17:17, October 02 286 0 theguardian.com

2018-10-02 17:17:05
Trump defends Kavanaugh but says 'a lot will depend' on FBI investigation

Donald Trump once again defended his embattled supreme court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, as Senate Republicans prepared for a vote on the nomination this week. But the president also warned that his support could be withdrawn if an FBI investigation determined the judge lied to the Senate during testimony regarding an allegation of sexual assault.

“A lot is going to depend on what comes back from the FBI,” Trump said, adding that his nominee was doing “very well”.

“I don’t think you should lie to Congress,” he said. “For me that would not be acceptable.”

Speaking to reporters before flying to Philadelphia, the president said the #MeToo movement had created a “very scary time for young men in America”. Asked if he had a message for young women, Trump replied: “Women are doing great.”

The Senate is awaiting the results of an investigation into three allegations of sexual assault, which could determine whether Kavanaugh is confirmed.

“We’ll have an FBI report this week and we’ll have a vote this week,” majority leader Mitch McConnell told reporters at a weekly press conference. He would not say if that would be a final vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination or a procedural vote to allow the Senate to begin debate.

The FBI will send a report to the Senate. McConnell said it would not be made public. He would not say how long senators would have to review the report before a vote.

Democratic leader Chuck Schumer has requested the Senate receives a full briefing on the FBI report. He called on McConnell to release it.

“Why are our Republican colleagues so afraid of making this public?” he said.

Several Republicans said the FBI’s findings should be made public in some form. John Cornyn, the No 2 Senate Republican, told reporters it was “important that the results in some form be shared with the public”.

Democrats continued to decry the narrow scope of the investigation and to raise new questions about Kavanaugh’s truthfulness and temperament.

The judge gave testimony before the Senate judiciary committee last Thursday, after his first accuser, Dr Christine Blasey Ford. For Democrats, Kavanaugh’s anger opened a new line of attack.

On the Senate floor earlier on Tuesday, Schumer said Kavanaugh’s testimony was riddled with misstatements and inaccuracies and had “grossly mischaracterized his relationship with alcohol”.

“Even if you feel that what happened when he was 15 and 18 shouldn’t matter, what happens when he’s 53 does matter and his credibility is in real doubt,” Schumer said. “Doubt enough, I think, for most Americans to say, ‘This man does not belong on the supreme court.’”

Moments earlier,McConnell, had accused Democrats of engaging in the “politics of personal destruction” against a “stunningly qualified nominee”.

“Democrats may be trying to move the goalposts every five minutes – but their goal has not moved an inch,” he said. “They will not be satisfied unless they have brought down Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination.”

Trump defends 'good man' Kavanaugh – video

Kavanaugh has vehemently denied all of the allegations against him, from Ford and two other women.

His confirmation hinges on a small group of Republican senators who have not revealed how they will vote: Jeff Flake of Arizona, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Flake said on Tuesday he was “very troubled by the tone” of Kavanaugh’s remarks, especially his exchanges with Democratic members of the judiciary committee.

“The interaction with the members was sharp and partisan and that concerns me,” Flake said in an interview at the Atlantic Festival in Washington. “I tell myself: ‘You give a little leeway because of what he’s been through.’ But on the other hand, we can’t have this on the court. We simply can’t.”

Flake later told the Guardian he and the Delaware Democrat Chris Coons were working with White House counsel Don McGahn to expand the remit of the FBI investigation.

Senator Lindsey Graham, one of Kavanaugh’s most forceful supporters, urged his colleagues to “not quit”.

“It is incredibly important we do not legitimize these smears and attempts at character assassination for the good of the court, the future of the Senate, and the character of our nation,” the South Carolina Republican said in a statement. Graham has also said that if Kavanaugh’s nomination fails, Trump should renominate him.

Outside the White House, Trump thanked Graham, who he said had been “a friend at least for the last six months”. The senator also ran for the Republican nomination in 2016 and was a harsh critic of Trump and what he would mean for the party.

In a statement to the Portland Press Herald, a spokeswoman for Collins said she, Murkowski and Flake thought the FBI check would help the Senate decide.

“That would include the allegations that were brought by Julie Swetnick,” the statement said, referring to the third woman to come forward, after Ford and Deborah Ramirez. Swetnick accused Kavanaugh in an affidavit of sexual misconduct at drunken high school parties.

Former classmates and acquaintances of Kavanaugh say the image he presented to the committee of his younger days does not match the man they knew in high school and college.

A police report obtained by the New York Times showed Kavanaugh was questioned by police following an altercation at a bar when he was at Yale in 1985. The incident was made public after classmate Charles Ludington accused Kavanaugh of being untruthful in his testimony.

Ludington has said he was present for the incident described in the police report. In a statement, Ludington said a group of friends had been staring at a man they said looked like Ali Campbell, the lead singer of UB40, a band they had just seen. The man responded by swearing at them. A brawl ensued. Kavanaugh was among those questioned but was not arrested.

Schumer pointed to these reports as further evidence that Kavanaugh had not been truthful to the Senate judiciary committee. McConnell mocked the story.