President Trump Says He Stands By Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh

Sep 18, 2018
Originally published on September 19, 2018 3:38 pm
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

President Trump today forcefully defended his Supreme Court pick Brett Kavanaugh, whose nomination is currently in a state of uncertainty. Kavanaugh faces an accusation of sexual assault from decades ago when he was a teenager.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I feel so badly for him that he's going through this, to be honest with you. I feel so badly for him. This is not a man that deserves this.

CORNISH: Trump made the comments at a White House news conference with the president of Poland. NPR's White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe was there. She joins us now. And, Ayesha, the president has defended Kavanaugh before. Was there something different about how he did it today?

AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: It was a bit different because this time, he really kind of went out of his way to express concern for Kavanaugh and what he feels like he's going through. He talked about how he doesn't like the way Kavanaugh has been treated. He didn't express any type of concern for Christine Blasey Ford, Kavanaugh's accuser.

The other times he's been asked about this, Trump has walked a very fine line. He seems to be kind of trying to make sure he doesn't attack the accuser. Usually in - his instinct is to attack and dismiss allegations against his allies. But he did go after Democrats for holding back the allegations. And he said that he wants to see this process play out.

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TRUMP: So I don't want to play into their hands. Hopefully the woman will come forward, state her case. He will state his case before representatives of the United States Senate, and then they will vote.

RASCOE: If this hearing does go forward - and right now it's supposed to - this is going to be very high stakes for Kavanaugh and for this administration. This is a high-risk situation, and no one really knows how it's going to play out.

CORNISH: The president has been sympathetic to men accused of misconduct in the past. Is he following a pattern essentially?

RASCOE: You know, in some ways, this answer that he gave about Kavanaugh - it reminded me of an answer he gave about Rob Porter, his former White House staff secretary who was accused of domestic abuse. Trump said that - then that this was a tough situation for Porter and that he was very sad for him. This was another instance where he didn't express any sympathy for the alleged victims. He was criticized about his remarks about Porter, and it seems like the White House is trying to avoid that situation with Kavanaugh. It seems like they've kind of deemed it too risky to try to really go after the accuser, and they don't want to alienate women ahead of midterm elections.

We should note that Trump wasn't asked directly whether he believes Kavanaugh's accuser to be credible or whether he believes that this incident happened or not. And that's not something that he has said.

CORNISH: Democrats on the Hill think the FBI should investigate the allegation by Kavanaugh's accuser before the Judiciary Committee actually hears from her or him. So does the president have anything to say about that?

RASCOE: He was asked about that, and he said he would be fine with the FBI investigating. But the FBI has said that's not what they do. The Justice Department did release a statement saying that the FBI doesn't determine the validity of allegations during background checks and that these allegations don't involve a federal crime. The White House could ask for the background check to be reopened, though. But that's what they're saying - that there's basically no need to.

CORNISH: President Trump made these comments at a news conference, as we said, with Polish President Andrzej Duda. Did anything come out of that meeting?

RASCOE: Well, President Duda to is pushing for a permanent U.S. base in Poland. He even said it could be named after Trump. Trump didn't totally shut that down. He said it's something that he would consider. A big concern for Poland is Russia. And Trump was asked about that, and he said he understands why Poland is concerned about Russia and would want additional defense - because Russia has been aggressive in the region.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Ayesha Rascoe. Thank you.

RASCOE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.