President Donald Trump on Friday intensified his defense of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, claiming that the sex assault allegations against the conservative judge amounted to a hit job by political opponents.
"Judge Brett Kavanaugh is a fine man, with an impeccable reputation, who is under assault by radical left wing politicians who don't want to know the answers, they just want to destroy and delay," the president tweeted Friday morning.
Trump followed up with a tweet attacking the accuser's credibility. In the post, he suggested that Christine Blasey Ford, who accuses Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were in high school more than three decades ago, should have reported the alleged incident to the police if it was "as bad as she says."
The White House didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on Trump's tweets, nor did an attorney for Ford.
Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who has yet to state whether she supports Kavanaugh's nomination, blasted Trump's tweet in remarks to reporters later Friday.
"I was appalled by the president's tweet," Collins said, adding that sexual assault crimes are notoriously underreported. "I thought the president's tweet was completely inappropriate and wrong."
The posts marked a shift toward a more aggressive tone from Trump in the ongoing fight over his Supreme Court nominee, although the president has increasingly been casting doubt on the sexual-assault accusation.
"You say, why didn't somebody call the FBI 36 years ago?" the president told political ally and Fox News personality Sean Hannity on Thursday in Las Vegas, where Trump also held a campaign rally. "I mean, you could also say, when did this all happen? What's going on?"
Trump was also quick to say Kavanaugh's accuser, California researcher and professor, should "have her say, and let's see how it all works out."
He repeated his FBI question in a tweet Friday morning.
Trump had said earlier this week that it was "very hard for me to imagine something happened."
The president's comments came after Ford's attorneys told the Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees Supreme Court confirmations, that their client would want to testify about her allegations next Thursday, albeit under certain conditions. Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley had scheduled a hearing for Monday, but Ford's attorneys said that wouldn't give the woman enough time to prepare.
Meanwhile, a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows that public opposition to Kavanaugh's nomination has surged following the nominee's confirmation hearings earlier this month and the revelation of the accusations. A plurality of voters now oppose Kavanaugh, according to the survey, which is in line with findings from other recent polls.
Ford, 51, came forward with her accusations in an interview with The Washington Post that was published Sunday. She claims that when she was about 15, Kavanaugh, then about 17, sexually assaulted her during a drunken gathering of high school students. The judge has denied the accusations. Ford also said that Mark Judge, a conservative writer who was a friend of Kavanaugh's at the time, was also in the room. Judge has said he has no memory of such an occurrence.
Ford wrote a letter detailing her allegation that was received by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, in late July, but it was not publicly reported until mid-September.
Representatives for Feinstein and Grassley didn't immediately respond to requests for comments on Trump's tweets Friday morning.
Republicans had been on track to confirm Kavanaugh, 53, in time for the Supreme Court's next term, which starts Oct. 1. The GOP has a narrow 51-49 majority in the Senate, and two defections could sink the judge's nomination.
While GOP senators have been careful to say they want to hear Ford tell her story, they have also been itching to move the process along. Trump echoed that desire Thursday night.
"I don't think you can delay it any longer," Trump told Hannity.
Read the note Ford's attorneys sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee, obtained by NBC News:
Dear all –
Thank you for the call this afternoon. I want to be clear about our position. The only issue I said was a deal breaker was that Dr. Ford cannot appear at a hearing on Monday for the reasons I described, and relatedly, that the demand that she submit written testimony by 10:00 a.m. tomorrow is a non-starter. It is simply not possible for her to prepare such testimony while at the same time trying to take appropriate security precautions in the face of the avalanche of threats she has been receiving. She needs sufficient time to settle things with her family in California, travel east, and prepare for her testimony.
During our call I asked for clarification about the following issues, which you said you would need to get back to me about after speaking with Senator Grassley: the procedures for the hearing itself, including how many rounds of questions will be permitted by each member; the scope of the examination; whether the Senate Judiciary Committee will subpoena Mark Judge; whether the Senate Judiciary Committee will agree that the nominee not be present during Dr. Ford's testimony; and what the Senate Judiciary Committee will do to ensure that Dr. Ford will be given appropriate security. I raised questions about what the Committee will do to ensure that the process will be dignified and not turn into a media circus. You agreed to get back to me about that issue as well. And lastly, I registered a strong objection to having the committee bring in outside counsel to question Dr. Ford. Senators should be the questioners as they have been for all other witnesses who have appeared before the Committee in connection with this nomination and with respect to all others of which I am aware.
I do not have email addresses for everyone who was on the call. I would appreciate if you could send this email to others who participated on this call.
Debra S. Katz