White House officials and allies to President Donald Trump were bolstered by Brett Kavanaugh’s defiant and at times angry opening statement Thursday afternoon. “I thought it was nothing short of spectacular — powerful,” White House spokesman Raj Shah told TIME in a telephone interview during a break in the hearing.
The stakes were high for Kavanaugh after a morning of compelling, measured testimony by Christine Blasey Ford. Republicans were nervous Kavanaugh would repeat the unsteady performance he gave during a Fox News interview earlier this week and not be able to stop the tide of public opinion from turning against him.
But White House officials found that Kavanaugh defended himself forcefully, and relished seeing him call the confirmation process “a national disgrace.” Kavanaugh took aim at Democratic senators, saying: “You have replaced advise and consent with search and destroy.”
White House officials believe that Kavanaugh’s testimony put Democrats on the defensive and was strong enough to convince Republican senators who were on the fence to vote for him. “I think he developed a very compelling narrative for why this stuff isn’t true. You don’t have to hate the accuser or impugn her credibility to vote for him,” Shah said.
At one point in his testimony, Kavanaugh asked senators to judge him by the same standards they would want applied to their father, brother or son in a similar situation. “He developed a standard for judging this that everyone would want applied to them,” Shah said.
President Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. complimented Kavanaugh’s feisty demeanor. “I love Kavanaugh’s tone,” Don Jr. wrote on Twitter. “It’s nice to see a conservative man fight for his honor,” he wrote.