President Trump on Wednesday said that he would have pushed for a vote on Brett Kavanaugh without hearing from the Supreme Court nominee’s accuser if it had been up to him.
“I think the Senate, the Republicans, could not be nicer in the way they’re handling this,” Trump told reporters as he arrived at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. “They could’ve pushed it through two and a half weeks ago, and you wouldn’t be talking about it right now, which is frankly what I would’ve preferred. But they didn’t do that.”
That’s the opposite of Trump’s position last week, when he said the accusations against his nominee should be heard.
Three women have publicly accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct. The first, Christine Blasey Ford, a professor at Palo Alto University, said Kavanaugh attempted to rape her at a party in suburban Maryland when they were teenagers. The second, Deborah Ramirez, alleged that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her during a dorm-room party when they were both freshmen at Yale. A third, Julie Swetnick, said she was a victim “gang rape” at a party where Kavanaugh and his friend, Mark Judge, were present. Swetnick also said she witnessed both Kavanaugh and Judge at a different party in line outside a room “waiting for their ‘turn’ with a girl inside.”
Kavanaugh has denied their allegations.
Ford and Kavanaugh are scheduled to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley announced Tuesday that Republicans have retained a female sex-crimes prosecutor, Rachel Mitchell, to question Ford, rather than face the potentially awkward spectacle of an all-male Republican panel grilling Kavanaugh’s accuser.
Grassley, though, refused to accede to demands by Ford’s lawyer for an FBI investigation into her allegations and for additional witnesses to be called. Grassley has scheduled the committee vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination for Friday morning, less than 24 hours after the testimony. The full Senate could vote on his confirmation as early as next week, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he expects Kavanaugh to be approved.
“The Republicans could not be nicer, could not be more respectful to the process, certainly could not be more respectful to the woman,” Trump said. “And I’m OK with that. I think I might’ve pushed it forward a lot faster.”
When Ford first went public with her allegations, Trump said he was eager to hear her testimony.
“I really want to see her; I would really want to see what she has to say,” Trump said last week.
“If she shows up and makes a credible showing, that’ll be very interesting, and we’ll have to make a decision,” the president continued, before proceeding to cast doubt on her testimony in advance: “But I can only say this. He is such an outstanding man, [it’s] very hard for me to imagine anything happened.”
On Wednesday the president continued to defend Kavanaugh’s character despite the sexual misconduct allegations.
“I know this particular man, Judge Kavanaugh,” Trump said. “He’s outstanding. You don’t find people like this. He’s outstanding. He’s a — he’s a gem.”
On the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly Tuesday, Trump attacked Ramirez, calling her allegations against Kavanaugh part of a “con job” engineered by Democrats.
“She was totally inebriated,” the president said. “She was all messed up, and she doesn’t know; it might have been him. ‘Oh gee, let’s not make him a Supreme Court judge.’”
On Monday, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, seen as one of a handful of key swing votes, warned her GOP colleagues not to prejudge sexual assault allegations against the nominee.
“We are now in a place where it’s not about whether or not Judge Kavanaugh is qualified,” Murkowski told the New York Times. “It is about whether or not a woman who has been a victim at some point in her life is to be believed.”
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