- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 26, 2018

President Trump on Wednesday tried to carry embattled Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh over the finish line to confirmation, ramping up his defense of the jurist ahead of a high-stakes hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee in which the nominee and one of his female accusers will testify.

Campaigning to save Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination in between meetings with world leaders at the United Nations, and at his first solo press conference in the U.S. since February 2017, Mr. Trump called his nominee “an absolute gem” who is being smeared by Democrats playing “a con game.”

“This is a very big moment for our country,” Mr. Trump said of Thursday’s showdown in the Senate Judiciary Committee. “When you are guilty until proven innocent, it’s not supposed to be that way. I think it’s going to be a very, very important day in the history of our country.”

While the president stood firmly behind his nominee, he also was careful to say he believes that Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Judge Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct when they were teens, has a right to be heard.

“I’m going to be watching,” the president said. “I could be convinced of anything. He’s a tremendous man. He’s a great intellect. He’s the most brilliant lawyer. With all of that, I want to hear what she has to say.”

The hearing will be pivotal for Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination and to Mr. Trump’s drive to shift the high court in a more conservative direction. The nomination to replace the retired Justice Anthony M. Kennedy had seemed on a glide path until Ms. Blasey Ford came forward with her allegations two weeks ago. Then a second woman, Deborah Ramirez, a classmate of Judge Kavanaugh’s at Yale University, told the New Yorker magazine that he exposed himself to her at a party.

As Mr. Trump was in New York heading a meeting of the U.N. Security Council and conferring with allies Wednesday, his conservative nominee — who could change the balance of power on the high court — faced a new threat. A third woman, Julie Swetnick, came forward to accuse him of taking part in drunken parties during high school in which underage girls were gang-raped after being given alcohol and drugs.

Judge Kavanaugh said he didn’t know the woman and never took part in such parties, calling the accusation “from the Twilight Zone.”

The president acknowledged that he was struggling to keep up with the allegations amid a busy week at the U.N. General Assembly.

“I can’t tell you whether or not they’re liars until I hear them,” he said of the women. “I don’t know what happened today because I’ve been very busy with Japan, with South Korea, with China and about seven other countries.”

Lawyers for Judge Kavanaugh and Ms. Blasey Ford, who accuses him of sexually assaulting her at a party during high school, have submitted evidentiary documents they intend to use at Thursday’s make-or-break Judiciary Committee hearing. They include pages from Judge Kavanaugh’s 1982 summer calendar and four declarations in support of Ms. Blasey Ford’s claims.

Ms. Blasey Ford’s lawyers also provided the Judiciary Committee with the results of a polygraph test taken Aug. 7 at a Hilton Hotel in Maryland. She says she passed it.

Ms. Swetnick’s attorney is Michael Avenatti, who also represents adult film star Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against the president stemming from payments to cover up an alleged affair with Mr. Trump. The president attacked Mr. Avenatti as an inept partisan.

“Avenatti is a third-rate lawyer who is good at making false accusations, like he did on me and like he is now doing on Judge Brett Kavanaugh,” Mr. Trump said.

The president accused the lawyer of simply “looking for attention.”

“A total low-life!” Mr. Trump tweeted.

Mr. Avenatti responded quickly to the president’s comments on Twitter.

” ‘False accusations?’ Like those crimes your fixer Cohen pled to?” the lawyer wrote, referring to Mr. Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen, who has pleaded guilty to felonies, including campaign finance violations involving the hush-money payments to Ms. Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, and another woman.

Mr. Avenatti told the president, “You are an habitual liar and complete narcissist who also is a disgrace as a president and an embarrassment to our nation. You are so inept that your ‘best and brightest’ are Cohen and [Rudy] Giuliani. Let’s go.”

Mr. Avenatti told The Associated Press that his client won’t consider the Judiciary Committee’s request to interview her until the panel agrees to his demand for an FBI investigation of the accusation.

The president also expressed annoyance with Senate Republicans for not pushing through Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination sooner, saying they essentially gave Democrats time to dredge up unsubstantiated accusations against the nominee.

“The Republicans could not be nicer than the way they’re handling this,” Mr. Trump said. “They could have pushed it through two and a half weeks ago, and you wouldn’t be talking about it right now — which is, frankly, what I would have preferred. But they didn’t do that.”

The president said he considers Thursday’s hearing so important that he might postpone a scheduled meeting with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, which is bound to receive heavy media coverage over reports that Mr. Rosenstein once contemplated wearing a wire in conversations with the president.

While Mr. Trump said he wants to hear the testimony of Ms. Blasey Ford, he acknowledged that his views on the issue are colored by his own experience of what he said were false allegations of sexual misconduct by several women over a period of decades.

“It does impact my opinion,” the president said. “I’m a very famous person, unfortunately. I was accused by four or five women who got paid a lot of money to tell stories about me. They made false statements about me, knowing they were false. They took money in order to say bad things. When I see [the allegations against Judge Kavanaugh], I view it differently than somebody sitting at home watching television.”

The president expressed concern that raising decades-old allegations involving a nominee’s teenage years will damage the nation’s ability to find the best people for public service.

“It’s a very dangerous period in our country,” Mr. Trump said. “And it’s being perpetrated by some very evil people, some of them are Democrats. This is just a game that they’re playing.”

Marge Baker, executive vice president of People for the American Way, said Mr. Trump was wrong to dismiss Ms. Blasey Ford’s story and said he showed a lack of understanding for what sexual assault victims feel.

“If the president cannot be bothered to even pay attention to the process, if he cannot be bothered to learn about the impact sexual assault has on women, if he cannot even respect the women in the briefing room, there’s no way we can have confidence in his stewardship of this appointment process,” she said. “This nomination should be withdrawn.”

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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