The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

What we know about the allegations surrounding Brett Kavanaugh

With two women accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct, Republicans are struggling to find a path forward to his confirmation. (Video: Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)

This article has been updated.

Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s rocky path toward a Senate vote to serve on the Supreme Court will face its most significant hurdle on Thursday. In a special hearing held by the Senate Judiciary Committee, Kavanaugh will face questions about accusations of a sexual assault and improper sexual contact that allegedly occurred while he was in high school and college. So will at least one of the accusers, Christine Blasey Ford, who first told her story publicly to The Washington Post.

Since Ford’s story became public, there has been a tug-of-war over what she said and the extent to which it has been corroborated. When the New Yorker reported the story Sunday of Deborah Ramirez, the other accuser, the same thing happened: Her account was dissected, and evidence for and against flickered across news sites and social media.

In the interest of establishing an agreed-upon baseline, we decided to compile what was known about each alleged incident, including any corroborations or defenses. If you notice that any information is missing, let us know. We’ll update this article as new information emerges.

The Ford allegation

When: Ford believes that the alleged incident occurred in 1982, although she’s not clear on the precise year. In 1982, she was 15 and Kavanaugh was 17, a junior at the private school Georgetown Prep.

Where: A party at a house near the Columbia Country Club in Montgomery County, Md.

What’s alleged to have happened: Here’s how The Post’s Emma Brown describes the alleged incident as told by Ford.

Ford said that on the night of the party, she left the family room to use the bathroom, which was at the top of a narrow stairway. She doesn’t remember whether Kavanaugh and [Mark] Judge were behind her or already upstairs, but she remembers being pushed into a bedroom and then onto a bed. Rock-and-roll music was playing with the volume turned up high, she said.
She alleges that Kavanaugh — who played football and basketball at Georgetown Prep — held her down with the weight of his body and fumbled with her clothes, seemingly hindered by his intoxication. Judge stood across the room, she said, and both boys were laughing “maniacally.” She said she yelled, hoping that someone downstairs would hear her over the music, and Kavanaugh clapped his hand over her mouth to silence her.
At one point, she said, Judge jumped on top of them, and she tried unsuccessfully to wriggle free. Then Judge jumped on them again, toppling them, and she broke away, she said.

Ford’s letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), which eventually came to the media’s attention, included additional details. “Kavanaugh physically pushed me into a bedroom as I was headed for a bathroom up a short stairwell from the living room,” she wrote. Judge was nearby saying “mixed words . . . ranging from ‘go for it’ to ‘stop.’ ”

In his interview with Fox News Channel’s Martha MacCallum on Monday, Kavanaugh identified the alleged location as “a house near Connecticut Avenue and East-West Highway” — the location of the country club.

Who was present: Ford alleges that the following people were at the party:

  • Herself.
  • Kavanaugh.
  • Judge, a classmate of Kavanaugh’s who became a conservative writer and commentator.
  • Leland Keyser, who was indirectly identified by name after she was contacted by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
  • Patrick Smyth, another classmate of Kavanaugh’s who went by “P.J.”.
  • One other boy, not identified publicly.

In her letter to Feinstein, Ford alleged that four people were at the party besides her. An attorney for Ford later indicated that four boys and two girls were at the party, the same number in The Post’s story. It’s not clear what accounts for the discrepancy.

What they say about the allegation:

Kavanaugh, in a statement released when the story emerged: “I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time.” To MacCallum, he said: “I was never at any such party. The other people who are alleged to be present have said they do not remember any such party.”

Judge, in a letter sent by his attorney to the Senate Judiciary Committee: “I have no memory of this alleged incident. Brett Kavanaugh and I were friends in high school but I do not recall the party described in Dr. Ford’s letter. More to the point, I never saw Brett act in the manner Dr. Ford describes.”

Smyth, through an attorney: “I am issuing this statement today to make it clear to all involved that I have no knowledge of the party in question; nor do I have any knowledge of the allegations of improper conduct she has leveled against Brett Kavanaugh.” He added that he had “never witnessed any improper conduct by Brett Kavanaugh towards women.”

Keyser, through an attorney: “Ms. Keyser does not know Mr. Kavanaugh and she has no recollection of ever being at a party or gathering where he was present, with, or without, Dr. Ford.”

An attorney for Ford responded to that claim, calling it “unremarkable that Ms. Keyser does not remember attending a specific gathering 30 years ago at which nothing of consequence happened to her.”

Other corroboration: Ford provided The Post with several bits of evidence meant to corroborate her allegation. Portions of notes taken by a therapist during a session in 2012 indicate that Ford had mentioned an attack by students at an elite school who became “highly respected and high-ranking members of society in Washington.” Ford’s husband said she mentioned Kavanaugh by name while talking to the therapist.

Ford’s attorney also asked that she take a polygraph test administered by a former FBI agent. The test indicated that she was being truthful, though such tests are often considered unreliable.

The suggestion that Kavanaugh and Judge might have been drinking heavily is bolstered by references on Kavanaugh’s yearbook page to drinking. Judge also wrote a book called “Wasted: Tales of a Gen-X Drunk,” in which he makes reference to a character named “Bart O’Kavanaugh” who vomited and passed out after drinking.

On Wednesday, USA Today reported on statements provided to the Senate Judiciary Committee in which three other individuals state that they had been told by Ford about an alleged attack prior to this year. The oldest point at which any of the three had been told was October 2013.

