A high-stakes hearing over the future of the US Supreme Court opened Thursday with university professor Christine Blasey Ford set to testify that President Donald Trump's nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her 36 years ago.
The accusation, which Kavanaugh steadfastly denies, has thrust the Trump administration into the #MeToo movement's harsh glare, and threatens to derail a conservative effort to tilt the high court to the right for years to come.
In prepared testimony for the Senate Judiciary Committee, Blasey Ford alleges a drunken Kavanaugh shut her in a bedroom and tried to forcibly remove her clothing while they were in high school in the Washington area in 1982.
Millions of Americans were expected to watch the televised hearing, which evoked the 1992 battle between now-Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his sexual harassment accuser Anita Hill.
Republican committee chairman Chuck Grassley opened the hearing with an attack on Democrats for coming forward only late in the confirmation process with accusations from several women that Kavanaugh, currently an appeals court judge, sexually abused or attacked them when they were students in the 1980s.
"The testimony we will hear today concerns allegations of sexual assault, very serious allegations. This is an incredibly complex and sensitive subject to discuss," Grassley said in an opening statement.
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