently split 51-49, and with the voting intentions of several key GOP senators still unclear, his confirmation is far from guaranteed. 

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If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit In an emergency, call 000.