WASHINGTON ― Two days after deriding a sexual assault accusation against his Supreme Court nominee as a “con job” and a day after demanding “the Senate must vote” on the judge’s confirmation, President Donald Trump appeared downright subdued Friday after Senate leaders agreed to seek an FBI investigation of the allegation.
“I don’t know if this is going to continue onward or are we going to get a vote,” Trump said in a photo opportunity at the White House.
Trump said he had only just learned about an agreement Senate Republican leaders reached with Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) to put off a confirmation vote on Judge Brett Kavanaugh until the FBI can look into “credible” sexual misconduct allegations against him.
He said he would not try to pressure other Republican senators, including Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and Maine’s Susan Collins, into voting for Kavanaugh. “They have to do what they think is right. They have to be comfortable with themselves,” Trump said.
Hours later, the White House released a statement from Trump honoring the Senate’s request: “I’ve ordered the FBI to conduct a supplemental investigation to update Judge Kavanaugh’s file. As the Senate has requested, this update must be limited in scope and completed in less than one week.”
Kavanaugh said in a statement released through the White House that he would cooperate: “Throughout this process, I’ve been interviewed by the FBI, I’ve done a number of ‘background’ calls directly with the Senate, and yesterday, I answered questions under oath about every topic the senators and their counsel asked me. I’ve done everything they have requested and will continue to cooperate.”
The words and tone were a dramatic turn from Trump’s stance at a Wednesday news conference during his visit to the United Nations General Assembly. There, he discounted the accusation as politically motivated. “Con job. It is. It’s a con job. You know, confidence. It’s a confidence job. But they ― it’s a con job by the Democrats. They know it,” he said.
And Thursday, following Kavanaugh’s angry performance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, when he also claimed the accusations were part of a left-wing conspiracy to keep him off the high court, Trump tweeted his praise.
“Judge Kavanaugh showed America exactly why I nominated him. His testimony was powerful, honest, and riveting. 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!” Trump wrote.
On Friday, after Flake’s announcement that he would not feel comfortable with a floor vote until an FBI investigation had been conducted, Trump claimed that he, too, found the testimony of Kavanaugh’s accuser, professor Christine Blasey Ford, moving.
“I thought her testimony was very compelling, and she looks like a very fine woman to me. A very fine woman,” Trump said. “Certainly she was a very credible witness. She was very good in many respects.”
I thought her testimony was very compelling, and she looks like a very fine woman to me. A very fine woman. President Donald Trump on Christine Blasey Ford
Blasey, now a research psychologist in California, testified that Kavanaugh and a friend of his had trapped her in a bedroom at a small gathering 36 years ago. She said Kavanaugh held her down, covered her mouth with his hand and tried to remove her clothes as he and his friend laughed. Kavanaugh has denied even being at the house with her and said he has never sexually assaulted anyone. Since she came forward, two other women have leveled accusations against him.
Many Republicans, including senators on the Judiciary Committee, have said they believe Blasey was attacked but that she must have been mistaken about the identity.
“Clearly she’s been through something awful,” Sen. Mike Lee of Utah said Friday.
“I feel sorry for her, and I do believe something happened to her,” said South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham. “But I don’t believe it was Brett Kavanaugh.”