Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, talks on a cellphone in a hallway outside of a meeting of Senate Republicans with Vice President Mike Pence, Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a critical vote in the confirmation of President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, was tight-lipped Wednesday shortly after more allegations surfaced against Brett Kavanaugh.

Julie Swetnick, through her lawyer, 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, Maine’s Republican senior senator and a possible deciding vote on whether Kavanaugh is confirmed, was asked about Swetnick’s allegations around noon on 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. She has been watched closely during the confirmation of Kavanaugh and has been met with protests at her office and public events.

CNN reported Wednesday evening that during a meeting with Republican leaders Collins expressed serious concerns about the newest allegations and questioned why the Senate Judiciary Committee had not subpoenaed Mark Judge.

Senate Democrats, in light of Swetnick’s allegations, called on President Trump to withdraw his nominee to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, but that doesn’t seem likely.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, the president called the allegations “ridiculous.”

“It’s a con game that they’re playing. I think you’re going to see it in the midterms,” he said, referring to the November elections where control of the House and Senate are at stake. “They can do to it anybody.”

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.”

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.”

She did not answer additional questions, including 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.

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

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, talks on a cellphone in a hallway outside of a meeting of Senate Republicans with Vice President Mike Pence, Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

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