President Donald Trump said he could change his mind over Brett Kavanaugh after he hears what accuser Christine Blasey Ford says at Thursday’s hearing and argued there are forces of ‘evil’ at work against his Supreme Court nominee.
In a one hour and twenty minute press conference on Wednesday, Trump addressed a variety of topics – from his deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to relations with Israel to his trade deals.
But the majority of questions centered on his embattled Supreme Court nominee, who is fighting to keep his nomination alive after a third woman has accused him of sexual assault.
Trump repeatedly defended Kavanaugh, bashed Democrats – even calling them ‘evil’ – but said he wants to hear what Ford has to say about her allegation.
The president acknowledged the weight of the situation, admitting it’s a ‘very big cultural moment’ for the United States.
‘This is a very big moment for our country,’ Trump said. ‘Honestly nobody knows who to believe.’
President Donald Trump says there are forces of evil at work against his Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh
Brett Kavanaugh leaves his home in Chevy Chase, Md., on Wednesday
KAVANAUGH DAY OF DRAMA: WEDNESDAY’S KEY DEVELOPMENTS
- Another sex claim was made against Kavanaugh as a woman said shoved his daughter had seen him push her friend up against the wall very aggressively and sexually after drinking in D.C. in 1998;
- Christine Blasey Ford published her witness statement, saying she had feared he would accidentally kill her;
- Ford’s attorneys published lie-detector test results which show she passed, but that she is refusing to hand over notes from her therapist;
- Kavanaugh released his opening statement for the hearing in which he will admit he drank in high school and say he was ‘not perfect’ but once again say he has never committed sexual assault;
- The Senate Judiciary Committee released his calendars from 1982 which he will point to as proof that he was not an attempted rapist;
- Democrats on the committee demanded he step aside unless Trump agrees to order an FBI investigation;
- A poll showed a plurality of Americans now believe Ford over Kavanaugh, but that 46 per cent of people are undecided;
- Republicans were unable to guarantee they had the votes to get Kavanaugh confirmed amid fears two female GOP senators may not vote for him and Arizona’s Jeff Flake may also vote him down;
- Trump said they should have pushed the nomination through before Ford went public and refused to answer when asked if the women were liars;
- Protests hit the Capitol again, led by actress Alyssa Milano;
- The veteran sex crimes prosecutor who will question Ford was named as being from Arizona’s Maricopa County, meaning she had worked to prosecute cases brought by controversial sheriff Joe Arpaio’s department.
- The White House released a letter from 60 people who knew Kavanaugh in high school and never witnessed anything that ‘even approaches’ what is alleged. They also say they never recall meeting someone named Julie Swetnick.
He went to complain that the situation around Kavanaugh would scare off other possible nominees.
‘I must say, because some of them know that this is just a game that they’re playing. It is a con game. It is at the highest level. We’re talking about the united States supreme court. This can go on forever. I can pick five other people. At a certain point the people are going to say, no, thank you. This is the most coveted job probably in the world. And you know what? I would honestly say, because I interviewed great people for this job,’ Trump said.’
‘He’s great. But I interviewed other great people for this job. I could conceivably imagine going to one of them and saying, it is too bad what happened to this wonderful man, but I’m going to choose you number two. I want you to go. And I could conceivably be turned down by somebody that desperately wanted this job two months ago.’
He revealed even he could change his mind and pick a new nominee – if he thinks Kavanaugh is guilty.
‘If I thought he would was guilty of something like this sure,’ the president said when asked if there were any circumstances he would name a new person to the Supreme Court.
He added: ‘I want to watch. I want to see.’
‘They’re giving the women a major chance to speak. Now it’s possible I’ll hear that and I’ll say hey I’m changing my mind. That is possible,’ he said of Thursday’s hearing.
‘I can be persuaded also,’ Trump said.
But he also charged Democrats with destroying Kavanaugh’s reputation, once again defending his Supreme Court nominee as a ‘high quality’ person.
‘It’s a very dangerous period in our county and it’s being perpetrated by some very evil people – some of them are Democrats,’ Trump said.
He argues what is happening to Kavanaugh will make other people afraid to be nominated as judges.
‘What they’ve done to this man is incredible,’ he said.
‘They know how quality this man is and they’ve destroyed a man’s reputation, and they want to destroy it even more,’ Trump charged Democrats with.
He added Kavanaugh’s wife and two daughters have also been destroyed.
‘What they’ve done to this family, what they’ve done to these children — these beautiful children of his, and what they’ve done to his wife. And they know it’s a big, fat con job. And they go in to a room, and I guarantee you, they laugh like hell on what they pulled off on you and on the public, they laugh like hell, ‘ Trump fumed.
The president also said he’d be watching Thursday when Kavanaugh and Ford testify separately before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
Trump’s words add to the weight on Kavanaugh’s shoulders as he will plead with senators and the president for his judicial career and the career appointment of a lifetime.
