President Donald Trump has called for the FBI to investigate his political foes, but on Tuesday he signaled he will let bureau leaders decide whether to look into sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
His comments revealed much about the White House and Senate Republicans’ emerging strategy: Focus on Kavanaugh, his career, his professional relationship with women and his family — but do not attack Ford. And do everything they can to keep the nomination in solid enough shape for a floor vote in the coming weeks to tip the balance of the high court to the 5-4 conservative majority the party has eyed for a decade.
Trump, who also has faced sexual misconduct allegations, expressed empathy for Kavanaugh and his family — but not his accuser, California professor Christine Blasey Ford, or her husband and children.
“I feel so badly that he’s going through this,” Trump said during a news conference at the White House with his Polish counterpart. “This is not a man who deserves this.”
The president selected the federal appellate judge for the high court earlier this year to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Supreme Court’s sometimes-swing voter. Kavanaugh appeared headed to a mostly party-line confirmation vote both in the Judiciary Committee and on the Senate floor until accusations emerged then Ford told her story from a 1982 high school party to the Washington Post in an article published online Sunday afternoon.
She contends Kavanaugh and a friend corralled her in a bedroom, then Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed and groped her before she managed to escape. She claims he covered her mouth to suppress her screams and she worried he would inadvertently kill her.
Through two statements issued by the White House, Kavanaugh has vehemently denied the allegations. Judiciary member Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, says the judge told him Monday he wasn’t even at the party — though Ford says she doesn’t remember at which exact party the alleged incident occurred.
Trump has yet to say he feels bad for Ford if the incident is proven true or that he is sorry for “hostile” recriminations, as her lawyer has put it, she and her family have dealt with since the Post article was published. He did say how Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats handled the matter after having a confidential letter detailing the alleged incident is not fair to either the accuser or the accused.
But it was about Kavanaugh and his family that Trump reserved his sympathy Tuesday, saying he feels “terrible” for the Kavanaughs. He also dubbed the judge a “great gentleman.”
Should Ford testify, either in a public Monday hearing or behind closed doors, lawmakers would hear a different description of Brett Kavanaugh. But Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, a Judiciary member, says the panel has yet to hear from the accuser or her attorney about whether she will show up Monday morning.
Trump pinned blame on the matter on Senate Judiciary Democrats, saying they appear to mostly aim to “obstruct” the nomination; he questioned again why Judiciary ranking member Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., did not bring up the letter sooner or discuss it with Kavanaugh either during a private meeting or his confirmation hearing earlier this month. Trump repeated the “obstruct” line several times during the press conference in the ornate East Room, whether referring to how Democrats have treated his legislative agenda or other judicial nominations.
“It should have been brought up … long ago,” the president said, adding Ford should have a chance to “state her case” at the same time Kavanaugh states his.
“And then they will vote,” Trump said. “They will look at his career, they will look at what she has to say from 36 years ago.”
Republicans appear mindful to not repeat the 1991 Senate Judiciary hearing on Anita Hill’s allegations of inappropriate sexual comments by Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.
During that hearing, Republican senators pulled few punched.
Sen. John Danforth, R-Mo., wondered aloud if Hill had “erotomania,” which causes the affected individual to falsely believe a powerful figure has feelings of affection toward them. Hill has said in interviews that coming forward and testifying altered her life forever, describing ongoing harassment in recent media interviews.