WHEELING, W.Va. — President Trump on Saturday night turned the fight over the nomination of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court into a midterm election rallying cry, denouncing “the ruthless and outrageous tactics of the Democrat Party.”
Speaking at his rally here, Trump also suggested Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, was responsible for leaking a letter from Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford detailing her allegation that the judge sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers.
“Dianne Feinstein, did you leak? Remember her answer. Did you leak the document? ‘Uh. Uh. What? What? No. Uh. No. Uh. I didn’t le— well, wait one minute. No, no, we didn’t leak it.’ I’ll tell you what, that was real bad body language. Who knows? Maybe she didn’t leak it, but that was the worst body language I’ve ever seen,” he said.
Feinstein has denied that either she or her staff leaked the letter. The Intercept, which first reported the allegation, has also denied that Feinstein’s office was its source.
Earlier Saturday, before leaving for the rally, Trump struck an optimistic tone about Kavanaugh’s confirmation, saying an FBI investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against him that the White House and the Republican Party previously resisted could be a “blessing in disguise.”
“Having the FBI go out and do a thorough investigation, whether its three days or seven days — I think it’s going to be less than a week,” Trump said. “Having them do a thorough investigation, I actually think it will be a blessing in disguise. It will be a good thing.”
Trump also contradicted news reports suggesting the investigation would be limited in scope, at the White House’s request.
“They have free rein,” he said of investigators. “They can do whatever they have to do, whatever it is that they do. They’ll be doing things we have never even thought of.”
He added: “And hopefully at the conclusion everything will be fine.”
Earlier in the day, White House spokesman Raj Shah said, amid reports that certain allegations against Kavanaugh and witnesses were not part of the investigation, “The scope and duration has been set by the Senate. The White House is letting the FBI agents do what they are trained to do.”
At the rally, Trump framed the resistance to Kavanaugh’s nomination in partisan terms, despite Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and two other GOP senators forcing the additional FBI probe.
While Trump has said the process should play out, he has also repeatedly suggested a failure to confirm Kavanaugh would be a shame. He praised Kavanaugh’s angry and defiant testimony on Thursday, which followed Ford’s appearance in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“On Thursday, the American people saw the brilliant and really incredible character, quality and courage of our nominee for the United States Supreme Court, Judge Brett Kavanaugh,” Trump said. He added: “A vote for Judge Kavanaugh is also a vote to reject the ruthless and outrageous tactics of the Democrat Party.”
On Friday, Trump ordered a one-week delay in a vote on Kavanaugh so that the FBI could investigate the sexual misconduct claims that have upended the nomination process. The probe, which the GOP had resisted, was forced by Flake’s last-minute decision to withhold his previously expressed support for Kavanaugh.
This was Trump’s second trip to West Virginia in as many months in support of state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R), who trails incumbent Sen. Joe Manchin III (D) in most polls. The president has frequented West Virginia, which is the closest strongly pro-Trump state to Washington, throughout his presidency.
A RealClearPolitics average of polls has Manchin ahead by just over 9 points, but Republicans hope the state’s conservative lean will narrow the gap in the weeks to come.
Manchin is one of two key Democrats who has not signaled opposition to Kavanaugh yet. On Friday, he joined with Flake and two other GOP senators to force the new FBI probe.
Trump on Saturday night also continued to fight back against the perception that world leaders diminished him last week by laughing at his claims of success at the United Nations General Assembly.
“Everybody is respecting us again,” he said. “I just left the United Nations. Believe me: They respect us.”
Trump said he fell in love with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un: “I was being tough and so was he, and we were back and forth, then we fell in love. He wrote me beautiful letters and they were great letters. We fell in love,” he said, immediately noting that media would say he was being “unpresidential.”
The evening rally begins a heavy campaign travel period for Trump, who will visit five friendly states in the coming week as he seeks to boost Republican prospects in the Nov. 6 midterm elections.
Trump will also visit Tennessee, Mississippi, Minnesota and Kansas in the next week as part of a strategy to leverage his popularity among Republicans to help the party retain the Senate and minimize expected losses in the House. Trump won West Virginia by more than 40 points in 2016, and he won every other state he will visit in coming days except Minnesota.