Donald Trump has attacked the second woman to accuse Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct, saying she “has nothing” on his supreme court nominee and was drunk when the alleged incident took place, as he continued to assail Democrats for playing a “con game”.
Trump’s brief remarks at the United Nations came after the White House said on Tuesday it was open to hearing public testimony from another woman who has accused supreme court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault.
He said: “The second accuser has nothing. She admits that she was drunk. She admits time lapses.”
With his nomination hanging in the balance, Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, the initial accuser who alleged that he sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers in high school, are scheduled to appear before a Senate panel in a public hearing in Washington on Thursday morning.
Republicans have hired an as-yet unnamed female attorney to handle questioning during the hearing, with Democrats saying the move was inconsistent with the GOP pledge to avoid a “circus”.
In an interview on Tuesday morning, the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, was asked if the panel, the Senate judiciary committee, should hear from Deborah Ramirez, the second accuser to come forward, alleging that she was harassed by Kavanaugh when they were both at Yale.
In an interview with the New Yorker published on Sunday, Ramirez said Kavanaugh had exposed himself to her at a party there in the early 1980s.
“Certainly we would be open to that, and that process could take place on Thursday,” Sanders said during an appearance on ABC’s Good Morning America. “The president has been clear, let them speak.”
Senate Republicans have increasingly hardened their defense of Kavanaugh even as they sought to assure Ford that she would receive “fair and respectful” treatment when she testifies on Thursday.
The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, said on the Senate floor on Tuesday that “vague, unsubstantiated and uncorroborated allegations of 30-plus-year-old misconduct” were “nowhere near grounds to nullify someone’s career or destroy their good name”. He also attacked Democrats, accusing them of “malpractice” for waiting until the final stage of the confirmation process to bring the allegation to light.
Speaking after him on the floor, the minority leader, Chuck Schumer, said McConnell should “apologize immediately” to Ford for calling her allegations against the judge part of a “smear” job led by Democrats. He said it was “galling” for McConnell to blame Democrats for playing partisan games with the accusations when he has done “more than maybe anyone to politicize the supreme court nomination process”.
“Don’t they want the truth?” Schumer asked of Republicans.
When asked on Tuesday if there should be a full FBI investigation about the claims, the Alaska senator Lisa Murkowski, seen as a key swing vote, told reporters: “Well, it would sure clear up all the questions, wouldn’t it?”
But Kavanaugh’s fate rests with a handful of Republican senators: Murkowski, Susan Collins of Maine and Jeff Flake of Arizona. Republicans hold a narrow 51-49 majority in the Senate.
Collins and Murkowski, who are not on the Senate committee, told reporters on Monday that they would wait for the hearing to make up their mind. Flake, who is retiring, was among the first to call for delaying a committee vote to hear from Ford.
On Monday evening, Trump tweeted: “The Democrats are working hard to destroy a wonderful man, and a man who has the potential to be one of our greatest Supreme Court Justices ever, with an array of False Accusations the likes of which have never been seen before!”
Ford has alleged that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a party more than three decades ago, when he was 17 and she was 15, saying he put his hand over her mouth to stop her screaming as he attempted rape.
A third woman is expected to step forward with new allegations this week.
Kavanaugh has vigorously denied the allegation against him and on Monday night took the extremely unusual step of appearing in a TV interview while the Senate considers his nomination.
“I had never sexually assaulted anyone, not in high school, not ever,” Kavanaugh said in an interview with Fox News.