Trump praises McConnell's role in battle over Kavanaugh

RICHMOND, Ky. (AP) — President Donald Trump heaped praise Saturday on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, crediting the veteran Kentucky lawmaker's political toughness and acumen during the ugly battle that concluded with Brett Kavanaugh becoming a Supreme Court justice.

"He's Kentucky tough," Trump declared.

Kavanaugh took his seat on the high court this week after overcoming allegations of sexual misconduct dating to his high school and college years. He forcefully denied the charges, and Trump and McConnell firmly backed Kavanaugh as part of their combined quest to populate the judiciary with conservative judges. Kavanaugh could tilt the political balance of the high court in the conservative direction for generations.

"We stuck with him all the way because we knew the facts," Trump said, speaking of himself and McConnell, Kentucky's senior U.S. senator.

"There's nobody tougher. There's nobody smarter. He refused to cave to the radical Democrats' shameful campaign of personal and political destruction," Trump said at a political rally at Eastern Kentucky University before he called McConnell to the mic.

"He stared down the angry left-wing mob. He never blinked and he never looked back and he got us a man who will be one of our great, great Supreme Court justices," Trump said.

McConnell returned the compliment and told the president to continue nominating judges and "we'll keep confirming them."

Democrats fiercely and vocally opposed Kavanaugh, opposition that hardened after Christine Blasey Ford accused him of sexually assaulting her when they were in high school. Other women accused him of other sexually inappropriate behavior.

Protesters swarmed Senate office buildings and hundreds were arrested in a futile attempt to intimidate a handful of holdout senators into voting against confirming Kavanaugh. Trump has taken to referring to Democrats who opposed Kavanaugh as an angry "mob."

