All three Republican Senators who are undecided on Brett Kavanaughs’ confirmation to the Supreme Court strongly denounced on Wednesday President Donald Trump’s comments mocking Dr. Christine Blasey Ford during a rally, although it is unclear what influence, if any, this will have on their ultimate decision.
Sen. Jeff Flake called the comments “appalling;” Maine Sen. Susan Collins called them “just plain wrong;” and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski called them “wholly inappropriate”
During a rally in Mississippi on Tuesday night, Trump mocked California psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford, parodying tearful testimony last week in which she alleged that Kavanaugh held her down, put his hand over her mouth and tried to remove her clothing when they were in high school. Kavanaugh denies the allegation.
“How did you get home? ‘I don’t remember,’” Trump said, mocking Ford’s voice.
“The President’s comments were just plain wrong,” Collins told reporters in brief remarks before heading into a hearing of the Senate aging committee, which she chairs.
Later that morning, Murkowski offered similar sentiments. “I thought the President’s comments yesterday mocking Dr. Ford were wholly inappropriate and in my view unacceptable,” she told reporters as she headed to the Senate floor.
Collins, who was escorted by a police detail from her office to the Capitol, did not answer a question from reporters before the hearing about whether the comments would influence her vote, while Murkowski said she planned on taking “everything” into account. Flake initially stopped short of saying if or how it would influence his decision, but later said it would not.
Trump’s comments were the latest twist in the saga that has embroiled the Senate since Christine Blasey Ford publicly came forward alleging that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers over three decades ago. Since then, two other women, Debrah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick have come forward with additional allegations, although Swetnick’s does not involve Kavanaugh directly. After both Ford and Kavanaugh testified before the Senate Judiciary committee last Thursday, Flake, backed by Collins and Murkowski, pushed to delay the vote by one week to allow the FBI to conduct a background check into these allegations. (Flake is the only one of the three to sit on the judiciary committe). Kavanaugh’s fate is essentially in the hands of these three lawmakers. With the Republicans holding a razor thin majority of 51-49, the conference can only afford one defection if they want to see Kavanaugh confirmed. This is assuming the Democrats remain uniformly opposed, although two Democratic Senators, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp, have not weighed in on how they will vote.
Heitkamp said in a comment issued through her spokesperson that the President’s comments were “disgusting.”
But the three swing Senators were joined by other Republican Senators who are firmly supporting Kavanaugh in criticizing the remarks. Although some, like Sen. Thom Tillis, declined to comment and others, like Sen. Bill Cassidy, claimed they had not seen the footage, several seemed to insinuate Trump’s rhetoric would not help their cause.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley appeared to be in relative damage control, tweeting that personal attacks on both Ford and Kavanaugh were inappropriate. “I plead w all: stop personal attacks &destruction of Dr Ford &her family or Jdg Kavanaugh &family,” Grassley tweeted.
“Its not what I would have said,” said South Dakota Senator Mike Rounds. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who has been one of Kavanaugh’s most vocal supporters, said he did not like what President Trump said and that it wasn’t helpful, although he called it a “factual rendition.” But, he conceded, it could have been worse. ‘He could actually kill somebody’s cat, or puncture their tires to get them to shut up,” Graham said at the Atlantic Festival.