It's just going from bad to worse for Brett Kavanaugh.
The FBI is investigating claims made by Christine Blasey Ford that the Supreme Court nominee sexually assaulted her in the 1980s.
Last week, a separate report claimed he exposed himself during a drunken dormitory party in the same period, with various former classmates now publicly weighing in on his alleged out-of-control drinking habits in detail.
And now it has emerged that Kavanaugh and his staff were allegedly sending text messages to silence reports of indecent exposure — before the story had even broken.
TEXT MESSAGES CAST DOUBT ON KAVANAUGH
Late last month, The New Yorker published a story in which Kavanaugh's former classmate Deborah Ramirez claimed he exposed himself to others at a party in the early 1980s.
In the report, Ramirez, 53, claimed Kavanaugh exposed himself "at a drunken dormitory party" where she alleged he "thrust his penis in her face, and caused her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away".
The story noted she had "gaps" in her memory from drinking, and that she couldn't clarify his role "with certainty" for six days after first speaking with the journalists who published the story.
Kavanaugh denies the claims.
"This alleged event from 35 years ago did not happen," he wrote in a statement. "The people who knew me then know that this did not happen, and have said so. This is a smear, plain and simple. I look forward to testifying on Thursday about the truth, and defending my good name — and the reputation for character and integrity I have spent a lifetime building — against these last-minute allegations."
But it's now emerged that Kavanaugh, 53, and his staff were reportedly sending text messages to former Yale classmates to underplay these allegations — before the story was actually published.
The messages, obtained by NBC News, were reportedly sent between two of Kavanaugh's friends, Kerry Berchem and Karen Yarasavage. They suggest he may have reached out to his classmates to minimise Ramirez's claims.
In one message, Yarasavage said Kavanaugh asked her to go on the record to defend him. Another two messages show communication between Kavanaugh's team and former classmates before The New Yorker story broke, suggesting Kavanaugh knew about Ramirez's allegations in advance.
Ramirez was the second woman to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct, after Christine Blasey Ford.
The text messages only add to the growing evidence against him. Last Thursday, he testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee in a hearing on Dr Ford's allegations.
Various international news outlets kept tabs on every statement he made over a period of several hours. The New York Times posted an extensive fact check, Vox made a viral chart of every time he evaded a question, and Current Affairs magazine editor Nathan Robinson posted a 10,000 word refutation of his claims during the hearing.
Kavanaugh has vehemently denied the allegations.
KAVANAUGH 'LIED ABOUT HIS DRINKING', SAYS FORMER CLASSMATE
A one-time classmate of Kavanaugh said he was a habitual heavy drinker, challenging the judge's Senate testimony to the contrary.
"I can unequivocally say that in denying the possibility that he ever blacked out from drinking and in downplaying the degree and frequency of his drinking, Brett has not told the truth," Chad Ludington told reporters.
The North Carolina State University professor, who said he had contacted the FBI with his information, indicated on Sunday in a statement that Kavanaugh was "belligerent and aggressive" when he drank.
A separate report published by The New York Times today claims Kavanaugh has a history of alcohol-related violence during this period of his life.
According to a 1985 police report obtained by the Times, Kavanaugh was involved in an altercation at a bar when he was an undergraduate student at Yale University.
A 21-year-old man accused Kavanaugh of throwing ice on him "for some unknown reason", and a witness reportedly said that a close of friend of his then hit the man in the ear with a glass.
The victim, Dom Cozzolino, was "bleeding from the right ear" and later treated at a local hospital, according to the police report.
The report is significant because Kavanaugh has defended himself against claims that he drank excessively in his high school and university years.
"I drank beer with my friends," he said. "Almost everyone did. Sometimes I had too many beers. Sometimes others did. I liked beer. I still like beer. But I did not drink beer to the point of blacking out," he said.
Nearly a dozen classmates recalled him indulging in heavy drinking, with some saying it went beyond normal consumption, the Times reported.
Kavanaugh was not arrested over the 1985 incident.
WHAT HAS DONALD TRUMP SAID?
Earlier today, US President Donald Trump defended his pick but conceded that the appeals court judge has had a "bit of difficulty" with alcohol.
In a White House press conference overnight, the US leader sought to excuse excessive drinking by teenagers, while going beyond Kavanaugh's own testimony on his past use of alcohol to the Senate Judiciary Committee last week.
"I was surprised at how vocal he was about the fact that he likes beer," the President said.
"He's had a little bit of difficulty. He talked about things that happened when he drank. This is not a man that said ... he was perfect with respect to alcohol."
His remarks appear to contradict Kavanaugh's own claims that he wasn't a heavy drinker.
But Trump also questioned why investigators needed to examine Kavanaugh's high school record.
"I think it's very unfair to bring up things like this," Trump said. "I graduated from high school and while I did not drink, I saw a lot of people drinking," he said.
"They drink beer and go crazy and they were in high school ... Does that mean that they can't do something they want to do in their life?"
He returned to the theme during a campaign rally in Tennessee, where he accused opposition Democrats of being motivated by politics.
"They have been blind in a blind rage ever since they lost the 2016. They have gone loco," he told supporters.
The President also hit out at Senate Democrats who questioned the integrity of his Supreme Court nominee.
At the Tennessee rally, he also declared the Democrats were trying to slow down the FBI probe.
"If we took 10 years, they'd want more time," he said.
He said the Democrats are undermining Kavanaugh's credibility and are "willing to do anything or hurt anyone" to submarine his agenda.
The investigation continues.
— with wires