Trump says Brett Kavanaugh accusations 'totally political'

Donald Trump says sexual misconduct claims against his Supreme Court nominee are totally political. Courtesy: BBC

US President Donald Trump says sexual misconduct claims against his Supreme Court nominee are “totally political”, as a second woman came forward.

Speaking at the United Nations in New York on Monday, Mr Trump said Brett Kavanaugh is “outstanding”, adding: “I am with him all the way.”

The latest allegation is that the nominee once exposed himself to a Yale University classmate at a party.

He has denied both claims, vowing not to be “intimidated” into a withdrawal.

Mr Trump said Judge Kavanaugh’s accusers had come “out of the woodwork” to make “highly unsubstantiated” allegations.

“There’s a chance this could be one of the single most unfair, unjust things to happen to a candidate for anything,” he said.

“But I am with Judge Kavanaugh and I look forward to a vote.”

A senior White House adviser meanwhile also suggested the allegations were political.

“It’s starting to feel like a vast left-wing conspiracy,” said Kellyanne Conway on Monday.

Her phrase echoed Hillary Clinton’s 1998 depiction of infidelity allegations against her husband, President Bill Clinton, as a “vast right-wing conspiracy”.

Judge Kavanaugh is already fighting off a claim from his high school years that he tried to rape a girl in the early 1980s. That accuser will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee committee this week.

Christine Blasey Ford will give evidence to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, followed by rebuttal testimony from the Supreme Court nominee.

What is the new allegation?

On Sunday, Deborah Ramirez, a Yale university classmate of the judge, told the New Yorker that Brett Kavanaugh had exposed his genitals at a dormitory party.

Ms Ramirez alleges the incident occurred when she was a freshman at Yale University alongside him during the 1983-84 academic year.

She says they were both taking part in a drinking game at a dormitory party where people sat in a circle and selected others to drink.

She says at one point a plastic penis was pointed in her direction by one man, and later another exposed himself directly.

“I remember a penis being in front of my face,” she said. “I knew that’s not what I wanted, even in that state of mind.”

Ms Ramirez, 53, said she ended up touching the genitals while attempting to push the man away.

“I wasn’t going to touch a penis until I was married,” said Ms Ramirez, who describes herself as a devout Catholic. “I was embarrassed and ashamed and humiliated.”

She says she remembers Judge Kavanaugh standing next to her and laughing as he pulled up his pants.

The article says Ms Ramirez acknowledges gaps in her memory caused by alcohol that night, which is said to have made her hesitant to come forward when contacted.

On Monday, the New York Times said that they interviewed “several dozen people over the past week” in an effort to corroborate her story, but found nobody with firsthand knowledge.

How did Judge Kavanaugh respond?

In a statement on Monday, the Supreme Court nominee strongly denied the latest allegation.

“This alleged event from 35 years ago did not happen,” he said. “The people who knew me then know that this did not happen, and have said so.”

In a separate letter to the Judiciary Committee Chairman, he insisted he would not be “intimidated” into withdrawing his nomination.

“The co-ordinated effort to destroy my good name will not drive me out,” he wrote.

“The vile threats of violence against my family will not drive me out. The last-minute character assassination will not succeed.”

“There is now a frenzy to come up with something – anything – that will block this process”, he wrote.

He added that if his nomination is blocked it “will dissuade competent and good people of all political persuasions from [public] service”.

Deep in the partisan trenches
Analysis by Anthony Zurcher, BBC Washington

Republican strategists have been saying for weeks that they believe Brett Kavanaugh could still be confirmed to the Supreme Court – if no new accusers emerge.

Now another woman has come forward.

Deborah Ramirez’s recollection of the events from their first year at Yale is admittedly foggy. And as with Christine Blasey Ford, there are no supporting witnesses. Nevertheless, it becomes increasingly difficult for Judge Kavanaugh’s side to dismiss what could now be characterised as a pattern of conduct, rather than an isolated accusation.

Thursday’s hearing, if it takes place, will probably be as much about Judge Kavanaugh’s history with alcohol and the 1980s teen party culture as it will about any specific incident. That is much trickier ground for the nominee.

The latest developments are already forcing both sides deeper into their partisan trenches. The White House is sticking by its man and focusing fire on what they view as a Democratic conspiracy. Those on the left see Republicans in a headlong rush to confirmation no matter the consequences or new information coming to light.

Meanwhile, in the middle, are the same handful of moderate Republican senators. And in just over a month, mid-term voters also will have their say.

What is the other allegation?

Prof Ford alleges Judge Kavanaugh tried to drunkenly remove her clothing, pinned her to a bed and covered her mouth at a high school party when she was 15 and he was 17.

“I thought he might inadvertently kill me,” she told the Washington Post.

Some Republicans, including President Trump, have accused her and Democratic politicians of deliberately trying to delay and obstruct the judge’s confirmation using the allegations.

Michael Avenatti, a US lawyer known for representing adult film actress Stormy Daniels in her cases against President Trump, has alleged on Twitter that he is representing a third woman with “credible information” regarding Judge Kavanaugh and the alleged witness to Prof Ford’s assault, Mark Judge.

He pledged to go public with the new claim later this week.

What are Republicans saying?
A White House spokeswoman says the administration stands by the nominee, labelling the allegation “the latest in a co-ordinated smear campaign by the Democrats designed to tear a good man down”.

South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, complained on Twitter of “the total collapse of the traditional confirmation process for a Supreme Court nominee”.

“When it comes to stopping Pres @realDonaldTrump and his agenda there seem to be no boundaries,” he wrote.

“Republican Senator Tom Cotton tweeted on Monday that “Democrats are engaged in a campaign of delay and character assassination against Judge Kavanaugh”.

“It’s time to vote this week.”