US Republicans have displayed their division over appointing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, after US President Donald Trump openly mocked his accuser Christine Blasey Ford.
- Trump ally senator Lindsey Graham said Trump’s comments are not helpful
- White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders says Trump was “stating facts”
- The support of all Republican senators is crucial to appointing Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court
Senators Jeff Flake, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski — three moderate Republicans who could be pivotal in determining whether the Senate confirms Mr Kavanaugh — slammed Mr Trump’s mocking imitation of Dr Ford’s testimony as “appalling”.
“I wish he hadn’t done it,” Mr Flake told NBC.
“I just say it’s kind of appalling.”
Senator Flake was instrumental last week in getting Mr Trump to order an FBI investigation into the allegations against Mr Kavanaugh, after he was confronted in a lift by victims of sexual assault.
Senator Collins — who is yet to reveal publicly how she will vote on Mr Kavanaugh’s appointment —told reporters “the President’s comments were just plain wrong”.
Asked whether Mr Trump’s comments would affect her vote, Senator Murkowski told reporters, “I am taking everything into account. The President’s comments yesterday mocking Dr Ford were wholly inappropriate and, in my view, unacceptable.”
Mr Trump’s fellow Republicans control the Senate by a 51-49 margin.
That means if all the Democrats vote against Mr Kavanaugh, Mr Trump could not afford to have more than one Republican oppose his nominee, with Vice President Mike Pence casting a tie-breaking vote.
So far, no Republicans have publicly said they would vote against Mr Kavanaugh.
Speaking at an event hosted by The Atlantic, Trump ally senator Lindsey Graham said that while he “didn’t particularly like” the President’s remarks about Dr Ford, he slammed Democrats for their treatment of Mr Kavanaugh.
“So President Trump went through a factual rendition that I didn’t particularly like and I would tell him ‘knock it off. You’re not helping’,” he told The Atlantic’s editor-in-chief, Jeffrey Goldberg.
“I’m the first person to say I want to hear from Dr Ford. I thought she was handled respectfully. I thought Kavanagh was treated like crap.”
To a chorus of audience boos Mr Graham replied: “Yeah. Well boo yourself.”
In parroting comments made during the investigation into Bill Clinton, Mr Graham said of the allegations against Mr Kavanaugh, that “this is what you get when you go through a trailer park with a $100 bill”.
He added that he “knows what happens to these women” that come forward and that in the past much worse has been said.
In a Twitter post, Mr Trump did not back away from his rally comments, instead attacking Mr Kavanaugh’s Democrat critics.
DonaldTrump: I see it each time I go out to Rallies in order to help some of our great Republican candidates.
Mr Trump said when he goes to political rallies, which are organised by Republicans, he sees that voters are angry at the “vicious and despicable” way Democrats are treating his nominee.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders also defended Mr Trump, telling a press briefing that the President was not concerned the comments may have endangered the votes of key senators.
“The President was stating the facts,” Ms Sanders said.
“Every single word Mr Kavanaugh has said has been picked apart … yet if anybody says anything about the accusations that have been thrown against him, that’s totally off limits and outrageous.”
As expected, the Democrats also slammed Mr Trump for his comments.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, the committee’s top Democrat, called Mr Trump’s comments “cruel”, adding, “he sent a clear message to victims of sexual assault that they should not be believed”.
In terms of the FBI investigation, the second-ranked Senate Republican John Cornyn said the Senate could receive the FBI’s report as soon as Wednesday night (local time).
Republican senator John Kennedy joined a string of Democrats in calling for the FBI report to be made public.
The Senate’s Republican leaders are planning a vote on Mr Kavanaugh this week.
Mr Kavanaugh has denied all claims of assault.