Three key Republicans condemn Trump for mocking Christine Blasey Ford

  • Lisa Murkowski calls Trump’s comments ‘wholly inappropriate’
  • Murkowski, Collins and Flake could decide Kavanaugh’s fate

Donald Trump has been sharply condemned for mocking Dr Christine Blasey Ford – the woman who accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault – with three key Republicans who could determine if the federal judge is confirmed to the US supreme court calling the comments “appalling” and “just plain wrong”.

At a campaign rally in Mississippi on Tuesday night, Trump cast doubt on Ford’s allegation that Kavanaugh, Trump’s nominee for the bench, attempted to rape her as a teen in the early 1980s.

As supporters cheered, the president ridiculed Ford’s testimony before the Senate judiciary committee last week, where she conceded she could not remember certain details but vividly recounted the alleged assault by Kavanaugh.

“I wish he hadn’t have done it and I just say it’s kind of appalling,” the Republican senator Jeff Flake of Arizona said in an NBC interview. “There is no time and no place for remarks like that, but to discuss something this sensitive at a political rally is just not right.”

Two other Republican swing votes, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, also rebuked Trump from Capitol Hill.

“The president’s comments were just plain wrong,” Collins said.

Murkowski told reporters it was “wholly inappropriate” and “unacceptable” for Trump to mock Ford. “I am taking everything into account,” she said.

Even Senator Lindsey Graham, one of Trump and Kavanaugh’s most vociferous defenders – who snatched control of the questioning during last week’s hearing from the Republican-appointed prosecutor Rachel Mitchell – said on Wednesday: “I do not like what the president said last night.”

A handful of moderate Republicans in the Senate could seal Kavanaugh’s fate. Last week, an FBI investigation into the allegations against Kavanaugh began after Flake signalled he would not vote to confirm the federal judge to America’s highest court without further inquiry.

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Some of Trump’s traditional media allies were also critical of his move, suggesting it could undermine Kavanaugh’s prospects.

“The tactic of the president laying low has been lauded by all sides,” said Brian Kilmeade, a host of Trump’s preferred morning show Fox & Friends. “Last night he chose to blow it, as the FBI is handing in the report as early as today.

“I wonder about the wisdom, as much as the crowd loved it, I wonder about the wisdom, tactically, of him doing that.”

But senior administration adviser Kellyanne Conway defended Trump and said Ford has “been treated like a Fabergé egg by all of us, beginning with me and the president”.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, holding her first briefing since 10 September, insisted that the president was “stating facts” rather than mocking Ford. “Frankly, facts that were included in special prosecutor Rachel Mitchell’s report,” she said.

She then accused Democrats and the media of hypocrisy. “Every single word Judge Kavanaugh has said has been picked apart. Every single word, second by second of his testimony … yet if anybody says anything about the accusations that have been thrown against him, that’s totally off-limits and outrageous. This entire process has been a disgrace.”

Asked if Trump had jeopardized the crucial Republican swing votes on Kavanaugh’s confirmation, Sanders insisted: “I don’t think so. The president is very confident in his nominee as he stated time and time again. And we expect the Senate to vote and we hope they do that soon.”

Trump had initially dubbed Ford a “very credible witness” even as he forcefully defended Kavanaugh against allegations of sexual misconduct, which have also been made by two other women. Kavanaugh denies all the allegations.

But on Tuesday, Trump dismissively imitated Ford’s testimony.

“How did you get home?” Trump said, reiterating a question the committee asked Ford. “I don’t remember,” he then parroted, sarcastically.

“How did you get there? ‘I don’t remember.’ Where is the place? ‘I don’t remember.’ How many years ago was it? ‘I don’t know.’ What neighborhood was it? ‘I don’t know.’ Where’s the house? ‘I don’t know.’”

Testifying last week, Ford, a California research psychologist, drew on her own expertise in how the brain processed traumatic memories.

“It’s just basic memory functions, and also just the level of norepinephrine and epinephrine in the brain that … encodes memories into the hippocampus so that trauma-related experience is locked there [while] other memories just drift,” Ford explained.

One of Ford’s attorneys, Michael Bromwich, condemned Trump’s remarks, tweeting: “A vicious, vile and soulless attack on Dr Christine Blasey Ford. Is it any wonder that she was terrified to come forward, and that other sexual assault survivors are as well? She is a remarkable profile in courage. He is a profile in cowardice.”

Michael R. Bromwich
(@mrbromwich)

A vicious, vile and soulless attack on Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. Is it any wonder that she was terrified to come forward, and that other sexual assault survivors are as well? She is a remarkable profile in courage. He is a profile in cowardice. https://t.co/UJ0bGxV1EZ

October 3, 2018

Last week, the Senate judiciary committee voted along party lines to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination for the consideration of the full chamber.

In addition to Flake, Collins and Murkowski, two red state Democrats facing re-election in November, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, are undecided on Kavanaugh.

Flake said on Wednesday he did not wish to “prejudge” the work of federal investigators. But he said the nomination would be over if it was revealed Kavanaugh had lied to the committee.

“If there are demonstrable lies … and if he misled the committee in that way, then that’s something that is not right and shouldn’t happen,” he said.

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