US President Donald Trump is facing criticism from fellow Republicans after he mocked a woman who says she was assaulted by his Supreme Court nominee.
Senators Jeff Flake and Susan Collins, both key votes to confirm Brett Kavanaugh, called Mr Trump’s remarks “appalling” and “just plain wrong”.
At a rally, Mr Trump poked fun at Christine Blasey Ford for not recalling key details of the alleged assault.
Last week the Republican president called her a “very credible witness”.
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If approved, Judge Kavanaugh, 53, would be expected to tilt the ideological balance of the Supreme Court in favour of conservatives.
Its nine justices are appointed for life and have the final say on some of the most contentious issues in US public life, from abortion, to gun control, to voting laws.
Mr Flake – who helped spur the FBI investigation into Judge Kavanaugh – told NBC’s Today show: “There’s no time and no place for remarks like that.
“To discuss something this sensitive at a political rally is just not right. It’s just not right. I wish he hadn’t had done it.”
The Arizona senator is a closely watched swing vote as Republicans can potentially only afford one defection if they are to confirm their nominee.
Ms Collins, a moderate Republican from Maine, told reporters on Wednesday: “The president’s comments were just plain wrong.”
She has not yet said whether she will vote for Judge Kavanaugh either.
Later on Wednesday, moderate Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski joined in the criticism, saying Mr Trump’s speech was “wholly inappropriate” and “unacceptable”.
“I am taking everything into account,” Senator Murkowski said when asked by reporters if it may affect her vote.
What is the other reaction?
Prof Ford’s lawyer, Michael Bromwich, described Mr Trump’s words as “a vicious, vile and soulless attack” on her.
“Is it any wonder that she was terrified to come forward, and that other sexual assault survivors are as well?” he added.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday denounced Mr Trump’s “outright mockery of a sexual assault survivor”.
At a briefing at the White House, Mr Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Sanders, said she did not think the president’s performance had made the approval more difficult.
What did Mr Trump say?
At Tuesday night’s rally in Mississippi, Mr Trump mocked gaps in Prof Ford’s memory about the alleged assault 36 years ago.
He said: “Where’s the house? I don’t know! Upstairs, downstairs, where was it? I don’t know! But I had one beer. That’s the only thing I remember. And a man’s life is in tatters.”
Shortly after Prof Ford’s testimony to the Senate last week, Mr Trump said she was a “very fine woman”.
What does Prof Ford remember?
When she spoke before the Senate committee last Thursday, Prof Ford recalled that the house where the alleged assault took place was in the Chevy Chase-Bethesda area in the Washington DC suburbs.
The president seemed to suggest she did not know on what floor of the property the alleged attack had occurred, but Prof Ford told senators she remembered being pushed into a bedroom on the upstairs level.
She testified that Judge Kavanaugh held his hand over her mouth to prevent her shouts from being heard, and attempted to rape her at the party in the summer of 1982.
Prof Ford did acknowledge in her testimony that she could not provide all the details asked of her – including how she arrived at the party or how she left it and where exactly it took place.
Experts have said it is not unusual for victims of trauma to remember certain details vividly but have little recollection of other things.
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- Ford’s testimony through the eyes of a survivor
‘Ex-boyfriends’ attack accusers
Prof Ford’s legal team has released a statement to rebut claims by a purported ex-boyfriend of hers.
Fox News has obtained a letter from the unnamed man contradicting her testimony that she had never given anyone advice on taking lie-detector tests.
The unidentified man says he witnessed the California psychology professor coach a friend on how to take a polygraph while applying for a government job.
Prof Ford’s legal team released a statement from Prof Ford’s friend, Monica McLean, the woman named in the purported ex-boyfriend’s letter.
Ms McLean denied that Prof Ford had ever had any “type of assistance whatsoever in connection with any polygraph exam I have taken at anytime”.
Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans on Tuesday took the extraordinary step of releasing another letter attacking another Kavanaugh accuser, Julie Swetnick.
The correspondence was sent by a man identifying himself as a former boyfriend of Ms Swetnick.
Her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, told the Washington Post the letter was “bogus and outrageous”.
Ms Swetnick accuses Judge Kavanaugh of involvement in alleged drugging and sexual assault of girls at house parties in the 1980s.
Is the FBI inquiry about to end?
The FBI’s confidential investigation is due to be completed by Friday, but some reports have suggested it could be completed as early as Wednesday.
According to US media reports, at least five people have been questioned so far. Four of those interviewed attended a 1 July 1982 event which was listed on a calendar that Mr Kavanaugh has produced to show what he did at the time.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said the Senate must vote on confirming Mr Kavanaugh this week.