Trump Backs Supreme Court Nominee Despite New Sexual Assault Claim
President Donald Trump has expressed strong support for his Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, despite a new allegation of sexual misconduct against him.
Speaking in New York, where he is attending the U.N. General Assembly this week, Trump said the allegations against Kavanaugh are "totally political."
"There's a chance that this could be one of the single most unfair, unjust things to happen to a candidate for anything,'' Trump said. "I am with him all the way."
The New Yorker magazine reported late Sunday that two U.S. senators are investigating a woman's charge that Kavanaugh exposed himself at a Yale University dormitory party during the 1983-1984 academic year. Deborah Ramirez, 53, described the incident in an interview after being contacted by the magazine and said that Kavanaugh thrust his penis in her face and caused her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away.
White House spokesperson Kerri Kupec released a statement denouncing the report. "This 35-year-old uncorroborated claim is the latest in a coordinated smear campaign by the Democrats designed to tear a good man down," said Kupec. "This claim is denied by all who were said to be present and is wholly inconsistent with what many women and men who knew Judge Kavanaugh at the time in college say. The White House stands firmly behind Judge Kavanaugh.”
Ramirez admitted to New Yorker reporters Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer that she had been drinking and that she has gaps in her memories. But after consultation with a lawyer, Ramirez told the magazine she felt confident enough in her recollection that it happened.
Kavanaugh has denied the allegation made by Ramirez in a statement released through the White House, calling it "a smear, plain and simple." He has also denied allegations by a woman who claimed Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were both high school teenagers in 1982.
The woman, Christine Blasey Ford, has agreed to testify before the Senate Judiciary committee Thursday morning.
But the new allegations that were reported Sunday have prompted a key senator to call for "an immediate postponement" of any further proceedings by the committee, which is considering Kavanaugh's nomination. California's Diane Feinstein, the committee's top Democrat, sent a letter Sunday to Republican chairman Chuck Grassley urging him to refer the new allegations to the FBI in order to ensure "a fair, independent process that will gather all the facts."
Exact details of Thursday's scheduled hearing before the Judiciary Committee are still being worked out.
Reports say Ford's lawyers — Debra Katz, Lisa Banks and Michael Bromwich — agree she will go first, to be followed by Kavanaugh.
The three lawyers are not pleased with but agree to the committee's decision not to call any other witnesses. They include Kavanaugh's friend, Mike Judge, who Ford says was in the room when the alleged sexual attack occurred.
"Despite actual threats to her safety and her life, Dr. Ford believes it is important for senators to hear directly from her about the sexual assault committed against her," the lawyers said in a statement. They noted that other witnesses are "essential for a fair hearing."
Also to be worked out is exactly who will question Ford. There are 21 members of the Senate Judiciary Committee — 11 conservative Republican men and 10 Democrats.
In his statement Sunday, Kavanaugh said he is looking 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."
Kavanaugh is President Trump's choice to fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court created by Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement.
His confirmation by the Republican-controlled Senate seemed assured until Ford alleged in a Washington Post interview that a drunken 17-year-old Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed and tried to tear her clothes off. She says he put his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream. Ford says she feared Kavanaugh might inadvertently kill her before she managed to get away.
Capitol Hill correspondent Michael Bowman contributed to this report.