U.S. President Donald Trump gave embattled Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh a ringing new endorsement Tuesday, saying he felt "so badly" that Kavanaugh is facing scrutiny over allegations that he assaulted a teenage girl three decades ago when they were both in high school.
"This is not a man that deserves this," Trump said at a joint White House news conference alongside Polish President Andrzej Duda. "I feel terrible for his family."
The U.S. leader assailed California Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, for not disclosing the allegations when she first learned of them in July, accusing opposition Democrats of being "lousy politicians, but good obstructionists" in their efforts to derail Kavanaugh's confirmation to a lifetime appointment on the country's highest court.
It was only last weekend, however, that a California psychology professor, Christine Blasey Ford, identified herself by name in a Washington Post interview, accusing Kavanaugh of groping her at a suburban Washington house party when she was 15 and he was 17.
She said that Kavanaugh, who was "stumbling drunk," threw her down on a bed, grinding his body against hers and trying to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she was wearing over it. Ford said when she tried to scream, Kavanaugh put his hand over her mouth.
Now, Trump said, lawmakers "will look at his career and what she had to say from 36 years ago and then they will vote."
The Senate Judiciary Committee has a scheduled a new hearing Monday into the allegations, but the panel's chairman, Senator Charles Grassley, a Republican, said that it had yet to hear whether Ford, now 51, would appear to testify.
Republican lawmakers later said Ford could testify either in public or in private.
"We're going to give her that opportunity on Monday," Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said.
Ford's attorney, Debra Katz, has said that her client would be open to "a fair proceeding" and testify.
Grassley, however, told a radio interviewer Tuesday that Ford's lack of response to overtures to testify "kind of raises the question, do they want to come to the public hearing or not?"
Kavanaugh has agreed to appear and has adamantly denied her allegations or that he has ever attacked any woman.
Some Democratic lawmakers have called for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which has conducted background checks six times over the years on the 53-year-old Kavanaugh, to investigate Ford's allegations.
But Trump said ahead of his news conference, "I don't think the FBI should be involved because they don't want to be involved." He said senators hearing Ford's accusations, if she testifies, "will open it up and they will do a very good job" considering Ford's allegations and Kavanaugh's denial.
Grassley, an Iowa Republican, said the panel plans to call only two witnesses, Ford and Kavanaugh, and not another man, Mark Judge, whom Ford has alleged was in the same bedroom in a house in suburban Washington in 1982 when Kavanaugh allegedly attacked her, leaving her fearful for her life.
Omission of possible witness
Grassley's omission of Judge, who has denied that an attack occurred, and other possible witnesses, drew the ire of Feinstein, the top Democrat on the judiciary panel that is considering Kavanaugh's nomination and held four days of testimony earlier this month, including hours of questioning of Kavanaugh.
"It's impossible to take this process seriously," Feinstein said.
"What about other witnesses like Kavanaugh's friend Mark Judge?" Feinstein said. "What about individuals who were previously told about this incident? What about experts who can speak to the effects of this kind of trauma on a victim? This is another attempt by Republicans to rush this nomination and not fully vet Judge Kavanaugh."
One key undecided lawmaker on Kavanaugh's confirmation, Republican Susan Collins of Maine, said she was "very puzzled" by the uncertainty of Ford's testimony.
"I've said from the beginning that these are very serious allegations and she deserves to be heard," Collins said. "She is now being given an opportunity to come before the Senate Judiciary Committee to answer questions and I really hope that she doesn't pass up that opportunity."
Another undecided senator, Republican Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, said, "We have a woman who has come forward; she deserves to be heard; it's important that her voice and her story is shared."
The Senate's No. 2 Republican, John Cornyn of Texas, raised doubts about Ford's account of the alleged three-decade-old incident, saying, "The problem is Dr. Ford can't remember when it was, where it was, or how it came to be."
Republicans on the committee had hoped to hold a vote to move Kavanaugh's nomination forward to a full Senate vote as early as Thursday of this week.
Republicans, some of whom see the allegations as a stalling tactic by Democrats to thwart Kavanaugh's confirmation, have been pushing to confirm him before November's midterm elections, when they could lose their 51-49 majority control of the Senate.