Welcome to another round of Capitol Hill lawmakers responding to President Donald Trump’s sexist remarks, this time after he mocked Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers.
“It made me feel sort of sick,” Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) told CNN Wednesday morning, hours after Trump ridiculed Ford’s accusation at a campaign rally amid laughter and shouts of “lock her up.” “I don’t understand why he felt he had to do that.”
Trump used Ford’s “powerful testimony” as “a political rally punchline,” King added, and it won’t serve him well with senators who are swing votes on Kavanaugh’s nomination — particularly Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Susan Collins (Maine) and Jeff Flake (Ariz.).
Flake, a vocal Trump critic who has nevertheless rubber-stamped Trump policies and appointees in the past, on Wednesday called the president’s rally attack on Ford “kind of appalling.”
“Well, there is no time and no place for remarks like that, but to discuss something this sensitive at a political rally is just not right,” Flake said on NBC’s “Today” show. “I wish he hadn’t have done it.”
Collins told reporters on Capitol Hill that Trump’s attacks “were just plain wrong.”
Asked about Trump’s comments, Murkowski said they were “wholly inappropriate and in my view unacceptable.”
On whether they would affect her vote on Kavanaugh, “I am taking everything into account,” she said.
Trump, in an angry rant at a Mississippi rally Tuesday night, stuck up for Kavanaugh against the sexual assault claims and openly mocked Ford’s Senate testimony.
“So many different charges,” Trump said of Kavanaugh. “Guilty until proven innocent. ... That’s very dangerous for our country. I have it myself all the time. Let it happen to me. Shouldn’t happen to him.”
The White House stood by Trump’s attacks.
“The president was stating facts,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday.
Even Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), one of Kavanaugh’s fiercest defenders on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said, “I didn’t particularly like” Trump’s attack on Ford.
“I would tell him, knock it off. You’re not helping,” Graham said Wednesday at The Atlantic Festival in Washington.
But Graham defended Trump’s rant as “a factual rendition,” questioning Ford’s accusation and arguing “Kavanaugh was treated like crap.”
Other Kavanaugh defenders similarly expressed some concern that Trump’s comments were not helpful.
“I wish he would just stay out of it,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) told reporters.
Several Republicans refused to comment.
“You’d have to ask the president,” Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said, before disappearing into a Senate elevator.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said: “I don’t really comment a lot on other people’s comments” ― despite commenting on Trump in the past, including expressing the fear that the president might lead the U.S. into “World War III.”
Scores of Republicans in the past have condemned Trump’s misogyny ― especially after the release of the 2005 “Access Hollywood” outtake of him bragging about groping women ― but backed him anyway.
Trump’s vicious remarks were another chapter in his long history of attacking sexual assault accusers and siding with their alleged abusers.
During his presidential campaign, Trump — accused of sexual misconduct by at least 20 women — denigrated some by suggesting they were not attractive enough to be sexually assaulted.
“She is a liar,” Trump said of People magazine reporter Natasha Stoynoff, who revealed in 2016 that Trump attacked her while she was writing a profile of him in 2005. “Check out her Facebook page, you’ll understand.”
He said of another accuser: “She would not be my first choice, that I can tell you.” Pointing to yet another, he said: “Look at her. I don’t think so.”
Three women have accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct when he was in high school or college. Ford testified movingly how, when they were in high school, the future nominee and a friend pushed her into a room, where a drunken Kavanaugh held her down, groped her and held his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream.
Flake led calls from Senate moderates for an FBI probe into the allegations before the full Senate votes on Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
Flake said Sunday that Kavanaugh’s nomination “will be over” if the probe shows he lied in his Senate testimony. Kavanaugh appears to have been evasive or dishonest about multiple topics, including his drinking.
This article has been updated to include more comments from senators.
Igor Bobic contributed reporting.