President Trump unloaded Tuesday on Democrats and the second woman publicly accusing his Supreme Court nominee of sexual misconduct, an escalation of his attacks that reflected the peril facing Brett Kavanaugh as the Senate weighs his confirmation vote.
Defending Kavanaugh as "a high-quality person" and “so truthful,” Trump contended that the allegations against the nominee are part of what he called Democrats’ "con game." And he bashed the second accuser, Deborah Ramirez, for being "totally inebriated" during the encounter she alleged from when she and Kavanaugh were freshmen at Yale University in the early 1980s.
"The second accuser has nothing," Trump said during a 16-minute back-and-forth with reporters as he sat beside the president of Colombia before their meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
“She was totally inebriated and all messed up, and she doesn’t know,” he said.
Joining a chorus of Republicans and administration officials who have questioned Ramirez's account, in hopes of saving Kavanaugh's nomination, the president scoffed at the allegations outlined in a New Yorker story published Sunday night.
"Charges come up from 36 years ago and they're totally unsubstantiated?" Trump said, incredulously. “Thirty-six years ago and nobody even knew about it?"
The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hear separately on Thursday from Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, a psychologist and professor at Palo Alto University who has accused him of sexual assault, and may vote as early as Friday. Republicans say they have hired a woman with experience in such cases to do the questioning, in lieu of the party’s 11 men on the committee, though they initially declined to identify her.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said Tuesday evening that it was "outrageous" for Republicans to schedule the panel's confirmation vote early Friday, before senators have heard Ford's and Kavanaugh's testimony. "It's clear to me that Republicans don’t want this to be a fair process," she said in a statement.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), referring to Kavanaugh and Ford, said, “We have two people here who have a different version of what has happened. We need to listen to them both respectfully and then make a decision.”
Democrats indicated that they will ask questions themselves rather than hire outside counsel. “I was elected to do a job. I’m going to sit in the saddle and ask the questions,” said one, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey.
Ramirez is not scheduled to testify. Republican leaders, eager to confirm Kavanaugh, have promised that a vote of the full Senate will take place early next week, which under Senate rules would require the body to stay in session over the weekend for a preliminary vote.
Trump, at the U.N., was asked whether Ramirez should also be allowed to testify before Congress, and he responded with a highly personal attack on the Colorado resident.
“The second accuser doesn’t even know, she thinks maybe it could have been him, maybe not,” Trump said, his voice rising. “Admits she was drunk? She admits time lapses? This is a person, and this is a series of statements that is going to take one of the most talented intellects from a judicial standpoint in our country — keep him off the U.S. Supreme Court?”
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) was visibly frustrated by Trump’s comments. Now a Senate Democratic leader, she was elected in 1992 in the backlash at the Senate’s treatment of Anita Hill, who at then-nominee Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court confirmation hearing had accused the judge of past sexual misconduct. Hill was publicly portrayed by Republican senators as a fantasist.
Murray, speaking of Trump’s remarks, said to reporters: “How many women have heard that before? How many women have kept their experiences quiet because they knew they would hear that? And how many men have gotten away with these horrific offenses because of attacks exactly like that?”
Trump unleashed the tirade roughly an hour after delivering his annual address at the U.N., which drew laughter among the audience of world leaders and diplomats when the president opened with a boast that he's accomplished "more than almost any administration in the history of our country."
He said of Democrats, who have been calling for the FBI to reopen Kavanaugh’s background check to investigate the accusations from Ramirez and Ford, "They're con artists. They don't believe it themselves."
“They are playing a con game, and they are playing it very well, much better than Republicans,” Trump continued. He added, "They wink at each other — they know it's a con game."
The president has rejected the accusers’ and Democrats’ requests that he direct the FBI to investigate, and Republicans have said that the Judiciary Committee’s staff can handle the investigation, including questioning alleged witnesses that Ford identified.
Yet the Republicans’ solid front on that issue cracked Tuesday. Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, a GOP moderate who is undecided on Kavanaugh, told reporters that an FBI inquiry “would sure clear up all the questions, wouldn’t it?”
Trump, who in recent years has denied multiple allegations of sexual assault against him, for days had responded to the accusations against his nominee with relative restraint, saying Ford should get a respectful hearing. But increasingly he has cast Kavanaugh as the victim.
"His wife is devastated," Trump said at the U.N. "His children are devastated."
Repeatedly describing Kavanaugh, who is currently a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, as a top intellect and highly qualified nominee, the president recalled the judge telling him how he tried to be No. 1 in his Yale class.
"To me that was so believable," Trump said. "I understand college very well. I understand being No. 1 in your class."
With Kavanaugh’s Senate confirmation very much hanging in the balance, Trump said "it would be a horrible insult to our country" if the judge’s nomination is derailed and "a horrible, horrible thing to future political people."
As Senate Republican leaders sought to project a sense of confidence, and allay negative speculation about Kavanaugh, one senator close to McConnell — Sen. Richard M. Burr M. of North Carolina — issued a statement that he would support confirmation. Only the timing was a surprise, coming ahead of the much-anticipated Thursday hearing and as unsubstantiated rumors of other accusers continue to circulate.
Assailing Democrats’ opposition, Burr said that immediately after the hearing, “the Senate Judiciary Committee should vote up or down on Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination. I intend to support Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination when it comes before the full Senate.”