Trump questions Kavanaugh's accuser, says opponents want to 'destroy' nominee

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday cast doubt on the woman who has accused his Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, saying if the attack was “as bad as she says” it would have been immediately reported to police.

After days of restrained comments on the allegations by California professor Christine Blasey Ford, Trump took to Twitter to question her account of what happened between her and Kavanaugh at a party in 1982 when they were in high school.

The tweets came as a Republican-dominated U.S. Senate committee struggled with Kavanaugh’s nomination. Democrats have demanded more scrutiny of him and Republicans want to move ahead with a confirmation vote in an increasingly volatile political climate ahead of the Nov. 6 congressional elections.

The Senate Judiciary Committee had delayed a vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation after Ford’s allegations emerged last week. Ford’s lawyers and committee staff were negotiating how she would testify.

For Trump, approval of Kavanaugh would cement conservative control of the Supreme Court and advance a White House effort to tilt the American judiciary more to the right.

Trump and the White House had been careful not to malign Ford after her allegations surfaced but Trump dropped the restraint in his tweets on Friday.

“I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents,” Trump said. “I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time, and place!

“Judge Brett Kavanaugh is a fine man, with an impeccable reputation, who is under assault by radical left wing politicians who don’t want to know the answers, they just want to destroy and delay,” Trump wrote, appearing to grow impatient with the appointee’s confirmation proceedings.

Ford told the Judiciary panel she would be willing to testify later next week. Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley gave her until Friday to submit prepared testimony if she planned to appear at a hearing planned for Monday. He has said he offered a private hearing and other options for her to testify.

MCCONNELL CONFIDENT OF APPROVAL

On Friday, it remained unclear how the hearing would proceed on Kavanaugh. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, speaking at a gathering of evangelical voters in Washington, assured them Kavanaugh would be confirmed.

“You watched the fight, you watched the tactics, but here is what I want to tell you – in the very near future, Judge Kavanaugh will be on the United States Supreme Court,” McConnell told the Value Voters Summit, prompting a standing ovation.

“We’re going to plow through all of this and do our job.”

McConnell’s goal has been to confirm Kavanaugh by Oct. 1, the start of the Supreme Court term.

But Democrats, who opposed the conservative federal appeals court judge even before Ford’s allegation, have accused Republicans of rushing the nomination before the elections. Trump and other Republicans, cautious of alienating women, had treated Ford carefully while calling for a quick vote.

Democratic Senator Chris Coons said Trump’s comments about Ford were “unacceptable and beneath the presidency.”

“For generations, women have been reluctant or afraid to speak out about their experiences because so often, they have been dismissed, accused of lying, or even attacked,” he said.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., September 20, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Trump’s Friday tweets contrasted to comments earlier in the week when he said Ford should be heard, even if it meant a delay in the confirmation process. At a rally in Las Vegas on Thursday night he had told supporters, “We’ll let it play out, and I think everything is going to be just fine.”

Ford has said Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in 1982 when both were high school students in Maryland. Kavanaugh has denied the allegation and pledged to testify at Monday’s hearing.

Ford’s lawyers and committee staff spoke by phone on Thursday night, a panel spokesman said without giving details. A person familiar with the call said Ford could testify by next Thursday.

The telephone discussion ended with no decision, according to media reports. The reports also said Ford’s lawyers wanted Kavanaugh to appear separately first and that she wanted to be questioned by senators, not outside counsel.

Ford’s legal team has said she strongly prefers that her allegations are fully investigated before she testifies.

White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, who has encouraged Ford to be heard, said on CNN on Friday that Ford’s requests were a “laundry list of demands.”

The Senate panel must approve Kavanaugh’s confirmation before a vote by the full Senate, where Republicans hold a 51-49 majority. Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the lifetime position would be the second of the Trump administration and solidify conservative control of the nation’s top court.

Ford’s team has sought guarantees of her safety because of death threats. Kavanaugh and his wife also had received threats, a senior White House official said.

Supporters of Kavanaugh have rallied behind him, while people backing Ford protested in Congress on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Supreme Court nominee judge Brett Kavanaugh testifies during his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 5, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Wattie -/File Photo

Reporting by Lawrence Hurley, Richard Cowan, Susan Heavey and Doina Chiacu; Writing by John Whitesides; Editing by Bill Trott

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