Trump calls Ford testimony ‘compelling;’ backs Kavanaugh
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump says he found the testimony by a woman who said she was sexually assaulted by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh decades ago to be “very compelling,” but added that he’d given no consideration to the idea of nominating someone else.
“Not even a little bit,” Trump said Friday.
The president told reporters that Christine Blasey Ford “was a very credible witness” but also that Kavanaugh’s own testimony on Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee was “an incredible moment.”
Reiterating his support for Kavanaugh, Trump said, “I think it will work out very well for the country.”
The president also expressed confidence in the confirmation process as an 11th-hour demand from a key Republican senator again threatened to derail the timeline for a Senate vote.
“I’m going to let the Senate handle that, they’ll make their decisions and they’ve been doing a good job and very professional,” he said. “I’m sure it will all be very good.”
The White House had resisted calls for another investigation, as Kavanaugh denied allegations of sexual misconduct in fiery testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday. But the White House’s hand was forced Friday by announcement by Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake that he would not vote in Kavanaugh’s favor without a follow-on probe.
Trump said in a statement that the updated investigation “must be limited in scope” and “completed in less than one week.”
On Twitter later Friday, Trump wrote: “Just started, tonight, our 7th FBI investigation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh. He will someday be recognized as a truly great Justice of The United States Supreme Court!”
Trump missed hardly a moment of Thursday’s hearing, relying on DVRs to keep up on the hearing from his private office on Air Force One as he traveled from New York to Washington, and continuing to monitor it back at the White House, where Ford’s voice echoed from TVs around the building.
Within moments of the eight-hour proceedings concluding, Trump tweeted his approval of Kavanaugh’s performance and called on the Senate to move swiftly to a vote. “His testimony was powerful, honest, and riveting,” Trump said. “Democrats’ search and destroy strategy is disgraceful and this process has been a total sham and effort to delay, obstruct, and resist. The Senate must vote!”
Ford’s tearful recounting of allegations that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were in high school led Trump to express sympathy for Kavanaugh and his family for having to listen to the testimony, according to two Republicans close to the White House but not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations. They added that Trump expressed some frustration at the process — and the staff work — that led Kavanaugh to this point.
After seeing Ford’s powerful testimony, White House aides and allies expressed concern that Kavanaugh, whose nomination already seemed to be teetering, would have difficulty to deliver a strong enough showing to match hers.
White House officials believe Kavanaugh’s passionate denials of Ford’s claims, including the judge’s tearful description of the impact the accusations had on his family, met the challenge. A White House official who was not authorized to speak publicly said the West Wing saw the judge’s opening statement as “game changing” and said Trump appeared to react positively.
Trump told associates after the hearing that he liked Kavanaugh’s fighting attitude and was critical of Democrats who he sees as politicizing the process, said a person familiar with his thinking who was not authorized to disclose private conversations. He was happy with Republicans on the committee, though he was not impressed with the questioning from an outside female prosecutor. While he acknowledges the vote will be close, he currently thinks they will get there.
Lemire reported from New York. Associated Press writers Ken Thomas and Jill Colvin contributed from Washington.
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