Sen. Susan Collins was tight-lipped Wednesday after fresh allegations surfaced against President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.

Collins, a moderate Republican who will wield a critical vote if Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation goes before the full Senate, did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday on whether Friday’s scheduled committee vote should be postponed so there can be a fuller investigation of Kavanaugh’s conduct now that a third accuser has come forward.

Julie Swetnick, through her attorney Michael Avenatti, released a three-page sworn declaration that accused Kavanaugh of engaging in excessive drinking and exhibiting “abusive and physically aggressive behavior toward girls” while he attended a private high school in Washington, D.C. Swetnick said she witnessed Kavanaugh and others, including his close friend and classmate Mark Judge, try to get girls drunk so they could be “gang raped.” She also alleged that she was the victim of a gang rape at a house party in the early 1980s where Kavanaugh was present, but she did not say whether he was involved.

Swetnick’s allegations come on the heels of earlier claims by California professor Christine Blasey Ford, who has said Kavanaugh, with Judge present, tried to assault her at a house party around the same time. Ford is scheduled to testify Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. A third woman, Deborah Ramirez, has alleged that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a dorm party when they attended Yale University.

Collins, who has been watched closely during the Kavanaugh confirmation process and has been met with protests at her office and public events, was asked about Swetnick’s allegations around noon Wednesday, a couple hours after they had begun spreading across social media.

“I just got them and just started reading them,” she said, according to a transcript of that conversation provided by her office. “Obviously, I take it very seriously, but I haven’t even finished reading, I have it right here with me, but I haven’t finished reading it.”

Collins has a reputation for caution – often deliberating at length before offering comments, particularly on controversial topics – and hadn’t publicly addressed the allegations made in Swetnick’s sworn statement by late Wednesday night.

However, CNN reported that Collins had met earlier in the evening with Republican leaders and expressed serious concerns about Swetnick’s allegations and questioned why the Senate Judiciary Committee had not subpoenaed Mark Judge, Kavanaugh’s friend.

Senate Democrats, in light of Swetnick’s statement, called on Trump to withdraw his nominee to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy. That had seemed unlikely until the president admitted during a wide-ranging, hour-long news conference Wednesday evening that he might take such a step if Ford’s testimony before the committee Thursday is convincing.

“If I thought he was guilty of something like this … yeah, sure” Trump said of Kavanaugh.

The president also continued to describe the allegations Kavanaugh is facing as “a big fat con job” and defended his nominee as “one of the highest quality people that I’ve ever met.”

Kavanaugh, who has steadfastly denied all allegations, did so again Wednesday, saying he’s the victim of “character assassination.” He did not reference Swetnick by name.

“This is ridiculous and from the twilight zone,” Kavanaugh said in a statement. “I don’t know who this is and this never happened.”

Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said Swetnick’s allegations don’t change anything about Thursday’s hearing.

“I feel we shouldn’t disadvantage Dr. Ford any more than she’s already been disadvantaged,” he said, according to the Washington Post.

Asked whether Thursday’s hearing should proceed, Collins replied: “The hearing should go forward tomorrow because we will find out some valuable information.”

Two Washington-based reporters tweeted late Wednesday afternoon that when Collins emerged from a lunch meeting, she was shielded by several colleagues and didn’t answer questions from media members.

Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, a member of the Judiciary Committee and like Collins a potential swing vote, said Wednesday on the Senate floor that members of Congress need to put politics aside in favor of humanity.

Flake also criticized the president for minimizing the allegations of Christine Ford, but stopped short of insisting that the nomination be put on hold pending a fuller investigation.

“However this vote goes, I am confident in saying that it will forever be steeped in doubt. This doubt is the only thing of which I am confident about this process.”

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: PPHEricRussell

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