Southaven, United States, Oct 3 – President Donald Trump on Tuesday openly mocked the university professor who has accused his Supreme Court nominee of sexual assault, joking about her inability to remember details surrounding the night of the alleged attack.
It marked an aggressive change of tactics after Trump had opted to show restraint towards Christine Blasey Ford, calling her a “very credible witness” following her Senate testimony against Judge Brett Kavanaugh last week.
“I had one beer, right?” Trump said, apparently re-enacting Blasey Ford’s questioning by a Senate panel as he addressed a campaign rally in Southaven, Mississippi.
“‘How did you get home?’ I don’t remember. ‘How did you get there?’ I don’t remember. ‘Where was the place?’ I don’t remember. ‘How many years ago was it?’ I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know,” he added, to cheers from supporters.
“‘What neighborhood was it in?’ I don’t know. ‘Where’s the house?’ I don’t know. ‘Upstairs, downstairs, where was it?’ I don’t know. But I had one beer. That’s the only thing I remember. And a man’s life is in tatters. A man’s life is shattered.”
The attack quickly drew scorn from critics, who said such taunts were part of the reason survivors of sexual assault are afraid to go public.
“A vicious, vile and soulless attack on Dr. Christine Blasey Ford,” tweeted Michael Bromwich, a former high-ranking Department of Justice official who is currently representing the psychology professor.
“Is it any wonder that she was terrified to come forward, and that other sexual assault survivors are as well? She is a remarkable profile in courage. He is a profile in cowardice.”
In her emotional testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last Thursday, watched live by 20 million Americans, Blasey Ford said she was “100 percent” sure Kavanaugh had attempted to rape her in the summer of 1982, when they were both high school students attending a party.
A defiant Kavanaugh came out with guns blazing, insisting the assault never happened, accusing Democrats of destroying his reputation and condemning his confirmation battle as a “national disgrace.”
– ‘Scary time’ for men –
Speaking to reporters in Washington earlier in the day, Trump had appeared to take aim at the broader #MeToo movement against sexual assault and harassment, saying that it had reversed the burden of proof required by the judicial system.
“It’s a very scary time for young men in America, where you can be guilty of something that you may not be guilty of,” he said, adding: “My whole life, I’ve heard you’re innocent until proven guilty. But now you’re guilty until proven innocent.”
Controversy surrounding the Kavanaugh nomination ahead of November mid-term elections — in which Republicans are facing an uphill battle to keep control of Congress — is threatening to derail Trump’s push to get a conservative majority on the Supreme Court before the vote.
Under pressure from opposition Democrats and a handful of his own Republicans, Trump on Friday ordered a fresh FBI investigation into allegations of Kavanaugh’s sexual misconduct during his youth.
Kavanaugh’s truthfulness to Congress — including how he represented his alcohol consumption — is also under the scanner, with a former Yale classmate on Monday accusing the judge of misleading lawmakers when he said he never experienced blackouts.
That claim was further called into question Tuesday after the New York Times published a copy of a letter written by Kavanaugh in 1983 where he warned his friends of the danger of eviction from a beachfront condo they had rented for the weekend.
“Warn the neighbors that we’re loud, obnoxious drunks with prolific pukers among us. Advise them to go about 30 miles,” he wrote.
– FBI accused of inaction –
Lawyers for two of the accusers meanwhile said Tuesday that the FBI is not interviewing witnesses or following leads that would support their allegations.
Blasey Ford’s lawyers, Bromwich and Debra Katz, wrote a letter to the agency questioning an apparent decision not to interview Kavanaugh, and expressed concern that the FBI was not following up on witnesses and evidence they had identified.
In a separate statement on Twitter, John Clune, who represents another accuser, Deborah Ramirez, said FBI agents interviewed her on Sunday and accepted a list of more than 20 witnesses who can support her allegations.
But he said they are not following up at all on Ramirez’s account that Kavanaugh thrust his genitals in her face, forcing her to touch them without her consent, during an alcohol-fuelled party when they were students at Yale University in the mid-1980s.
“Although we do not know the status of the investigation, we are not aware of the FBI affirmatively reaching out to any of those witnesses,” Clune said.