Not only will the eyes of the world watch how he addresses Ford’s allegation he sexually assaulted her while they were high school students in the 1980s, lawmakers will be weighing his every word to decide on how to vote.
Trump also conceded it’s possible Republican senators could change their mind after they hear from Ford.
‘It’s possible,’ he conceded, ‘They’ll change their mind.’
Trump said he will be watching when Kavanaugh and Ford testify on Thursday
With a 51-seat majority in the upper chamber, Republicans can only afford to lose one vote if all Democrats vote no. There are four senators causing GOP leaders concern – Jeff Flake, Bob Corker, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski.
Kavanaugh will admit to drinking too much when he testifies before senators on Thursday but he will emphasize he ‘never sexually assaulted anyone – not in high school, not in college, not ever.’
The Supreme Court nominee’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee was released Wednesday.
Trump also admitted his view of the situation has been colored by the fact he’s been accused of sexual assault himself, all cases he has denied.
‘I’ve had a lot of false charges made against me. I’m a very famous person, unfortunately. I’ve been a famous person for a long time. But I’ve had a lot of false charges made against me, really false charges. I know friends that have had false charges. People want fame, they want money, they want whatever,’ he said.
He added: ‘So when I see it, I view it differently than somebody sitting home watching television where they say oh, Judge Kavanaugh this or that.’
‘I was accused by four or five women who got paid a lot of money to make up stories about me. We caught them and the mainstream media refused to put it on television. They refused to even write about it,’ he noted.
‘When I see it I view it differently than someone sitting at home watching television,’ he added.
But he added he still wanted to hear from Ford.
Ford plans to acknowledge her recollection of the house party decades ago in the Washington suburbs, where she attended a private Catholic school near the one attended by the future high court nominee, is murky.
‘Brett groped me and tried to take off my clothes. He had a hard time because he was so drunk, and because I was wearing a one-piece bathing suit under my clothes. I believed he was going to rape me,’ she says in prepared testimony.
Ford acknowledges she does not have recall of all the details of the incident – including the host or the address of the party, or the date when it allegedly occurs.
‘I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t remember as much as I would like to. But the details about that night that bring me here today are ones I will never forget,’ she said.
She will testify first, followed by Kavanaugh.
And Trump, once again, defended his Supreme Court nominee, who has denied all charges. The president said that ‘these are false accusations.’
He has stood by his nominee since the first allegation came to light last Sunday.
The president also argued he could pick a woman for the job and she could have allegations against her.
‘Whether it’s a man or a woman – it can happen the other way also,’ he said at a press conference on Wednesday following his meetings at the United Nations.
‘I could pick a woman and she could have charges made from many years ago,’ he added.
Kavanaugh is facing – and denying – charges from four women. One of those allegations emerged shortly after Trump had left the stage.
In addition to Ford, Debra Ramirez claims Ford exposed himself to her when drunk at a party when they were students at Yale University, pushed his penis in her face and forced her to touch it when she pushed him away.
And Julie Swetnick, in a bombshell allegation on Wednesday, charged Kavanaugh and his high school pals with drugging and raping women.
Trump declined to answer if he thought the women were liars.
‘I won’t get into that game I will only tell you this – this is one of he highest quality people I ever met,’ he said.
Earlier Wednesday, when asked if the woman were liars, Trump responded: ‘What’s your next question?’
But he expanded on his thoughts in Wednesday’s press conference.
‘As far as the other women are concerned, I’m going to see what happens tomorrow. I’m going to be watching. You know, believe it or not I’m going to see what’s said. It’s possible that they will be convincing. Now with all of that being said, Judge Brett Kavanaugh has been for many years, one of the most respected people in Washington,’ he said.
But he repeated his distaste for attorney Michael Avenatti, who is representing Swetnick.
‘This other con-artist, Avenatti, come out with another beauty today,’ the president said of the latest allegation. ‘I can tell you her lawyer is a low life.’
Trump has not held back on his distaste for Avenatti.
Avenatti’s most prominent client is porn star Stormy Daniels, who claims she had a sexual affair with Trump in 2006 at a celebrity golf tournament.
‘Avenatti is a third rate lawyer who is good at making false accusations, like he did on me and like he is now doing on Judge Brett Kavanaugh,’ Trump said earlier Wednesday.
Only Ford is testifying Thursday but Ramirez’s attorney said she is willing to do the same.
Swetnick’s lawyer said she is willing to talk to the FBI. All three women have called for an FBI investigation into their allegations, which Trump brushed aside.
