On Monday, President Trump remained mostly disciplined while talking about his newly embattled Supreme Court nominee.
On Tuesday, he reverted to form.
In remarks at a news conference with the president of Poland, Trump made a couple of very unhelpful comments when it comes to the GOP’s effort to manage the Brett Kavanaugh imbroglio. The first was that he made clear that he doubts Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation — by casting Kavanaugh as the victim. And the second is that Trump set an impossible standard for confirming Kavanaugh: that there shouldn’t be any doubt about what happened that night 35 years ago.
On the first count, Trump said of Kavanaugh, “I feel so badly for him that he’s going through this.” He added: “This is not a man that deserves this.”
Trump had alluded to the idea Monday that the allegation might be politically tainted, repeatedly noting how it came so late in the process. With these comments Tuesday, he pretty much erases any doubt about whom he sides with. If Trump believed there were any chance that Kavanaugh actually did what he is accused of doing, expressing sympathy for him rather than Ford would be highly inappropriate. Sympathizing with Kavanaugh is, in and of itself, prejudicial.
These remarks epitomize Trump’s usual approach to talking about sexual assault and harassment allegations, which is to sympathize with the man who stands accused. He has been that man himself, after all, and his default is to suggest that the mere allegation is unfair. At the same time, this is diametrically opposed to the approach Republicans are taking more broadly, which is to say Ford should be heard.
But perhaps the more troublesome Trump quote for Republicans, over the long term, is the standard that he set Tuesday for resolving Kavanaugh’s situation.
“With all of that, I feel that the Republicans — and I can speak for myself — we should go through a process, because there shouldn’t even be a little doubt,” Trump said.
To be sure, there is virtually no chance that Kavanaugh will be completely exonerated by the time the Senate votes to confirm him — just like there is virtually no chance he will be proven guilty. Such is the nature of 35-year-old allegations and sexual assault in general. But Trump is saying that, for Kavanaugh to get the go-ahead, “there shouldn’t even be a little doubt.”
There may not be doubt in Trump’s mind, but there will be in a lot of people’s minds who don’t always see these things in terms of black-and-white and don’t believe a political ally must always be given the complete benefit of the doubt. Now Democrats have the president’s own standard to argue for why Republicans both should extend the Kavanaugh process and eventually vote against Kavanaugh.
Should Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) continue to restrict the witness list? “Of course not, because Trump says there should be no doubt.” Should the FBI be allowed to investigate? “Of course, because Trump says there should be no doubt!”
Trump stepped in it here.