President Donald Trump on Wednesday cast doubt on the allegation of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, and said that the judge "has been treated very, very tough."
"I can only say this, he is such an outstanding man, very hard for me to imagine that anything happened," Trump said.
The president, addressing reporters outside the White House, also repeated criticism lodged by Republican lawmakers that the accusations against Kavanaugh were timed to disrupt his confirmation, and praised the work that senators on the Judiciary Committee were doing to investigate.
Christine Blasey Ford, a professor at Palo Alto University in California, has accused Kavanaugh of attempting to rape her at a gathering decades ago while the two were both attending high school in Maryland. Kavanaugh has categorically denied that the incident ever happened.
"I have never done anything like what the accuser describes—to her or to anyone," Kavanaugh said in a statement Monday. "Because this never happened, I had no idea who was making this accusation until she identified herself yesterday. I am willing to talk to the Senate Judiciary Committee in any way the committee deems appropriate to refute this false allegation, from 36 years ago, and defend my integrity."
Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, cancelled a Thursday vote on Kavanaugh's nomination in the wake of the allegation and has called on Ford and Kavanaugh to testify before the committee on Monday.
Ford has called on the FBI to investigate the allegation before she speaks to lawmakers. In a letter addressed to Grassley, Ford's attorney wrote that her client had been "the target of vicious harassment and even death threats."
"While Dr. Ford's life was being turned upside down, you and your staff scheduled a public hearing for her to testify at the same table as Judge Kavanaugh in front of two dozen U.S. Senators on national television to relive this traumatic and harrowing incident," the letter said.
Grassley denied Ford's request, saying that nothing the FBI does "would have any bearing on what Dr. Ford tells the committee, so there is no reason for any further delay."
Experts have said that the FBI would be unlikely to initiate such an investigation without direction from the White House. Trump re-iterated Wednesday that his administration is unlikely to make such a request, saying that the FBI "really doesn't do that."
The president has previously expressed sympathy for his nominee, though he has somewhat uncharacteristically refrained from attacking his accuser. On Tuesday, the president said he felt "badly" for Kavanaugh.
"I feel so badly for him that he's going through this, to be honest with you," he said.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.