RELATED: Kavanaugh's testimony

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U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies before a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 27, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Family members of of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, including his wife Ashley (R) and mother Martha (L), listen to him testify before a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 27, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Judge Brett Kavanaugh testifies to the Senate Judiciary Committee during his Supreme Court confirmation hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, U.S., September 27, 2018. Win McNamee/Pool via REUTERS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018. Supreme Court nominee�Brett Kavanaugh�angrily, tearfully and 'unequivocally' denied sexually assaulting Christine Blasey Ford, after she told senators at a dramatic hearing that shes 'one hundred percent' certain he is the one who attacked her when they were teenagers. Photographer: Tom Williams/Pool via Bloomberg
White House Counsel and Assistant to the President for U.S. President Donald Trump, Donald McGahn, as Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the US Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, September 27, 2018. SAUL LOEB/Pool via REUTERS
Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh testifies in front of the Senate Judiciary committee regarding sexual assault allegations at the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill, in Washington, DC, U.S. September 27, 2018. Gabriella Demczuk/Pool via Reuters
Senate Judiciary Committee ranking members Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) (R) and Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA) question Judge Brett Kavanaugh during his Supreme Court confirmation hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, U.S., September 27, 2018. Win McNamee/Pool via REUTERS
Supreme court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is sworn in to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, U.S., September 27, 2018. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS
Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, left, speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018. Supreme Court nominee�Brett Kavanaugh�angrily, tearfully and 'unequivocally' denied sexually assaulting Christine Blasey Ford, after she told senators at a dramatic hearing that shes 'one hundred percent' certain he is the one who attacked her when they were teenagers. Photographer: Win McNamee/Pool via Bloomberg
Supreme court nominee Brett Kavanaugh arrives with his wife Ashley to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, U.S., September 27, 2018. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) presides over a hearing as Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, U.S., September 27, 2018. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, leaves for a break from the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing with U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Palo Alto University professor Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Kavanaugh of a sexual assault in 1982, in Washington, U.S., September 27, 2018. REUTERS/Mary F. Calvert
U.S. Senator Ben Sasse (R-NB) speaks during U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's testimony before a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 27, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Judge Brett Kavanaugh is sworn in before testifying before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 27, 2018. Tom Williams/Pool via REUTERS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, smiles during Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, on September 27, 2018. - University professor Christine Blasey Ford, 51, told a tense Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that could make or break Kavanaugh's nomination she was '100 percent' certain he was the assailant and it was 'absolutely not' a case of mistaken identify. (Photo by Andrew Harnik / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANDREW HARNIK/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 27: Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) questions Judge Brett Kavanaugh during his Supreme Court confirmation hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill September 27, 2018 in Washington, DC. Kavanaugh was called back to testify about claims by Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused him of sexually assaulting her during a party in 1982 when they were high school students in suburban Maryland. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON D.C. - SEPTEMBER 27: U.S. Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) displays a judiciary committee document while questioning Judge Brett Kavanaugh during his Supreme Court confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill September 27, 2018 in Washington, DC. Kavanaugh was called back to testify about claims by Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused him of sexually assaulting her during a party in 1982 when they were high school students in suburban Maryland. (Photo by Jim Bourg-Pool/Getty Images)
Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) questions U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh as he testifies before a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., on September 27, 2018. - University professor Christine Blasey Ford, 51, told a tense Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that could make or break Kavanaugh's nomination she was '100 percent' certain he was the assailant and it was 'absolutely not' a case of mistaken identify. (Photo by Andrew Harnik / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANDREW HARNIK/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 27: Senate Judiciary Committee members (L-R) Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA) talk at the conclusion of the Supreme Court confirmation hearing for Judge Brett Kavanaugh in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill September 27, 2018 in Washington, DC. Kavanaugh was called back to testify about claims by Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused him of sexually assaulting her during a party in 1982 when they were high school students in suburban Maryland. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON D.C. - SEPTEMBER 27: Judge Brett Kavanaugh testifies to the Senate Judiciary Committee during his Supreme Court confirmation hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill September 27, 2018 in Washington, DC. Kavanaugh was called back to testify about claims by Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused him of sexually assaulting her during a party in 1982 when they were high school students in suburban Maryland. (Photo by Jim Bourg-Pool/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 27: Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is sworn in to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill on September 27, 2018 in Washington, DC. Kavanaugh was called back to testify about claims by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused him of sexually assaulting her during a party in 1982 when they were high school students in suburban Maryland. (Photo by Andrew Harnik - Pool/Getty Images)
Ashley Estes Kavanaugh, wife of Supreme Court nominee�Brett Kavanaugh, listens during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018. Kavanaugh�angrily, tearfully and 'unequivocally' denied sexually assaulting Christine Blasey Ford, after she told senators at a dramatic hearing that she's 'one hundred percent' certain he is the one who attacked her when they were teenagers. Photographer: Jim Bourg/Pool via Bloomberg
Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018. Supreme Court nominee�Brett Kavanaugh�angrily, tearfully and 'unequivocally' denied sexually assaulting Christine Blasey Ford, after she told senators at a dramatic hearing that shes 'one hundred percent' certain he is the one who attacked her when they were teenagers. Photographer: Andrew Harnik/Pool via Bloomberg
U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) listens to U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testify before a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., on September 27, 2018. - University professor Christine Blasey Ford, 51, told a tense Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that could make or break Kavanaugh's nomination she was '100 percent' certain he was the assailant and it was 'absolutely not' a case of mistaken identify. (Photo by JIM BOURG / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read JIM BOURG/AFP/Getty Images)
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The president flew to Kentucky to campaign for three-term Republican Rep. Andy Barr, who is facing a strong challenge from Democrat Amy McGrath, a retired Marine fighter pilot, in one of the country's most-watched House races.

Democrats are focusing on the seat in their drive to regain control of the House. Former Vice President Joe Biden became the highest-profile Democrat to campaign for McGrath when he came to Kentucky on Friday night.

Trump told the rally that a vote for Barr "could make the difference between unbelievable continued success" or failure, and pleaded with his supporters to vote on Nov. 6 to send more Republicans to Congress.

"The only reason to vote Democrat is if you're tired of winning," he said. "I need you to get your friends, get your family, get your neighbors, get your co-workers and get out and vote for Andy Barr," Trump said.

The president sounded familiar themes during the hour-plus rally, touting the economy's performance, a new trade agreement with Canada and Mexico, and his plan for a new military branch devoted to outer space, among a host of other issues that led the crowd to cheer him.

He again panned journalists as the "fake news media" and suggested he could live without their attention.

"I'd like to walk into a place one night and not have any of these guys," Trump said.

With just over three weeks before Election Day, Saturday's rally was part of an aggressive fall campaign push by Trump to energize Republicans and encourage them to help keep his legislative agenda moving forward by voting to keep the GOP in control of both houses of Congress.

In fact, even before Trump left the stage on Saturday night, his campaign announced a three-state Western swing through Missoula, Montana; Mesa, Arizona; and Elko, Nevada, next Thursday through Saturday.

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