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Wednesday 17 October 2018

Donald Trump backs Supreme Court nominee and criticises accuser

The president tweeted to question why police had not been informed at the time Christine Blasey Ford says Brett Kavanaugh assaulted her.

President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is sworn in before the Senate Judiciary Committee (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is sworn in before the Senate Judiciary Committee (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

By Alan Fram and Lisa Mascaro

President Donald Trump has challenged the woman accusing his Supreme Court nominee of sexual assault by name, saying that if the alleged attack was that “bad” then she would have filed charges.

Abandoning his previous restraint, Mr Trump tweeted: “I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents. I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time, and place!”

The president previously had avoided naming Christine Blasey Ford or casting doubt on her account.

Dr Ford alleges Judge Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her more than 30 years ago when they were teenagers.

Mr Kavanaugh has denied the allegations.

Mr Trump’s apparent shift in strategy comes as Dr Ford’s lawyers are negotiating with the Senate Judiciary Committee on the terms of her possible testimony next week, raising the prospect of a dramatic Senate showdown over Dr Ford’s accusation.

In another tweet, Mr Trump, who was in Las Vegas for various events, wrote: “Judge Brett Kavanaugh is a fine man, with an impeccable reputation, who is under assault by radical left wing politicians who don’t want to know the answers, they just want to destroy and delay.

“Facts don’t matter. I go through this with them every single day in D.C.”

Mr Trump has already had the opportunity to shape the court which has the final word on issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.

He successfully nominated Neil Gorsuch to succeed the late Antonin Scalia for the first vacancy he was required to fill during his presidency.

Now he is backing Mr Kavanaugh who is considered a conservative and would replace Anthony Kennedy on the panel, if confirmed.

On Thursday, Dr Ford’s lawyers told the Judiciary Committee that her preference is to give evidence next Thursday.

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President Donald Trump speaking during a campaign rally in Las Vegas (John Locher/AP)

She does not want Mr Kavanaugh in the same room, her lawyer told the panel’s staff in a 30-minute call that also touched on security concerns and others issues, according to a Senate aide.

Dr Ford is willing to tell her story, but only if agreement can be reached on “terms that are fair and which ensure her safety”, the lawyer said.

She said Dr Ford needs time to make sure her family is secure, prepare her evidence and travel to Washington.

No decisions were reached, the aide said.

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Brett Kavanaugh has been nominated for the Supreme Court vacancy (Andrew Harnik/AP)

In addition to security, expected to be provided by Capitol Police, Dr Ford has asked for press coverage of her evidence to be the same as for Mr Kavanaugh.

Reporters had assigned seating and were kept separated from the nominee, who was whisked to and from the room.

Dr Ford’s lawyer said she would like to give evidence first, but that might be complicated because Mr Kavanaugh has already agreed to Monday’s scheduled hearing.

The accusation has jarred the 53-year-old conservative jurist’s prospects for winning confirmation, which until Dr Ford’s emergence last week had seemed all but certain.

It has also bloomed into a broader clash over whether women alleging abuse are taken seriously by men and how both political parties address such claims with the advent of the #MeToo movement, a theme that could echo in this November’s elections for control of Congress.

The discussions have revived the possibility that the panel will hold an electrifying campaign-season hearing at which both Dr Ford and Mr Kavanaugh can give their versions of what did or did not happen at a party in the 1980s.

Mr Kavanaugh, now a judge on the powerful US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, has repeatedly denied Dr Ford’s allegation.

Press Association

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