Brett Kavanaugh is facing an allegation of sexual assault from his high school years. Regardless of whether that allegation is true or false, it’s clear how President Donald Trump would want him to respond: by denying everything (which, so far, Kavanaugh has).
This is, after all, how Trump himself responded when several women accused him of sexual misconduct in the final weeks of the 2016 campaign. “This whole thing is one big fix,” he said back then. “It’s one big, ugly lie.” (Trump’s disparagement of one accuser, Summer Zervos, as a liar spurred her to sue him for defamation in a suit that is ongoing.)
The president also stood by Republicans’ nominee for last year’s Alabama Senate race, Roy Moore, after he was accused of sexually pursuing teenage girls. Why? Well, Moore said he didn’t do it, and that’s apparently all you need in Trump’s book if you’re an ally of his. “He totally denies it,” Trump said. “He says it didn’t happen.”
Then there was White House staff secretary Rob Porter, who resigned after his two ex-wives accused him of physical abuse. “He says he’s innocent, and I think you have to remember that,” Trump said. “He said very strongly yesterday that he’s innocent.” (Never mind the photo evidence.)
Reports suggest Trump is reacting to the Kavanaugh accusation in the same way. CNN reports, citing White House officials, that “the President is annoyed because he feels his nominee’s name is being run through the mud by Democrats wielding old allegations.”
The disturbing thinking behind this is laid out in a passage from Bob Woodward’s new book, Fear:
Trump gave some private advice to a friend who had acknowledged some bad behavior toward women. Real power is fear. It’s all about strength. Never show weakness. You’ve always got to be strong. Don’t be bullied. There is no choice.
“You’ve got to deny, deny, deny and push back on these women,” he said. “If you admit to anything and any culpability, then you’re dead. That was a big mistake you made. You didn’t come out guns blazing and just challenge them. You showed weakness. You’ve got to be strong. You’ve got to be aggressive. You’ve got to push back hard. You’ve got to deny anything that’s said about you. Never admit.”
Now, Woodward doesn’t explain who this “friend” is. But the friend, it seems, admitted “bad behavior toward women” because, one would think, he really did behave badly. This — telling at least the partial truth — is what Trump reportedly said was so mistaken. The truth of the matter seems to have been immaterial to him.
Update: Indeed, on Monday Trump defended Kavanaugh as someone who “never even had a little blemish on his record” and “is somebody very special.” He said that Republicans could “ear everybody out,” but said, “I’m sure it will work out very well.” When asked if Kavanaugh had offered to withdraw, Trump called question “ridiculous.”