The woman who accuses US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of attempting to rape her will not testify to the Senate next week, her lawyer says.
Christine Blasey Ford’s attorney told CNN her client has been “deflecting death threats and harassment”.
Lawyer Lisa Banks said before her client goes to Congress, she wants an FBI investigation into Judge Kavanaugh.
The nominee, who denies the claim, has met officials at the White House for a second day.
Prof Ford, a psychology lecturer in California, has accused Judge Kavanaugh of drunkenly trying to remove her clothing in 1982 when they were both teenagers in a Washington DC suburb.
She says he pinned her to a bed and clamped his hand over her mouth when she attempted to scream.
Judge Kavanaugh, 53, has called the allegation “completely false”.
Why won’t Prof Ford testify?
Prof Ford’s legal team say they have written to the Senate Judiciary Committee declining its offer to testify.
Her lawyer told CNN on Tuesday night: “It’s premature to talk about a hearing on Monday because she [Prof Ford] has been dealing with the threats, the harassment and the safety of her family and that’s what she’s been focused on for the last couple of days.”
She said that since going public with her allegation in the Washington Post on Sunday, Prof Ford has been trying to work out where her family are going to sleep at night.
The legal team’s letter says that Prof Ford’s family has been forced to move out of their home, her email has been hacked and she has been impersonated online.
The correspondence says “a full investigation by law enforcement officials will ensure that the crucial facts and witnesses in this matter are assessed in a non-partisan manner, and that the Committee is fully informed before conducting any hearing or making any decisions”.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley later said that there was no reason to delay Prof Ford’s testimony as the aim would be to establish “her personal knowledge and memory of events”.
“Nothing the FBI or any other investigator does would have any bearing on what Dr Ford tells the committee,” he said in a statement.
What has the reaction been?
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, said that if Prof Ford did not appear to testify on Monday, “we are going to move on and vote [on the nominee for the Supreme Court] on Wednesday”.
“They’ve had tons of time to do this,” he said, adding: “This has been a drive-by shooting when it comes to Kavanaugh, I’ll listen to the lady, but we’re going to bring this to a close.”
Senator Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio, said the process was “very unfair” and that he did not blame Prof Ford, instead blaming “Democrats who misused this process”.
Chuck Schumer, the top Senate Democrat, said he supported the call for an FBI investigation prior to the hearing.
In a statement he urged Senate Republicans and the White House to “drop their inexplicable opposition” to it and “allow all facts to come out”.
Hawaii Democrat Mazie Hirono said “the men in this country” should “just shut up”.
“Not only do women like Dr Ford, who bravely comes forward, need to be heard, but they need to be believed,” she told a press conference.
Separately, the FBI declined to comment after the letter was made public on Tuesday.
What has Trump said about Kavanaugh?
US President Donald Trump, who reportedly did not meet Mr Kavanaugh on Tuesday, expressed sympathy for his nominee.
“I feel so badly for him that he’s going through this, to be honest with you,” the Republican president told a news conference. “This is not a man that deserves this.”
He added: “Hopefully the woman will come forward, state her case. He will state his case before representatives of the United States Senate. And then they will vote.”
Mr Trump also appeared to suggest that the controversy was being exploited by Democrats as lawmakers looked to delay the Supreme Court vote.
“The Supreme Court is one of the main reasons I got elected President. I hope Republican voters, and others, are watching, and studying, the Democrats’ Playbook,” he tweeted.
Meanwhile Mark Judge, a friend of Judge Kavanaugh who Prof Ford says witnessed the alleged incident, has said he does not want to speak publicly about the matter.
“Brett Kavanaugh and I were friends in high school but I do not recall the party described in Dr Ford’s letter,” he is quoted as saying in a letter from his lawyer.
What is at stake?
Republicans control the Senate by only a narrow 51-49 margin, meaning any defections could scupper the Supreme Court nomination.
That would set back President Trump’s efforts to install more conservatives on the Supreme Court and broader US judiciary.
If confirmed, Judge Kavanaugh, a conservative federal appeals court judge, would be expected to tilt the court’s balance further to the right.
The ugly confirmation battle could shake up the forthcoming mid-term elections.
Democrats are hoping to wrest control of Congress from Mr Trump’s fellow Republicans on 6 November, dealing a serious blow to the president’s efforts to install more conservatives on the Supreme Court and broader US judiciary.