Republican lawmakers insist they will vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court even if his accuser ends up not testifying Thursday about her sexual assault allegation.
But surprisingly, some of President Donald Trump’s most passionate supporters want the Senate — and all of America — to hear from Christine Blasey Ford before lawmakers vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the nation’s highest court.
“If you make an accusation, you have to be responsible. You owe it to the accused,” said Trisha Hope, of League City, Texas who attended Trump’s rally in Missouri Friday while promoting her book of Trump tweets. “How can you do this to a person?”
It’s not that Trump supporters necessarily believe Ford’s accusation that he pinned her to a bed, covered her mouth and groped her during a drunken party when they were teenagers. Rather, they think forcing her to testify and acknowledge the holes in her story will free Kavanaugh of the cloud she has cast over his nomination.
Stephen Koach, 55, a stockbroker who attended Trump’s rally in Las Vegas Thursday night, said the only reason Ford had been wavering about testifying is because she was scared of being charged for falsely accusing Kavanaugh of a crime. Kavanaugh has repeatedly denied the allegation.
“Get her in there under oath,” he said. “She should be facing charges....She’s a piece of garbage.”
At back-to-back rallies in Nevada and Missouri, large boisterous crowds broke into chants of “KA-VA-NAUGH!” even before Trump mentioned him by name.
“I’m all for talking about sexual assault but why are you waiting 30 years?” said Brad Conley, 39, who works construction in Springfield, Mo. “You should have come forward (30 years ago).”
The fight over Trump’s second pick to the Supreme Court — Neil Gorsuch was confirmed last year — has consumed Washington since Ford came forward a week ago. But the attention it garnered at campaign rallies across the country show the issue has taken on added urgency six weeks before the midterm elections. With Republicans already expected to lose the House — and perhaps the Senate —Ford’s allegation has the potential to shift more female voters away from the GOP.
“Brett Kavanaugh — a fantastic man, fantastic,” Trump told the audience in Springfield, Mo. “You talk about central casting. They were saying it 10 years ago about him. He was born for the U.S. Supreme Court. He was born for it. And it’s going to happen.”
In Missouri, Trump blasted Sen. Claire McCaskill D-Mo. at a rally attended by her Republican opponent, Josh Hawley, for announcing she would vote against Kavanaugh. In Nevada a day earlier, Trump praised Sen. Dean Heller R-Nevada, considered the most vulnerable Republican in the Senate, for supporting Kavanaugh.
“One of the reasons I was elected was because you believed that I was going to pick great Supreme Court justices,” Trump said in Las Vegas. “Brett Kavanaugh....We got to let it play out, but I want to tell you, he is a fine, fine person. So, he’s got tremendous support. I can tell you that. Tremendous.”
Trump had been restrained in his remarks about Ford for days but on Friday he tweeted his doubt about Ford’s accusation, claimed the entire allegation was part of a partisan plan by Senate Democrats to derail Kavanaugh’s confirmation and pushed for a vote regardless of her testimony. “Let her testify, or not, and TAKE THE VOTE!” he tweeted.
Before she testified, Ford had wanted the FBI to investigate her allegation that Kavanaugh, then 17 and drunk, sexually assaulted her at party in the early 1980s in Maryland before she got away. She said she can’t remember the date or location.
But Trump supporters are adamant that the FBI should not investigate in part because they don’t trust the agency that Trump has repeatedly criticized for failing to fully investigate Democrat Hillary Clinton’s actions and for looking into whether Trump associates colluded with Russia to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
“I think the FBI needs to be investigated,” said Teresa Grenke, 69, a retiree from Concord, Calif. who attended Trump’s rally in Las Vegas with her daughter wearing a red T-shirt that says “If you live here Trump is your president” and a red “Make America Great Again” hat She dubbed Ford “a nutty professor.”
Republicans who control the Senate Judiciary Committee agreed to let Ford, a psychology professor from California, testify but only if she does so in the coming days. They are eager to confirm Kavanaugh before the Supreme Court begins its term Oct. 1 — a move that would shift the Supreme Court to the right for decades to come — and before voters head to the polls in November.
“She should testify,” said Robert Fulton, 71, a veteran wearing a T-shirt that read “Hillary for Prison” at Trump’s Las Vegas rally. “She’s the one who brought up the whole issue. Let her testify. Let her have her day in court.”
Republicans and Ford’s attorneys sides have been talking for days about the possibly of her testifying this week. On Sunday, Ford’s attorney said she would testify Thursday. Still, some Republicans were skeptical Ford would end up testifying. Democrats say Ford is being rushed and bullied.
“She needs to go in front of people and make her accountable for her actions,” said Marsha Poindexter, a self-employed insurance agent in Springfield. “Everyone needs to be accountable.”