A second allegation of sexual misconduct against US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has fuelled calls from Democrats to postpone further action on his confirmation.
A days-long back and forth over the timing and terms of a hearing with Mr Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, the woman accusing him of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers, appeared to end on Sunday with the announcement that they would appear separately on Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Hours later, however, The New Yorker magazine reported online that Senate Democrats were investigating another woman’s accusation of sexual misconduct by Mr Kavanaugh, this time dating to the 1983-84 academic year, Mr Kavanaugh’s first at Yale University.
The New Yorker said 53-year-old Deborah Ramirez described the incident in an interview after being contacted by the magazine.
Ms Ramirez recalled that Kavanaugh exposed himself at a drunken dormitory party, the magazine reported.
In a statement provided by the White House, Mr Kavanaugh said the event “did not happen” and that the allegation was “a smear, plain and simple”.
A White House spokeswoman added in a second statement that the allegation was “designed to tear down a good man”.
She also asked the committee’s chairman, Senator Chuck Grassley, to have the FBI investigate the allegations of both Ms Ford and Ms Ramirez.
The New Yorker said it contacted Ms Ramirez after learning of a possible involvement in an incident with Mr Kavanaugh and that the allegation came to Democratic senators through a civil rights lawyer.
She had been considering speaking to the magazine for at least a week. Meanwhile, Republicans were pressing for a swift hearing and a vote.
The magazine reported that Ms Ramirez was reluctant at first to speak publicly “partly because her memories contained gaps because she had been drinking at the time of the alleged incident”.
She also acknowledged reluctance “to characterise Kavanaugh’s role in the alleged incident with certainty”.
The magazine reported that after “six days of carefully assessing her memories and consulting with her attorney, Ramirez said that she felt confident enough of her recollections” to recall the incident.
The Associated Press tried reaching Ms Ramirez at her home in Boulder, Colorado. She posted a sign saying she has no comment on her front door.
Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee said they found out about the Ramirez allegations from The New Yorker article and blamed Democrats for withholding the information.
Spokesman Taylor Foy said the panel is looking into it.
The new information came hours after the Senate committee agreed to a date and time for a hearing after nearly a week of uncertainty over whether Ms Ford would appear to tell her story.
The agreement and the latest accusation set the stage for a dramatic showdown as Mr Kavanaugh and Ms Ford each tell their side of the story.
The developments could also determine the fate of Mr Kavanaugh’s confirmation, which hangs on the votes of a handful of senators.
Mr Kavanaugh, 53, an appellate court judge, has denied Ms Ford’s allegation and said he wanted to testify as soon as possible to clear his name.
Michael Avenatti, the lawyer representing porn actress Stormy Daniels in her legal fight with President Donald Trump, inserted himself into the maelstrom on Sunday night when he claimed to represent a woman with information about high school-era parties attended by Mr Kavanaugh and urged the Senate to investigate.
Mr Avenatti told AP that he will disclose his client’s identity in the coming days and that she is prepared to testify before the committee, as well as provide names of corroborating witnesses.
She made several requests, some of which were accommodated — a Thursday hearing, three days later than originally scheduled, and a smaller hearing room with less press access to avoid a media circus, for example.
Mr Grassley’s staff also agreed to let Ms Ford testify without Mr Kavanaugh in the room, for there to be only one camera in the room, “adequate” breaks and a high security presence.
The committee said it would not negotiate on other points, though, including Ms Ford’s desire for additional witnesses and a request to testify after, not before, Mr Kavanaugh.