President Trump on Monday responded to allegations by a woman who says she was sexually assaulted by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh when they were teenagers.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump said Kavanaugh “is somebody very special” who “never even had a little blemish on his record.”
“I wish the Democrats could have done this a lot sooner,” Trump said. “But with all of that being said we want to go through the process.”
Last week, reports surfaced that the woman had sent a letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., detailing the alleged incident, which she says occurred in the early 1980s at a house party in suburban Maryland.
Christine Blasey Ford, a 51-year-old research psychologist who teaches college in Palo Alto, Calif., reluctantly went public as Kavanaugh’s accuser in an interview with the Washington Post published on Sunday.
According to Ford’s account, Kavanaugh and his friend forced her into a room at the party in “pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers and clumsily attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she wore over it. When she tried to scream, she said, he put his hand over her mouth.”
“I thought he might inadvertently kill me,” Ford said.
In a statement, Kavanaugh “categorically and unequivocally” denied the claims.
“This is a completely false allegation,” he said. “I have never done anything like what the accuser describes — to her or to anyone. Because this never happened, I had no idea who was making this accusation until she identified herself yesterday.”
The news sent shockwaves throughout Washington, with several key Republicans — including Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. — joining Democrats in calling for a delay in Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings until the allegations can be investigated.
“For me, we can’t vote until we hear more,” Flake said Sunday.
Both Kavanaugh and Ford said they were willing to testify publicly.
Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee released a statement saying, “It’s disturbing that these uncorroborated allegations from more than 35 years ago, during high school, would surface on the eve of a committee vote after Democrats sat on them since July.”
In a statement released earlier Monday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said he was actively working to set up follow-up calls with both Kavanaugh and Ford ahead of Thursday’s scheduled vote.
On Capitol Hill, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, a member of the committee, told reporters he had spoken to Kavanaugh and that the judge told him he was not at the party where the alleged assault occurred. Hatch said that Kavanaugh’s accuser may have mistaken the Supreme Court nominee for someone else.
In a speech on the Senate floor, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., accused Democrats of choosing to “keep secret” the claims against Kavanaugh “until the 11th hour.” Both McConnell and Trump noted that Feinstein never raised the assault allegations during Kavanaugh’s public hearings nor in her private conversations with the Supreme Court nominee.
Feinstein said she was trying to keep Ford’s claims against Kavanaugh a secret at the accuser’s request. After they leaked to the press, Feinstein said, she turned over Ford’s letter to the FBI.
“It’s really not fair to either of them the way this was handled,” McConnell said.
Trump told reporters he had not spoken about the sexual assault allegation with Kavanaugh, who was seen entering the White House Monday.
The president said he isn’t concerned that the allegations may delay the vote and is confident Kavanaugh will ultimately be confirmed.
“I’d like to see a complete process,” he said. “I’d like everybody to be very happy. Most importantly, I want the American people to be happy because they’re getting somebody that is great. I want him to go in at the absolute highest level. And I think to do that you have to go through this. If it takes a little delay it’ll take a little delay.”
When a reporter asked Trump if Kavanaugh had offered to withdraw his name from consideration, Trump scoffed.
“What a ridiculous question,” the president said.
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