US President Donald Trump has jumped in to defend his embattled nominee for the Supreme Court, saying Brett Kavanaugh most probably did not commit a sexual assault more than three decades ago.
"I feel so badly for him that he's going through this, to be honest with you," Trump said on Tuesday during a press conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda. "I feel so badly for him. This is not a man that deserves this."
Lawyers for the woman accusing Kavanaugh of the 1982 sexual assault have said Christine Blasey Ford wants her allegations to be investigated by the US government before she appears for a hearing in Congress.
The Senate Judiciary Committee, which is overseeing Kavanaugh’s nomination, had called a hearing for Monday to examine the sexual abuse accusations, and the White House had said Kavanaugh was ready to testify.
In a letter to the committee’s chairman, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, attorneys for Ford said Tuesday that an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) needed to come before a Senate hearing. Trump has said he would not order an FBI investigation.
On Wednesday, Trump said that it would be unfortunate if Ford did not testify before the Senate.
“Look, if she shows up and makes a credible showing, that will be very interesting and we’ll have to make a decision,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
“But I can only say this: He’s such an outstanding man - very hard for me to imagine that anything happened,” Trump said.
“If she shows up, that would be wonderful. If she doesn’t show up, that would be unfortunate,” Trump added, calling the situation “very unfair” to his nominee.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley set a Friday morning deadline for Ford to decide if she will testify before the Senate.
If Ford decides not to testify, Kavanaugh’s chances for confirmation in the Republican-led Senate would increase as most of the GOP senators are largely supportive.
“I think it’s not fair to Judge Kavanaugh for her not to come forward and testify,” said moderate Republican Senator Susan Collins, whose vote could be crucial.
Democratic Party lawmakers, already fiercely opposed to Kavanaugh, have also been seeking an FBI investigation, a request that Republicans have rebuffed. Trump and other Republicans said they did not think the FBI needed to be involved.
Ford, a psychology professor at Palo Alto University in California, has accused Kavanaugh of attacking her and trying to remove her clothing while he was drunk at a party near Washington in 1982 when they were both high school students, allegations Kavanaugh has called “completely false.”
The development further roiled a confirmation process that once seemed smooth for Kavanaugh, whose confirmation to the lifetime post could consolidate the conservative grip on the top US court.
Trump nominated Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court in July. If approved by the committee and the whole Senate, as has been expected, Kavanaugh is likely to decidedly tilt the nation’s highest court to conservatives for years to come.
The 53-year-old has served as a judge for the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia since 2006. If confirmed, he will replace long-serving Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who announced his retirement on June 27.
A number of prominent men in business, entertainment, and the media in the United States have been accused of sexual misconduct in the past year, triggering what has become known as the #MeToo movement.
Meanwhile, 24 women who attended the Holton-Arms School with Ford have signed and sent a letter of support for her to Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California.
The women attest the "honesty, integrity, and intelligence" of Ford and support her "bringing this matter forward."
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