'Just plain wrong': Flake, Collins criticize Trump for mocking Kavanaugh accuser at political rally
By John Wagner and Seung Min Kim
The Washington Post|
Oct 03, 2018 at 10:57 AM
WASHINGTON — Two senators considered crucial to the confirmation prospects of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh criticized President Donald Trump on Wednesday for mocking the account of a woman who has accused his Supreme Court nominee of sexual assault decades ago.
About two hours later, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, also took exception to Trump's remarks, telling reporters: "The president's comments were just plain wrong."
The assessments of Collins and Flake, the Judiciary Committee member who pushed to delay the vote on Kavanaugh so the FBI could investigate, came the morning after Trump drew laughs for his remarks at a political rally in Mississippi.
In his most direct attack on Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault while both were teenagers in Maryland, Trump sought to highlight holes in the account Ford gave in sworn testimony to the Judiciary Committee last week.
" 'I don't know. I don't know.' 'Upstairs? Downstairs? Where was it?' 'I don't know. But I had one beer. That's the only thing I remember,' " Trump said of Ford, as he impersonated her on stage.
"I don't remember," he said repeatedly, apparently mocking her testimony.
Ford has said the incident happened in an upstairs room at a gathering of teenagers and that she is "100 percent" certain it was Kavanaugh who assaulted her, although she has acknowledged that her memories of other details of the evening remain unclear.
Trump highlighted another part of the rally Wednesday morning, distributing a clip on Twitter in which he attacks Democrats for opposing his nominee.
"All they really know how to do is obstruct, resist, demolish, destroy and delay," Trump says in the clip, which was taken from the Fox News broadcast of his rally. "They've been trying to destroy Judge Kavanaugh since the very first second he was announced because they know Judge Kavanaugh will follow the Constitution as written."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has vowed to hold a full Senate vote on the nomination by the end of the week as senators await the results of the FBI probe into the allegations of misconduct by Kavanaugh.
Besides Ford, two other women have publicly accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct while he was in high school or college.
Trump's comments at Tuesday night's rally prompted a debate that played out on cable television over whether he had hurt the chances of his nominee.
Flake, Collins and one other key Republican - Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Alaska - are declining to say how they'll vote until they see the results of the FBI investigation, which is expected to be completed before the Senate votes.
Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, N.D., and Joe Manchin III, W.Va., also have yet to announce how they will vote.
Some Democrats have voiced concerns about the scope of the FBI probe, the extent to which the White House is limiting it and whether a week is long enough to do a thorough investigation.
Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., another Judiciary Committee member, said he is concerned by reports that the investigation could wrap up as soon as Wednesday.
"That would concern me," said Coons, who appeared alongside Flake on NBC. "I hope the FBI has been allowed to follow all the reasonable leads that were before the committee last week, and I know that puts them under a lot of pressure, but they have the resources to do it."
As a vote nears, Democrats have also sought to highlight concerns about Kavanaugh's temperament, pointing to moments in last week's hearing in which he grew testy at senators and was emotional at other points.
During his television appearance, Flake reiterated that he, too, was concerned that Kavanaugh at times was "sharp and more partisan that a lot of us would like to see."
But Flake said Kavanaugh tenure as a federal appeals court judge was also relevant.
"We've seen a record that he's had on the court of collegiality and working with other members," Flake said.
Those interviewed by the FBI so far include a second accuser, Deborah Ramirez, who alleges Kavanaugh exposed himself to her while both were in college.
A third accuser, Julie Swetnick, has yet to be interviewed, according to her attorney, Michael Avenatti.
Swetnick said last week in an affidavit that Kavanaugh was present at a house party in 1982 where she alleges she was the victim of a gang rape, a claim he vehemently denies.
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On Tuesday, Avenatti released a written declaration from a second woman whose statements supported Swetnick's claims. The woman, whose name was redacted in the document Avenatti posted, said she "witnessed firsthand Brett Kavanaugh, together with others, 'spike' the 'punch' at house parties I attended with Quaaludes and/or grain alcohol."
Avenatti said in a tweet Wednesday that the unidentified woman "is prepared to meet with the FBI today and disclose multiple facts and witnesses."
Avenatti, who is considering a 2020 presidential bid as a Democrat, also took aim at Trump on Wednesday for his comments at the rally in Mississippi.
"Regardless of your politics, you should be outraged by the POTUS standing before a crowd and mocking a woman who claims she was sexually assaulted," Avenatti said on Twitter. "@realDonaldTrump sought applause and laughter at her expense. Call him what he is - a misogynist pig with no respect for women."
The Washington Post's Josh Dawsey and Felicia Sonmez contributed to this report.