Documents: Kavanaugh accuser offers 4 people to support claim


WASHINGTON, Sept 26 (Reuters) - A woman who has accused President Donald Trump's U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, of sexual assault will present senators with sworn declarations from four people to corroborate her allegations, according to copies of the statements released by her lawyers on Wednesday.

The declarations, first reported by USA Today, include signed documents from Christine Blasey Ford's husband and three friends that her lawyers sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The panel is scheduled to hold a hearing on Thursday on the accusations, ahead of a vote Friday on Kavanaugh's nomination.

If his nomination clears the panel, it must win confirmation from the full Senate, which Republicans narrowly control 51-49. A vote in the full Senate could happen as early as next Tuesday, senior Senate Republicans have said.

The accusation, along with one from a second accuser, have imperiled Kavanaugh's lifetime appointment to the nation's highest court as Republicans work to shore up his Senate confirmation ahead of the Nov. 6 congressional vote. Those elections could shift the balance of power in Congress as Democrats seek to regain control from conservatives.

Ford, a university professor in California, has accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in 1982 when they were both high school students in Maryland. Another woman, Deborah Ramirez, has accused him of sexual misconduct when she and Kavanaugh were students at Yale University.

Kavanaugh, a conservative federal appeals court judge, has denied the allegations and took his defense public this week in an interview on Fox News.

His attorney, Beth Wilkinson, in televised interviews on Wednesday, said Ford's declarations cited recent interactions, not discussions at the time of the alleged incident, and that it was difficult to corroborate an accusation 36 years later.

"He admits that he drank and did some things that he looks back on and says are embarrassing and make you cringe ... But that's not what this is about. This is about a very serious allegation, a very serious crime," Wilkinson told "CBS This Morning."

Senators will hear both sides at Thursday's hearing, keenly aware of the impact it could have on voters, particularly women, against a backdrop of the #MeToo movement fighting sexual harassment and assault.

Republican President Donald Trump, who has also been accused of sexual misconduct, escalated his rhetoric against both of Kavanaugh's accusers on Tuesday and called the allegations "a con game being played by the Democrats."

Trump also spoke out directly against the two accusers, suggesting their claims were invented.

The White House earlier this week said it would welcome testimony from the second accuser, Ramirez. Asked about her possible testimony, Trump on Tuesday said she "had nothing."

Ramirez's lawyer, John Clune, said in television interviews on NBC and CBS on Wednesday that she has not been invited to speak to senators.

The Republican-controlled committee, led by 11 men, on Tuesday said it had hired a female lawyer to question Ford. The decision prompted an outcry from Democrats, whose 10 panel members include four women, given that senators typically do the questioning themselves.

Senate Republicans chose Rachel Mitchell, a sex crimes prosecutor from Arizona, to conduct the questioning, according to the Wall Street Journal.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey and Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Bernadette Baum)