President Donald Trump says he would be willing to withdraw his Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh if he thought Kavanaugh was guilty of the sexual misconduct allegations against him.
NEW YORK — President Donald Trump said he will watch Thursday’s potentially explosive Senate hearing featuring one of the women who has accused his Supreme Court nominee of sexual assault and that he could still change his mind – even as he invoked his own personal experience with such allegations from women in suggesting the accusations against Brett Kavanaugh were false.
In a rollicking press conference with reporters Wednesday following his meetings with world leaders at the United Nations, Trump conceded that his own history, with numerous women accusing him of sexual assault, has shaped how he views the current Kavanaugh controversy – arguing that he knows what it’s like to be falsely accused and suggesting Kavanaugh was being presumed “guilty until proven innocent.”
“I think that is a very, very dangerous standard for our country,” Trump said when asked what his message is to young men in the #MeToo era where women have been empowered to tell their stories of rape and abuse by powerful men.
“It’s a very big cultural moment,” Trump said. “This is a very big moment for our country because you have a man who is very outstanding” and whose reputation has been damaged by accusations that “nobody’s going to be able to prove.”
He then spoke of his own personal encounters with people he said had directed untrue allegations about him.
“It’s happened to me many times where false statements are made, and honestly nobody knows who to believe,” Trump added.
“I’ve been a famous person for a long time. But I’ve had a lot of false charges made against me, really false charges,” he said. “I know friends that have had false charges. People want fame, they want money, they want whatever.”
“So when I see it, I view it differently than somebody sitting home watching television where they say oh, Judge Kavanaugh this or that,” he said.
He added: “So when you say does it affect me in terms of my thinking with respect to Judge Kavanaugh, absolutely, because I’ve had it many times.”
During a press conference that lasted more than an hour, Trump seemed to veer from one extreme to the other in answering questions about the sexual assault charges against Kavanaugh.
He said Kavanaugh’s main accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, should be able to air her allegations publicly and that he could be persuaded by her account.
“It’s possible I’ll hear that and I’ll say, ‘Hey, I’ll change my mind,’” Trump said. “I can’t tell you. I have to watch tomorrow.”
At the same time, Trump suggested that Kavanaugh – like him – had been falsely accused and was the victim of a “con job” by Senate Democrats trying to tank his nomination.
Trump said he doesn’t knowif Ford and the two other women who have come forward to allege sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh are lying because he hasn’t seen them give their accounts in person.
Trump said that anyone would be in jeopardy in the current political environment, even President George Washington. “Didn’t he have a couple of things in his past?”
Trumpsuggested that if Kavanaugh’s nomination fails, other possible nominees could turn downan offer to serve on the court because of fear that they, too, would be subject to possibly false, years-old allegations.
“It’s a very dangerous period in our country and it’s being perpetrated by some very evil people,” Trump said, naming Senate Democrats as the culprits.
“It’s a game they are playing,” he said. “It’s a con game at the highest level.”
Trump also said he may delay a meeting with Deputy Attorney GeneralRod Rosenstein because of Thursday’s concurrent hearing on sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh.
He told reporters he would prefer not to fire Rosenstein, and that the deputy attorney general has told him he did not discuss invoking the 25th amendment last year in a bid to remove him from office.
“He said he never said it – he doesn’t believe it,” Trump said during a news conference at the United Nations. “He was very nice and we’ll see.”
Trump said “I would certainly prefer” not to fire Rosenstein, but he did not make a commitment one way or another before meeting with him face-to-face.
On foreign affairs issues, Trump touched on the fighting in Syria, trade talks with Canada and allegations that China is meddling in U.S. midterm elections.
The president claimed credit for saving the rebel-held Syrian stronghold of Idlib from a Russian-backed offensive that could have resulted in thousands of deaths and a humanitarian crisis. He said he told his national security team to warn Russia about the operation after he heard about it from a supporter at a rally and read a news story.
“I have had more Syrians thank me for that – this was about four weeks ago, I put that out [on social media]. I said, ‘They’re surrounding a city of 3 million people, they’re going to start bombing the city. Don’t let it happen.’”
Trump also said he rejected a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the United Nations General Assembly but a spokeswoman for Trudeau’s government disputed that the meeting had ever been requested.
“Yeah, I did,” Trump said during a press conference in New York when asked if he has rejected the meeting. “His tariffs are too high and he doesn’t seem to want to move and I told him ‘forget about it’ and, frankly, we’re thinking about just taxing cars coming in from Canada.”
Trump’s remarks came as the U.S. and Canada have struggled to negotiate a deal to replace the 1994 North America Free Trade Agreement. Trump’s administration has said it has reached an agreement with Mexico but talks have not proceeded as quickly with Trudeau’s government.
Trump repeated a claim made earlier in the day when he accused China of meddling in U.S. midterm elections. China has rejected the president’s claims.
Trump told reporters he could not disclose what evidence he has, but that it will come out. He says his allegation did not come “out of nowhere.”
He said China is hurting farmers and workers in pro-Trump states and districts.
Associated Press contributed.
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