Trump defends court nominee Kavanaugh, wants to hear from accuser




  • In US
  • 2018-09-19 15:00:54Z
  • By By Roberta Rampton

By Roberta Rampton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump on Wednesday said it would be "unfortunate" if the woman who has accused his Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault did not testify before a U.S. Senate committee, as he stepped up his defense of the conservative federal appeals court judge.

Trump answered questions about Kavanaugh, whose nomination is now in jeopardy in the Senate, as he left the White House to visit hurricane-stricken areas in North Carolina and South Carolina.

Christine Blasey Ford, a university professor in California, has accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in 1982 when both were high school students in suburban Maryland. Kavanaugh has denied the allegation.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees Supreme Court nominations, has scheduled a hearing for Monday and invited both Ford and Kavanaugh to testify. Ford's lawyers said on Tuesday she would not appear before the Senate until after the FBI investigates the allegations. Officials have said the FBI is not looking into the matter.

"Look, if she shows up and makes a credible showing, that will be very interesting and we'll have to make a decision. But I can only say this: he's such an outstanding man - very hard for me to imagine that anything happened," Trump told reporters.

"I really want to see her," Trump said.

The Republican president said he wanted the Senate confirmation process to play out.

"I think he's an extraordinary man. I think he's a man of great intellect, as I've been telling you, and he had this unblemished record. This is a very tough thing for him and his family. And we want to get it over with," Trump said.

"If she shows up, that would be wonderful. If she doesn't show up, that would be unfortunate," Trump added.

The accusations have roiled a confirmation process that once seemed smooth for Kavanaugh, who if confirmed could consolidate the conservative grip on the top U.S. court.

Democrats, already opposed to Kavanaugh, have sought an FBI investigation, a request Republicans rebuffed.

The confirmation fight comes just weeks before Nov. 6 congressional elections in which Democrats seek to win control of Congress from Trump's fellow Republicans.

Earlier on Wednesday, CNN reported that a former classmate of Kavanaugh denied attending a high school party where the nominee is accused of assaulting Ford.

Patrick J. Smyth sent a letter to Republican Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley and top Democrat Dianne Feinstein in which he denied seeing any "improper conduct" by Kavanaugh, a classmate at Georgetown Preparatory School, according to CNN, which obtained a copy of the letter.

"I understand that I have been identified by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford as the person she remembers as 'PJ' who supposedly was present at the party she described in her statements to the Washington Post," Smyth said in his letter, CNN reported.

"I am issuing this statement today to make it clear to all involved that I have no knowledge of the party in question; nor do I have any knowledge of the allegations of improper conduct she has leveled against Brett Kavanaugh."

It was not clear where and when Ford had identified Smyth as being present at the party. Ford has said Kavanaugh pinned her down and tried to take her clothes off while another boy, identified as Mark Judge, watched.

Judge earlier told Grassley through a lawyer he did not want to speak publicly. Judge, who has written about his teenage alcoholism, said he had no memory of the party at issue and had never seen Kavanaugh behave in the manner she described.


(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Will Dunham)

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