Trump dismisses ‘drunk’ Kavanaugh accuser as initial Senate vote scheduled

Trump dismisses ‘drunk’ Kavanaugh accuser as initial Senate vote scheduled

Supreme Court nominee to face judiciary panel on Friday; if approved by committee, must still face a vote by full Senate

In this September 6, 2018 photo, Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh waits to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee for the third day of his confirmation hearing, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
In this September 6, 2018 photo, Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh waits to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee for the third day of his confirmation hearing, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (AFP) — US President Donald Trump dismissed the latest accuser of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh as “drunk” and “messed up” on Tuesday, as Republicans prepared for a potentially explosive hearing over his suitability.

Despite the swirling controversy over the nomination, the Senate Judiciary Committee scheduled a preliminary vote for Friday at 9:30 am (1330 GMT). If approved by the panel, Kavanaugh would still face a vote in the full Senate.

Taking the political lead in the high-stakes battle over the future of the court, Trump rejected a claim by Deborah Ramirez that Kavanaugh was the person who dropped his pants and thrust his penis in her face at an alcohol-fueled Yale University dorm party about 35 years ago.

He said Democratic support for her allegations, as well as those of Christine Blasey Ford, amounted to a “con game” to defeat a person he said was perfectly qualified to serve on the Supreme Court bench.

“The second accuser has nothing. She thinks maybe it could have been him, maybe not,” Trump told reporters in New York. “She admits that she was drunk. She admits that there are time lapses.”

US President Donald Trump is seen during a bilateral meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron (off frame) in New York on September 24, 2018, a day before the start of the General Debate of the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly. (AFP Photo/Ludovic Marin)

“Thirty-six years ago, nobody ever knew about it or heard about it, and now a new charge comes up and she said it might not be him, and there were gaps and she said she was totally inebriated, and she was all messed up,” Trump said.

“The Democrats are playing a con game. They know it’s a con game,” he said. “It’s a shame that you can do this to a person’s life.”

Trump’s comments came two days before the Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing in which Blasey Ford is expected to detail her allegation that Kavanaugh tried to tear her clothes off in an assault during a party around 1982, when both were students at elite private high schools in Washington.

Kavanaugh, who has strongly denied the charge, will separately appear at the hearing.

The charge has already delayed what was once though certain approval of his nomination, which is crucial to Republican hopes to turn the court sharply to the right for years to come, with huge implications for law on abortion rights and affirmative action programs.

But since Blasey Ford’s charges, one and possibly two more women have come forth with similar allegations of sexual assault or abuse when he was young.

Women’s March co-president Tamika Mallory (at microphones) and Women’s March on Washington creator Bob Bland (2nd-R) address a rally against the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh in front of the court September 24, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP)

On Sunday, The New Yorker published Ramirez’s story, which took place at Yale during 1983-84.

On Monday, Michael Avenatti, a lawyer who represents a porn star claiming to have had an affair with Trump, has said he is also representing a third Kavanaugh accuser, whose identity and story he said would be revealed on Wednesday.

And two former Yale classmates of Kavanaugh took issue Tuesday with his claims that he did not drink excessively or take part in abusing women during his university years.

Republicans said they were determined to push the nomination through the narrowly-divided Senate as soon as a possible, rejecting Democratic calls to freeze the process to let the FBI investigate all of the allegations.

“What message will we send right now in 2018 and the Me Too movement if the Senate rushes through this?” asked Democratic Senator Patty Murray.

There was no guarantee of full Republican support ahead of the hearing, which could prove to be explosive.

At least four Republican senators, including two women who have been outspoken against sexual abuse, have withheld judgment, acknowledging the potential validity of Blasey Ford’s allegation despite the amount of time that has passed and the paucity of hard evidence.

There are more challenges for Republicans.

With the midterm Congressional election looming in November, the party’s all-male representation on the panel risks appearing disrespectful of Blasey Ford in a way that could turn away women voters.

To skirt that challenge, Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said Tuesday that Republicans had recruited an unnamed female lawyer to question Blasey Ford on their behalf.

Blasey Ford’s lawyers have yet to say they agree with that move or other conditions Grassley has imposed.

But Republicans vowed to push ahead.

“We’re looking for the truth here. I don’t think because you happen to be a male you’re disqualified from listening to the evidence and making a decision based upon the evidence,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“I’m confident we’re going to win. I’m confident that he will be confirmed in the very near future.”

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