UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Monday defended his U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh after a second woman came forward with an allegation of sexual misconduct against the judge that has further complicated his confirmation prospects in the Senate.
“Judge Kavanaugh is an outstanding person. I am with him all the way,” Trump said after arriving in New York to attend the U.N. General Assembly, calling the allegations against his nominee for a lifetime post on the top U.S. court politically motivated.
On Sunday night, the New Yorker magazine published an article in which a second woman, Deborah Ramirez, described an instance of alleged sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh that dates to the 1983-84 academic year when both attended Yale University. Ramirez is cited by the New Yorker as saying Kavanaugh exposed himself to her during a drunken dormitory party.
Trump stood by Kavanaugh, a conservative federal appeals court judge, as the new allegations threatened to upend a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing scheduled for Thursday to hear testimony from Christine Blasey Ford, a university professor in California who has accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault in 1982.
Kavanaugh, also due to testify at the Judiciary Committee hearing, has denied the accusations by Ford and Ramirez.
After the new allegations surfaced, Democrats called for a delay in Thursday’s hearing.
Trump made clear on Monday he considered the allegations politically motivated.
“For people to come out of the woodwork from 36 years ago, and 30 years ago and never mention it – all of a sudden it happens,” Trump said. “In my opinion it’s totally political. It’s totally political.”
The controversy over Kavanaugh is unfolding just weeks before Nov. 6 congressional elections in which Democrats are trying to take control of Congress from Trump’s fellow Republicans, against a backdrop of the #MeToo movement fighting sexual harassment and assault.
Ford, a psychology professor at Palo Alto University in California, has said Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in 1982 when both were high school students in Maryland. She accused him of attacking her and trying to remove her clothing while he was drunk at a party when he was 17 years old and she was 15.
In a television interview on Monday, White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway said the White House took the allegations seriously and that Ramirez should contact the committee if she also wants to testify.
The Judiciary Committee’s top Democrat, Senator Dianne Feinstein, called on the panel’s Republican chairman, Senator Chuck Grassley, to postpone Thursday’s hearing in order to investigate Ramirez’s accusations.
“We will attempt to evaluate these new claims,” Grassley’s spokesman Taylor Foy said in a statement on Sunday night.
Kavanaugh’s confirmation would cement conservative control of the Supreme Court and advance Trump’s goal of moving the high court and the broader federal judiciary to the right. Republicans narrowly control the Senate.
Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Susan Heavey; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Will Dunham