Christine Ford will testify Thursday but Debbie Ramirez is not being called
‘The FBI told us they’ve investigated Judge Kavanaugh six times, five times — many times over the years. They know him very well. But here there was nothing to investigate from at least one standpoint — they didn’t know the location, they didn’t know the time, they didn’t know the year — they didn’t know anything. And it’s like, where do you go?,’ Trump said.
He also argues an investigation would not change Democrats’ minds.
‘It’s not going to change any of the Democrats minds,’ he said. ‘If they would have come back with a most perfect, we found everything and he’s perfectly innocent of everything, it wouldn’t have made a difference; you wouldn’t have gotten one vote.’
He spent the first 15 minutes of his press conference railing against the Democrats and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer.
‘I would love to be in the room with the Democrats, close the door, you guys are all away, outside waiting and Schumer and his buddies are in there laughing. How they fooled you all. Let’s just stop them. A big, fat con,’ Trump said.
But at his press conference – his third solo one since he’s been president – Trump repeated his charge that Democrats are running a con job and added a new twist – that they are laughing like hell at the situation surrounding Kavanaugh.
‘They know it’s a big fat con job,’ Trump said, adding ‘they laugh like hell.’
He added: ‘Laughing, how they fooled you all.’
He charged Democrats with destroying Kavanaugh’s reputation, calling his nominee ‘one of he highest quality people I ever met.’
He also said Democrats would vote against George Washington if he was up for confirmation.
‘If we had George Washington the Democrats would vote against him,’ Trump said, adding: ‘And he may have had a bad past.’
Ford charged Kavanaugh with sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers at a high school party in the 1980s.
Kavanaugh has denied the allegations.
Trump acknowledged that past accusations of sexual misconduct against him have influenced the way he views similar charges against other men, including his Supreme Court nominee.
Accuser: Julie Swetnick’s dramatic testimony is a new blow to Brett Kavanaugh
Wading into the #MeToo moment, Trump said he views such accusations ‘differently’ because he’s ‘had a lot of false charges made against me.’
While Trump pledged to listen to the testimony of Kavanaugh’s accuser and even said he was open to changing his mind about his nominee, he made clear that he was deeply skeptical of these types of accusations.
‘It’s happened to me many times,’ Trumps said, claiming he’d been accused – falsely – by ‘four or five women.’
In fact, more than a dozen women came forward during the 2016 campaign, claiming they were assaulted, groped or kissed without consent by Trump.
Trump was also caught on tape in 2005 boasting of grabbing women by their genitals and kissing them without permission.
During the free-wheeling news conference, Trump continued to lash out at Democrats and label the allegations against Kavanaugh politically motivated.
He also expressed frustrations with the delays in the process guided by Republicans and took a shot at attorney Michael Avenatti, who is representing the latest accuser.
Trump’s remarks underscored the complexity of the moment, as Republicans seek to continue their efforts to install conservatives on the high court.
While Republicans want to move forward, they are mindful of the fallout if they don’t take the accusations seriously. Should the effort fail, the party would likely explode in finger-pointing that could have implications in the November elections.
‘Republican senators have delayed this for weeks now,’ Trump said. ‘They are giving the women a major chance to speak.’
He added: ‘It’s possible that I’ll hear that and I’ll say I’m changing my mind.’
And on Wednesday, a woman represented by Avenatti – who shot to fame as the attorney taking on the president for porn actress Stormy Daniels – made another accusation of misconduct.
Trump, who initially supported giving Ford time to speak, showed his rising frustration Wednesday.
Attack, attack, attack: Trump went to war with Michael Avenatti
Speaking to reporters at the United Nations earlier in the day, he said Senate Republicans ‘could have pushed it through two and a half weeks ago.’
Trump said that if lawmakers had moved faster, ‘you wouldn’t be talking about it right now, which is frankly what I would have preferred.’
Asked about the decision to have a veteran Arizona prosecutor handle the questioning in the Judiciary Committee, Trump said Senate Republicans ‘could not be nicer’ and ‘could not be more respectful.’
Trump said he was ‘OK with that,’ but again defended Kavanaugh as a ‘gem’ and said Democrats are treating him unfairly.
Trump also turned his fire directly on Avenatti, tweeting that he was a ‘third rate lawyer’ pushing ‘false accusations’ against Kavanaugh and himself.
Avenatti tweeted back, calling Trump a ‘habitual liar and complete narcissist who also is a disgrace as a president and an embarrassment to our nation.’
In recent days, the president has grown increasingly frustrated with the handling of the claims against Kavanaugh, said a person familiar with his views who was not authorized to discuss private conversations publicly.
After Kavanaugh appeared on Fox News to plead his case Monday, Trump expressed concerns that he did not defend himself more vigorously.
While Trump has wondered if he was well-advised to choose Kavanaugh, he now believes Republicans must fight back harder, mindful of the message it would send to his supporters if the GOP-controlled Senate cannot help him get another conservative jurist on the high court.