Trump Defends Kavanaugh in Wake of Additional Allegations
On Wednesday, President Donald Trump claimed a concerted effort by Democrats to drum up sexual-misconduct charges against Judge Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court nominee who has been accused by five women of sexual misconduct.
“They are actually con artists because they know how quality this man is and they have destroyed a man’s reputation and they want to destroy it even more and I think people are going to see that in the midterms, what they have done to this family, what they have done to these children, these beautiful children of his and what they have done to his wife. They know it is a big fat con job,” Trump said.
The president made the comments in a nearly 90-minute, often rambling press conference following his meetings with world leaders at the United Nations in New York.
Kavanaugh will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday along with Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault.
Four other women have come forward in the past few days with detailed complaints about Kavanaugh. He has denied all the allegations.
On Wednesday evening, NBC News reported that an anonymous complaint was sent to Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado. According to the complaint, the sender said in 1998, she and her daughter were out with Kavanaugh and several friends, when an inebriated Kavanaugh “shoved her friend up against the wall very aggressively and sexually.”
According to media reports, Kavanaugh was also questioned Tuesday during a phone call with Judiciary Committee staff about an allegation that he sexually assaulted a woman in Rhode Island in the mid-1980s.
The office of Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island received a phone call Tuesday morning “making allegations concerning a rape on a boat in August of 1985,” according to transcripts of a call between committee staff and Kavanaugh released Wednesday to the media. Kavanaugh denies the allegations.
Trump said he would watch Thursday’s potentially explosive Senate hearing and that he could still change his mind about his nominee once he hears what Ford has to say.
“It’s possible I’ll hear that and I’ll say, ‘Hey, I’ll change my mind,’” Trump said. “I can’t tell you. I have to watch tomorrow.”
Asked whether his own history, with numerous women accusing him of sexual assault, has shaped how he views accusations against Kavanaugh, the president said he knows what it’s like to be falsely accused and suggested Kavanaugh was being presumed “guilty until proven innocent.”
“This is beyond Supreme Court. This has everything to do with our country,” Trump said. “When you are guilty until proven innocent, it is just not supposed to be that way. … In this case, you are guilty until proven innocent. I think that is a very, very dangerous standard for our country.”
In a CNN Poll conducted in August, most women across the country said they don’t want Kavanaugh to become the next Supreme Court justice. Only 28 percent of women polled were in favor of his appointment. Trump’s pick also had the lowest approval rating overall of any Supreme Court nomination in the past 30 years.
In prepared testimony for Thursday, Kavanaugh again denied Ford’s allegation, describing it as part of what he called “last minute smears” and “obvious character assassination.”
Democrats, including Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, continue to press for a full investigation of all the allegations.
“They should all be heard in a timely fashion and this notion that we are going to rush through simply Dr. Ford and then immediately have the committee move to a vote that is not a fair process,” Warner said.
Republicans, such as South Dakota Sen. John Thune, have accused Democrats of waging a smear campaign against Kavanaugh.
“I think the Democrats in the Senate have had one goal since the beginning of this process and that is to sink Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination, and we are finding that they will go to any lengths to do that,” Thune said.
A committee vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination is set for Friday, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell said.
“We are going to be moving forward. I’m confident we are going to win. I’m confident that he will be confirmed in the very near future,” he added.
Democrats, including Washington state Sen. Patty Murray, are warning of a political backlash if Republicans ram Kavanaugh’s nomination through the Senate.
“This is not just a box to check. Women and their experiences are not just things to be plowed through. Women and all survivors should be heard and they should be respected,” she said.
Anti-Kavanaugh protesters have taken to the halls of Congress to pressure undecided Republicans, chanting, “Vote no or we will fund your opponent and defeat you.”
Among the undecided on Capitol Hill is Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.
“Do I feel pressure? Sure. But I don’t feel pressured to make a decision until I’m ready,” she said.
If confirmed, Kavanaugh could solidify a conservative majority on the court for a generation. A final Senate vote on his nomination could come next week.