WASHINGTON — President Trump said on Wednesday that he found a sexual assault allegation against Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, his Supreme Court nominee, difficult to believe and described the furor surrounding it as “very unfair” to the judge.
Speaking with reporters before leaving the White House to visit hurricane-ravaged North Carolina, the president again refrained from directly assailing Judge Kavanaugh’s accuser, as he has in other instances of sexual misconduct charges, including those lodged against him. But he expressed sympathy for his nominee.
“Really, they’re hurting somebody’s life,” he said of the senators considering Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination. “Justice Kavanaugh has been treated very, very tough, and his family. I think it’s a very unfair thing what’s going on.”
During his seven-minute encounter with reporters, Mr. Trump referred to his nominee as “Justice Kavanaugh” three times. Still, the president seemed to leave open the possibility that he might have to find another nominee if the accuser proved believable.
“Look, if she shows up and makes a credible showing, that will be very interesting and we’ll have to make a decision,” Mr. Trump said. “But I can only say this: He is such an outstanding man. Very hard for me to imagine that anything happened.”
Christine Blasey Ford, 51, a university professor in Northern California, has accused Judge Kavanaugh, 53, of pinning her to a bed, groping her, trying to remove her clothing and covering her mouth to keep her from screaming during a party when the two were teenagers in Maryland in the early 1980s. Judge Kavanaugh has categorically denied the allegation, and the only other person Dr. Blasey said was in the room has also said he does not remember such an assault and had never seen Judge Kavanaugh behave that way.
Another high school friend, Patrick J. Smyth, who was identified as also being at the party Dr. Blasey described but not in the room at the time of the alleged assault, said on Wednesday that he does not remember anything like it.
“I have no knowledge of the party in question; nor do I have any knowledge of the allegations of improper conduct she has leveled against Brett Kavanaugh,” he said in a letter being sent on Wednesday to the Judiciary Committee, according to CNN. He added: “I have never witnessed any improper conduct by Brett Kavanaugh towards women.”
Speaking through her lawyers, Dr. Blasey, a research psychologist, on Tuesday evening all but ruled out appearing at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing scheduled for Monday to hear her allegations. The lawyers said she wanted to cooperate with the committee but that it would be premature for her to testify and that the F.B.I. should investigate first.
Her position mirrored that of Senate Democrats who complained that Republicans were trying to rush through a cursory examination of her charges so as to expeditiously confirm Judge Kavanaugh. But Dr. Blasey’s refusal to commit to testifying on Monday seemed to solidify the Republican caucus behind moving ahead with a vote. Even wavering Republicans who insisted on hearing her before deciding on confirmation said she should show up on Monday to testify.
Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the Judiciary Committee’s Republican chairman, all but dismissed the calls by Dr. Blasey and Democrats for an outside investigation and to delay Monday’s hearing. Asked his response to Democrats, he told reporters on Wednesday, “A simple answer to that would be why didn’t Dianne Feinstein send the request to the F.B.I. on July the 30th instead of now?”
Senator Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the committee, received a letter from Dr. Blasey in July making her allegations but did not report them to the rest of the panel. Senator Feinstein has said she did not raise the matter because Dr. Blasey asked that it remain confidential. But after stories appeared last week about an unnamed accuser, Dr. Blasey allowed her name to be used in an interview posted by The Washington Post on Sunday.
Even as he rejected an F.B.I. investigation, Mr. Grassley said he would press hard through Friday to convince Dr. Blasey to come forward and testify before his panel, and he repeated his offer to let her testify privately or participate in an interview with committee staff members, rather than make a public appearance in front of television cameras.
“When there is follow up necessary, we have all the information we need of all the people involved,” he said. “We are going to reach out everybody that we know about for communication with our staff investigators. I would hope Democrats would take part in those interviews.”
Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican committee member from South Carolina and ally of the president who was traveling with him on Wednesday, said that requiring an F.B.I. investigation before a hearing would not be “about finding the truth but delaying the process until after the midterm elections,” when Democrats hope to win control of the Senate.
“It is imperative the Judiciary Committee move forward on the Kavanaugh nomination and a committee vote be taken as soon as possible,” Mr. Graham said in a statement.
Following the advice of aides who have urged him not to inflame the situation, Mr. Trump remained relatively mild in his latest comments. “If she shows up, that would be wonderful,” he said. “If she doesn’t show up, that would be unfortunate.”
“I’d really want to see her,” he said. “I really would want to see what she has to say.”
The allegations against Judge Kavanaugh appeared to diminish his public standing, according to a new poll by Reuters and Ipsos. Opposition to his confirmation rose by 6 percentage points to 36 percent in a survey that began before Dr. Blasey went public and continued through Monday after The Post article. Just 31 percent said they support his confirmation, which would rank him among the lowest nominees if he were were eventually confirmed.
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