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Trump says it's 'hard to imagine' Supreme Court nominee assaulted woman

Republicans have set a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for Monday that is supposed to feature Brett Kavanaugh and his accuser.

Updated Sep 19th 2018, 9:11 PM

Brett Kavanaugh Confirmation Hearing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

US PRESIDENT DONALD Trump has said the White House and Republican supporters of Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination would have to “make a decision” on going forward if the woman accusing him of a long-ago sexual assault delivers a compelling account to senators considering confirmation.

But amid uncertainty over Kavanaugh’s fate and even whether next Monday’s scheduled hearing would occur, Trump cast fresh doubt on whether the alleged 1980s attack even happened.

“Look, if she shows up and makes a credible showing that’ll be very interesting,” Trump told reporters as he left the White House to survey flood damage in North Carolina.

We’ll have to make a decision. But I can only say this: He is such an outstanding man. Very hard for me to imagine that anything happened.

Republicans have set a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for Monday that is supposed to feature Kavanaugh and his accuser, California psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford.

Backed by Democrats, Ford has said she wants the FBI to first investigate the alleged incident, in which she says Kavanaugh pinned her on a bed and tried taking off her clothes during a high school party.

Only the White House can order the FBI to get involved, since Ford is not accusing Kavanaugh of a federal crime.

The FBI could interview Ford, Kavanaugh and others about the allegation if Trump asked the bureau to reopen its background investigation, but the president has rejected that idea, saying the FBI has already done its work.

The FBI was involved originally since it handles part of the background checks for presidential nominations of Supreme Court justices.

Kavanaugh support

Republicans are hoping to win committee and full Senate approval for Kavanaugh this month, before the new Supreme Court session begins, and have shown no taste for slowing that process. A substantial delay could push confirmation past the November elections — when Democrats have a shot at winning Senate control — plus allow more time for unforeseen problems to pop up.

“I’d really want to see her. I really would want to see what she has to say,” Trump said.

“If she shows up that would be wonderful. If she doesn’t show up that would be unfortunate.”

While most Republicans have expressed support for Kavanaugh, they’ve largely been careful to not criticise Ford’s assertions about what she says happened.

That underscores a desire to avoid antagonising female voters at a time when the #MeToo movement has made sexual abuse a major political dynamic.

Signalling the GOP’s determination to give no ground, Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley tweeted that the FBI’s role “is complete”.

He said Ford’s chance to tell her story would be Monday when she could do so publicly or behind closed doors.

“No other OUTSIDE investigation is necessary,” he wrote.

Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., accused Democrats of using their calls for an FBI investigation as a ploy.

Those demands are “not about finding the truth, but delaying the process until after the midterm elections,” Graham, a Judiciary panel member, said in a statement.

“It is imperative the Judiciary Committee move forward on the Kavanaugh nomination and a committee vote be taken as soon as possible.”

Witnesses

One other witness the Democrats want to hear from is Kavanaugh’s high school friend Mark Judge, who Ford said was in the room when she was assaulted.

Kavanaugh has denied Ford’s allegation, and Judge says he doesn’t remember any such thing. Judge says he won’t appear before the committee.

Yesterday, Ford’s attorneys wrote to the Judiciary Committee that she wants to cooperate.

But in the days since she publicly accused Kavanaugh of assaulting her at a party 35 years ago, the lawyers said, she has been the target of “vicious harassment and even death threats.” Her family has relocated, they said.

An FBI investigation “should be the first step in addressing the allegations,” the lawyers wrote.

Democrats

In the Senate, the issue of when and if Ford might testify has ignited a furor, especially among Democratic women.

Democrats, in general, are complaining that the process is being rushed, but some women are seeing a deeper — and possibly insidious — narrative, especially if Republicans go ahead with Monday’s hearing without Ford.

“I think we all know when a situation is stacked,” Senator Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, told CNN.

“This is a situation that is stacked … She’s already been attacked, had to move out of her house.”

In a tweet last night, Trump wrote: “The Supreme Court is one of the main reasons I got elected President. I hope Republican voters, and others, are watching, and studying, the Democrats Playbook.”

Republicans say Ford will have one chance to testify, and one chance only.

“Monday is her opportunity,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said.

McConnell expressed confidence that Kavanaugh would be confirmed: “I’m not concerned about tanking the nomination.”

The GOP chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, said an FBI investigation wouldn’t have bearing on Ford’s testimony so “there is no reason for further delay”.

Grassley said the committee offered Ford “the opportunity to share her story” in a public or a private hearing, or staff interviews, “whichever makes her most comfortable. The invitation for Monday still stands”.

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