WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump expressed frustration Wednesday with Senate Republicans over the delays with Judge Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination, saying, "they could have pushed it through two and a half weeks ago."
Trump spoke to reporters at the United Nations as his embattled nominee faces accusations of sexual misconduct Kavanaugh emphatically denies. Trump said that if lawmakers had moved faster "you wouldn't be talking about it right now, which is frankly what I would have preferred."
Kavanaugh and his chief accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, who says Kavanaugh assaulted her in high school, are set to testify Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Asked about the decision to have a veteran Arizona prosecutor handle the questioning, Trump said that Senate Republicans "could not be nicer" and "could not be more respectful."
Trump said he was "OK with that," but again defended Kavanaugh as a "gem" and said that Democrats are treating him unfairly. Kavanaugh has steadfastly denied the accusations from Ford and another woman alleging sexual misconduct during his college years.
In recent days, the president has grown increasingly frustrated with the handling of the claims against Kavanaugh, said a person familiar with his views who was not authorized to discuss private conversations publicly. After Kavanaugh appeared on Fox News to plead his case Monday, Trump expressed concerns that he did not defend himself more vigorously.
While Trump has wondered if he was well-advised to choose Kavanaugh, he now believes that Republicans must fight back harder, mindful of the message it would send to his supporters if the GOP-controlled Senate cannot help him get another conservative jurist on the high court.
With Kavanaugh's confirmation, Trump would shift the court more firmly to the right for a generation, a long-held goal of conservative leaders.
The process was thrown into doubt when Ford told The Washington Post that the judge tried to remove her clothes and clamped a hand over her mouth at a party when both were in high school. Another woman, Deborah Ramirez, told The New Yorker magazine that Kavanaugh caused her to touch his penis at a party when both were Yale freshmen.