Other defenses: Shortly after Ford’s story became public, a group of 65 women released a letter offering support for Kavanaugh. Each claimed to have known him at the time, but at least one knew him only indirectly.

One of the signatories, Renate Schroeder Dolphin, seemed to retract her support for Kavanaugh after learning that Kavanaugh’s yearbook entry identified him as a “Renate Alumnius.” (An attorney for Kavanaugh said it referred to his having “shared a brief kiss good night” with Dolphin, which she denied.)

To MacCallum, Kavanaugh has admitted to drinking, but not the alleged assault.

“Yes, there were parties,” he said. “And the drinking age was 18, and, yes, the seniors were legal and had beer there. And, yes, people might have had too many beers on occasion and people generally in high school — I think all of us have probably done things we look back on in high school and regret or cringe a bit, but that’s not what we’re talking about.”

On Wednesday evening, the Senate Judiciary Committee released a timeline of its investigation into the allegations. It included the revelation that the committee had interviewed two men each of whom claimed to have been the person who assaulted Ford. No other details were offered. Ford has consistently dismissed the idea that the person involved in the incident was anyone beside Kavanaugh.

The Ramirez allegation

When: In the 1983-1984 school year, when Kavanaugh was a freshman at Yale University.

Where: At a party in Lawrance Hall, on the Yale campus.

What’s alleged to have happened: The New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer outline the alleged incident.

Ramirez said that . . . she was invited by a friend on the women’s soccer team to a dorm-room party. She recalled that the party took place in a suite at Lawrance Hall, in the part of Yale known as Old Campus, and that a small group of students decided to play a drinking game together. “We were sitting in a circle,” she said. “People would pick who drank.” Ramirez was chosen repeatedly, she said, and quickly became inebriated. At one point, she said, a male student pointed a gag plastic penis in her direction. Later, she said, she was on the floor, foggy and slurring her words, as that male student and another stood nearby. . . .
A third male student then exposed himself to her. “I remember a penis being in front of my face,” she said. “I knew that’s not what I wanted, even in that state of mind.” She recalled remarking, “That’s not a real penis,” and the other students laughing at her confusion and taunting her, one encouraging her to “kiss it.” She said that she pushed the person away, touching it in the process. . . . She remembers Kavanaugh standing to her right and laughing, pulling up his pants. “Brett was laughing,” she said. “I can still see his face, and his hips coming forward, like when you pull up your pants.” She recalled another male student shouting about the incident. “Somebody yelled down the hall, ‘Brett Kavanaugh just put his penis in Debbie’s face,’ ” she said. “It was his full name. I don’t think it was just ‘Brett.’ And I remember hearing and being mortified that this was out there.”

Who was present: A number of people, allegedly including:

  • Ramirez.
  • Kavanaugh.
  • The two male students who were near her while she was on the floor.
  • The male student who told her to “kiss it.”

It’s not clear whether other people were at the party at the time of the alleged incident or whether any were in the room when it allegedly occurred.

What they say about the allegation: Ramirez’s recollection of the incident is admittedly hazy.

“I’m confident about the pants coming up, and I’m confident about Brett being there,” she told the New Yorker. The New York Times reported this week that it had investigated Ramirez’s claims and learned that she had “contacted former Yale classmates asking if they recalled the incident and told some of them that she could not be certain Mr. Kavanaugh was the one who exposed himself.”

Kavanaugh told MacCallum: “I never did any such thing — never did any such thing. The other people alleged to be there don’t recall any such thing. If such a thing had happened, it would’ve been the talk of campus. The women I knew in college and the men I knew in college said that it’s inconceivable that I could’ve done such a thing.”

One of the unnamed classmates alleged to have stood near Ramirez told the New Yorker, “I don’t think Brett would flash himself to Debbie, or anyone, for that matter.”

The other said he had “zero recollection."

Other corroboration: The New Yorker spoke with classmates of Kavanaugh and Ramirez. None recalled being present during the alleged incident. But the story apparently first came to the attention of Senate investigators (and then to the New Yorker) because of Yale alumni discussing it.

One classmate told the magazine that he was “100 percent sure” that he was told shortly after the incident that Kavanaugh had acted as alleged. That unnamed person also corroborated details from Ramirez’s story, such as the location.

James Roche, Kavanaugh’s former roommate and a friend of Ramirez’s in college, told the New Yorker that Kavanaugh was “frequently, incoherently drunk” and that he could not imagine Ramirez making up such a story.

“Is it believable that she was alone with a wolfy group of guys who thought it was funny to sexually torment a girl like Debbie? Yeah, definitely,” Roche said. “Is it believable that Kavanaugh was one of them? Yes.”

Other defenses: Kavanaugh noted to MacCallum that the Times had decided not to run a story about Ramirez’s claims, being unable to corroborate them. (In an article on Tuesday, the paper noted that it did not rebut her story and that, unlike the New Yorker, couldn’t obtain an interview with Ramirez.)

Several students signed a statement disputing Ramirez’s claims that was presented to the New Yorker. The signatories included the two students who were said to have been standing near Ramirez, the wife of the one who allegedly said “kiss it” and a classmate named Dan Murphy.

“We can say with confidence that if the incident Debbie alleges ever occurred, we would have seen or heard about it — and we did not,” the statement read. “The behavior she describes would be completely out of character for Brett. In addition, some of us knew Debbie long after Yale, and she never described this incident until Brett’s Supreme Court nomination was pending.”

The statement originally included two additional signatories. After the New Yorker story was published, those two removed their names from the letter, saying they were not in a position to dispute Ramirez’s allegations.