Trump Defends Embattled Supreme Court Nominee
WHITE HOUSE —
U.S. President Donald Trump is standing by his Supreme Court nominee, saying that Brett Kavanaugh has "never ever even had a little blemish on his record."
Trump spoke to reporters Monday afternoon in the White House Roosevelt Room where he was peppered with questions just hours after Kavanaugh strongly denied that he sexually assaulted a teenage girl three decades ago when they both were in high school.
The president seems resigned to senators delaying what had been an expected Thursday vote by the judicial committee after the allegation from a professor at a California university threw Kavanaugh's confirmation into some doubt.
"If they delay a little bit just to make sure everybody's happy — they want to be happy," said Trump. "I can tell you the Republican senators want to be a hundred percent happy themselves."
The president explained that he wants to see a complete process for Kavanaugh.
"I'd like everybody to be very happy," he added. "Most importantly I want the American people to be happy because they're getting somebody that is great."
Trump expressed disappointment with opposition Democrats for sitting on the information, specifically mentioning Senator Dianne Feinsten who had met with Kavanaugh for "quite a bit of time" and did not bring up the allegation.
The president said he had not spoken on Monday with his nominee, who was spending part of the day at the White House. When asked if Kavanaugh had offered to withdraw, Trump replied that was a "ridiculous question."
In a statement earlier in the day, Kavanaugh said he had "no idea who was making this accusation" until Christine Blasey Ford alleged in a Washington Post interview published Sunday that Kavanaugh and a friend, both "stumbling drunk," cornered her in a bedroom at a house party in suburban Washington in the early 1980s and that Kavanaugh groped her.
The federal circuit judge declared he had "never done anything like what the accuser describes."
"I am willing to talk to the Senate Judiciary Committee in any way the Committee deems appropriate to refute this false allegation from 36 years ago, and defend my integrity," he added in his statement released by the White House.
All 10 Democratic Party members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are calling for the panel's Republican chairman to postpone Thursday's planned vote on Kavanaugh.
Committee chairman Senator Chuck Grassley said "anyone who comes forward as Dr. Ford has deserves to be heard, so I will continue working on a way to hear her out in an appropriate, precedented and respectful manner … We are working diligently to get to the bottom of these claims."
Republican Senator Susan Collins, considered a key potential swing vote, tweeted that both should testify under oath.
Lawyer Debra Katz, who is representing Ford, said her client was willing to testify about her allegation before the Senate panel.
White House adviser Kellyanne Conway told reporters earlier Monday Ford "should not be insulted and she should not be ignored."
Katz told news shows Monday that Ford, now a 51-year-old research psychologist at Palo Alto University in California, characterizes Kavanaugh's actions as "attempted rape" and believes "that if it were not for the severe intoxication of Brett Kavanaugh, she would have been raped."
Ford said in the interview with the newspaper that Kavanaugh threw her down on a bed, grinding his body against hers and trying to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she was wearing over it. Ford said when she tried to scream, he put his hand over her mouth.
"I thought he might inadvertently kill me," she was quoted as saying in the newspaper. "He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing."
Ford said she escaped when Kavanaugh's friend jumped on top of them, sending all three tumbling.
Republicans, some of whom see the allegations as a stalling tactic by Democrats, have been pushing to confirm Kavanaugh before November's mid-term elections when they could lose control of the Senate.
A Judiciary committee statement Sunday accused Democrats of hiding Ford's allegations until the eve of the committee vote.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a member of the committee, said he would welcome hearing from Ford.
Sen. Jeff Flake, another Republican on the committee, went further, saying he would not vote to approve Kavanaugh without first hearing from Ford.
Feinstein, the top Democrat on the panel, led a number of Democrats calling for a delay in the vote.
"I support Mrs. Ford's decision to share her story, and now that she has, it is in the hands of the FBI to conduct an investigation. This should happen before the Senate moves forward on this nominee," Feinstein said in a statement released Sunday.
Ken Bredemeier contributed to this report.