Amid criticism from key Republican senators, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended President Donald Trump for mocking Christine Blasey Ford during a rally Tuesday.
Speaking at a press briefing at the White House, Sanders argued that Trump was not making fun of the California psychology professor, who alleged that as a teenager Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh held her down, put his hand over her mouth and tried to remove her clothing.
“The president was stating the facts,” Sanders said.
During a rally in Mississippi, Trump repeatedly mimicked Ford’s testimony, saying “I don’t remember!” In one case, he claimed that she had given different answers on where in the house the alleged assault took place — “Upstairs? Downstairs? Where was it — I don’t know.” — though Ford has consistently said that it was an upstairs bedroom.
Three Republican senators who are on the fence about the Kavanaugh confirmation criticized Trump’s remarks. Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake called them “appalling,” Maine Sen. Susan Collins said they were “just plain wrong,” and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski called them “wholly inappropriate.”
But Sanders argued that Trump was simply pointing out gaps in Ford’s testimony that had also been noted by sex crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell, who was hired by Republican senators to question her during the hearing.
Trump initially was deferential to Ford, describing her late last week as a “very fine woman” and a “credible witness.” But Trump has since changed his tone, believing a vigorous defense of Kavanaugh could energize Republican voters in advance of the midterm elections.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway made a similar argument earlier in the day, saying that Ford had “been treated like a Faberge egg by all of us, beginning with me and the president” and that Trump was “pointing out factual inconsistencies.”
Sanders defended Trump’s criticism of Ford’s accusations and blasted the Democrats for not finding a way to confidentially share Ford’s initial allegation to Republicans on the Judiciary Committee.
“Every single word Judge Kavanaugh has said has been picked apart, every single word, second by second of his testimony has been picked apart, yet if anybody says anything about the accusations that have been thrown against them that’s totally off limits and outrageous,” Sanders said, speaking at the first White House press briefing since Sept. 10. “This entire process has been a disgrace and the only reason it has been that way was because Senate Democrats didn’t do this the way that it should have been done.”
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, has said she didn’t share Ford’s allegations in order to respect Ford’s desire to remain anonymous. But Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley has said Ford’s account could have been examined confidentially by the committee, if Feinstein had brought it to him.
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican who has been critical of Trump but also has the president’s ear, said Wednesday at the The Atlantic Festival in Washington that Trump’s comments were “not helping” and he should “knock it off,” but he also argued that “everything he said is factual.”