Trump says there's no rush on Kavanaugh vote: 'If it takes a little delay, it'll take a little delay'
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Monday that he is willing to accept that it might take longer to get a vote on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh after an allegation that the jurist assaulted a girl while he was in high school surfaced, but added that it was "ridiculous" to ask whether Kavanaugh had offered to withdraw.
"If it takes a little delay, it'll take a little delay," Trump told reporters at the White House, adding: "I think he's on track."
Kavanaugh, who has denied the allegation by Christine Blasey Ford, made calls to key senators during a several-hour visit to the White House Monday as the fate of his nomination hung on lawmakers' reaction.
Trump said he hadn't spoken to Kavanaugh, but praised the nominee as "one of the great intellects and one of the finest people."
"I wish the Democrats could have done this a lot sooner," Trump said of the revelation of the charge, which Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., passed on to the FBI last week. "But with all of that being said we want to go through the process."
Kavanaugh said Monday he was willing to testify publicly in response to the allegation.
“This is a completely false allegation. I have never done anything like what the accuser describes — to her or to anyone," Kavanaugh said in a statement released by the White House. "Because this never happened, I had no idea who was making this accusation until she identified herself yesterday.
"I am willing to talk to the Senate Judiciary Committee in any way the Committee deems appropriate to refute this false allegation, from 36 years ago, and defend my integrity.”
The committee's chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said in a statement Monday that Ford "deserves to be heard," but did not say whether he will call her and Kavanaugh before the committee to testify.
For now, Grassley said that he's in the process of setting up follow-up phone calls with each of them, complaining again about the timing of the news.
"Unfortunately, committee Republicans have only known this person's identity from news reports for less than 24 hours and known about her allegations for less than a week. Senator Feinstein, on the other hand, has had this information for many weeks and deprived her colleagues of the information necessary to do our jobs," Grassley said. "The Minority withheld even the anonymous allegations for six weeks, only to later decide that they were serious enough to investigate on the eve of the committee vote, after the vetting process had been completed."
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, told NBC News outside his Capitol Hill office Monday that Ford is "mixed up," and called Kavanaugh "honest" and "straightforward." The senator's aide said that Hatch had just spoken by phone to Kavanaugh, who had denied even attending the party in question.
A White House official confirmed to NBC News that Kavanaugh says he wasn't at the party in question.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Monday morning that the committee should delay its scheduled Thursday vote on Kavanaugh's nomination, saying in an interview on ABC's "The View" that to push the process along at this point without a pause would be "an insult to the women of America."
"I think the allegations of Professor Ford are extremely credible," Schumer said. "She took a lie detector test. She talked [about] this to her therapist. They were having family counseling, in part because of what happened to her, five years ago and told all the details. Third, to come out and say something like this puts you and your family through incredible scrutiny. People throw brick bats at you and everything else. She didn’t do it on a whim. I don’t think she did it for political reasons, so she has a great deal of credibility."
Kavanaugh arrived at the White House just after 10 a.m. Monday morning, and was still there as of early afternoon. A source close to the process told NBC News that White House counsel Don McGahn wants Kavanaugh to fight, suggesting that he will not imminently withdraw his nomination.
The lawyer for Ford, 51, said in an interview on NBC’s “Today” that Ford was willing to publicly testify about the experience.
Ford is “willing to do whatever it takes,” said her attorney, Debra Katz. Ford revealed her identity in an article published online Sunday in The Washington Post.
Katz added that her client believes Kavanaugh's actions were "attempted rape" and she's willing to testify publicly about it.
"She believes that if it were not for the severe intoxication of Brett Kavanaugh, she would have been raped," Katz said on "Today."
The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination on Thursday, but Democrats have called for a postponement pending an investigation into the allegations. Two Senate Republicans — Jeff Flake of Arizona and Bob Corker of Tennessee — also called for a pause on Sunday, saying that they’d like to hear from Ford.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, considered a swing vote on Kavanaugh, said in a tweet Monday that both Ford and Kavanaugh should testify under oath before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Collins, who is not a member of that committee, spoke to Kavanaugh by phone on Friday about the allegations.
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., who is not a member of the committee, told Milwaukee radio station WTMJ Monday that "this woman is willing to come forward and tell her story and we should listen to her," saying the panel should hear from both her and Kavanaugh.
Several red state Democrats facing tight re-election races, who have been considered potential Kavanaugh votes, said Monday that they want the allegations thoroughly investigated.
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota said in a statement posted on Twitter Monday that Ford's allegation is "serious."
"Ford should be given an opportunity to testify before the Committee and she is willing to do so. Judge Kavanaugh has also expressed his willingness to discuss the issue with the Committee," Heitkamp said. "It takes courage for any woman to speak up about sexual assault, and we need to respect Prof. Ford by listening to her and hearing her story."
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., echoed Heitkamp. “I am deeply troubled by these allegations," she said in a brief statement. "They should be examined thoroughly and fairly by the Judiciary Committee without any artificial timeline.”
GOP leaders have been aiming to have Kananaugh confirmed before the Supreme Court's new term begins in October. And they are crunched for time this week because the Jewish High Holy Day of Yom Kippur means the Senate will be out on Wednesday.
In a letter Monday morning to Grassley, all 10 Democrats on the panel requested that he postpone Thursday’s scheduled vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination in light of the new allegations.
“All Senators, regardless of party, should insist the FBI perform its due diligence and fully investigate the allegations as part of its review of Judge Kavanaugh’s background,” they wrote. “Staff-level examination of these allegations should not go forward until the FBI’s career professionals with the requisite investigative expertise have completed their review. Once the FBI has completed its independent work, we hope that we can work together in a bipartisan manner to decide on next steps.”
A group of Senate Democrats on the panel — who already oppose Kavanaugh — have also filed a lawsuit hoping to compel the National Archives and CIA to turn over Kavanaugh documents.
Most Republicans have not weighed in since the story became public last week. On Sunday, Taylor Foy, a spokesman for Grassley, dismissed the "uncorroborated allegations" and gave no indication the chairman was considering changes to the timing of the scheduled vote.
The conservative Judicial Crisis Network, which has been airing ads in support of Kavanaugh, said Monday that it will announce a new $1.5 million TV ad blitz for both broadcast and cable, featuring a 35-year friend of Kavanaugh’s.
"We are not going to allow a last-minute smear campaign destroy a good and decent man who has an unblemished personal record," a Judicial Crisis Network spokesperson says.
Ford alleged in the Post’s story that Kavanaugh and another person drunkenly "corralled her into a bedroom during a gathering of teenagers" in the suburbs of Maryland one summer in the early 1980s. "I thought he might inadvertently kill me," she said of Kavanaugh. "He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing."
Schumer indicated Sunday that he would like to see the investigation conducted by the FBI. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., ranking member of the Judiciary panel, said last week that she had referred the information from Ford about Kavanaugh to the FBI.