UPDATE 3-Trump defends court nominee as Republican press for confirmation
President Donald Trump on Monday defended Brett Kavanaugh, his U.S. Supreme Court nominee, after a second woman accused the judge of sexual misconduct decades ago, while Republicans showed no sign of relenting in their push for his Senate confirmation.
"Judge Kavanaugh is an outstanding person. I am with him all the way," Trump said as he arrived in New York to attend the U.N. General assembly, calling the allegations against his nominee for a lifetime post on the top U.S. court politically motivated.
The allegations, dating to the 1980s, have put in jeopardy the conservative federal appeals court judge's chances of winning confirmation in a Senate narrowly controlled by Trump's fellow Republicans.
Senator Orrin Hatch, a member of the Judiciary Committee overseeing the confirmation process, blamed Democrats for the new allegation that surfaced on Sunday night in an article published in the New Yorker magazine.
"No innuendo has been too low, no insinuation too dirty," Hatch said in a statement, adding that the committee should proceed with its scheduled Thursday hearing to hear testimony from Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, a university professor who accused him of sexual assault in 1982.
"Then we should vote," Hatch said.
"The Democrats are engaged in a campaign of delay and character assassination against Judge Kavanaugh. It's time to vote this week," Republican Senator Tom Cotton added.
A senior Senate aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Republicans intend to move ahead with a confirmation vote, echoing remarks made by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Friday.
The New Yorker published an article in which a second woman, Deborah Ramirez, described an instance of alleged sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh that dates to the 1983-84 academic year when both attended Yale University. Ramirez is cited by the New Yorker as saying Kavanaugh exposed himself to her during a drunken dormitory party.
Kavanaugh has denied the accusations by Ford and Ramirez.
The Judiciary Committee's top Democrat, Senator Dianne Feinstein, has called on the panel's Republican chairman, Senator Chuck Grassley, to postpone Thursday's hearing in order to investigate Ramirez's accusations.
The controversy over Kavanaugh is unfolding just weeks before Nov. 6 congressional elections in which Democrats are trying to take control of Congress from Trump's fellow Republicans, against a backdrop of the #MeToo movement fighting sexual harassment and assault.
Republicans, with a 51-49 Senate majority, can confirm Kavanaugh if they stay united. So far, no Republican senators have said they would vote against Kavanaugh.
'OUT OF THE WOODWORK'
Trump made clear on Monday he considered the allegations politically motivated.
"For people to come out of the woodwork from 36 years ago, and 30 years ago and never mention it - all of a sudden it happens," Trump said. "In my opinion, it's totally political."
Ford, a psychology professor at Palo Alto University in California, has said Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in 1982 when both were high school students in Maryland. She accused him of attacking her and trying to remove her clothing while he was drunk at a party when he was 17 years old and she was 15.
In a television interview on Monday, White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway said the White House took the new allegations seriously and that Ramirez should contact the committee if she also wants to testify.
Kavanaugh's confirmation would cement conservative control of the Supreme Court and advance Trump's goal of moving the high court and the broader federal judiciary to the right. Republicans narrowly control the Senate.