LAS VEGAS — President Trump expressed public confidence Thursday in Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, calling him “a great gentleman” with an “impeccable reputation,” as the judge’s fate remained unclear in his Senate confirmation process.
At a campaign rally here, Trump took care not to mention Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her at a party when they were in high school more than three decades ago. Kavanaugh has denied the allegations.
Rather, the president focused his remarks on supporting Kavanaugh and said, “I think everything will be just fine.”
“I’m not saying anything about anybody else,” Trump said, “but I want to tell you Brett Kavanaugh is one of the finest human beings you ever have the privilege of knowing or meeting. . . . We’ll have to let it play out, but I want to tell you: He is a fine, fine person.”
During a television interview with Fox News before taking the stage, Trump questioned the timing of the allegation. “Why didn’t someone call the FBI 36 years ago?” he asked.
Trump’s remarks came as Senate Republicans sought to chart a path forward amid an outcry from Democrats who have said Ford’s allegations must be investigated and her testimony heard by lawmakers before a vote on Kavanaugh. Ford has not committed to testifying at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing scheduled for Monday.
“He’s got tremendous support, I can tell you that — tremendous,” Trump said of Kavanaugh.
Trump spoke for nearly an hour at the event, which aimed to support Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), who is facing a tough reelection fight against Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.). Heller is the only Republican senator running in a state that Hillary Clinton won in the 2016 presidential election.
The president appeared in good spirits and the crowd was enthusiastic as Trump ticked through his usual list of grievances, boasts and putdowns of his rivals, including Rosen, whom the president gleefully referred to several times as “Wacky Jacky.”
Heller and Trump were not always natural allies. The Nevada senator refused to unequivocally endorse Trump in the presidential race, and shortly before the 2016 election, would not say for whom he planned to vote. After The Washington Post first reported the “Access Hollywood” tape, which features Trump boasting about groping women, Heller said he was, “100 percent against Clinton, 99 percent against Trump.”
Trump made reference to their past friction but professed that their relationship has vastly improved.
“I didn’t like him; he didn’t like me,” Trump said. “And as we fought and fought and fought, believe it or not, we started to respect each other, we started to like each other, then we started to love each other. And the fact is, he has been a tremendous supporter ever since I won the election. He’s always been there. We can count on his vote. I mean Wacky Jacky will never vote for us, folks. She’s wacky.”
The president implored his supporters to vote for Republicans, and he lobbed his usual attacks on Democrats and the media, tying them together as allies in a campaign to defeat GOP candidates.
“The Democrat Party is those people right there,” Trump said, pointing at reporters in the room and prompting boos from the crowd. “I can’t tell you how dishonest and corrupt so much of the media is.”
He added that without the media, Democrats “wouldn’t be getting 5 percent of the vote.”
The audience was responsive to Trump’s message, breaking into familiar rally chants of “Build that wall!” and “Lock her up!” — the latter referring to Hillary Clinton.
After one chant about Clinton, Trump smiled and asked, “How’s the Justice Department doing?” and the crowed booed loudly. Trump has repeatedly lambasted Attorney General Jeff Sessions for having recused himself in the ongoing probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, and the president has called on the Justice Department to investigate Clinton’s 2016 campaign.
Trump was staying overnight in Las Vegas, where he owns property, before heading Friday to another political rally in Springfield, Mo., in support of Josh Hawley, the state’s attorney general and Republican Senate candidate there.
He then plans to spend the weekend at his private golf resort in Bedminster, N.J., in advance of the United Nations General Assembly in Manhattan next week. Despite that, Trump played to his base and its domestic concerns.
“The American people voted to reject this corrupt globalism,” Trump told the crowd in Las Vegas, referring to the 2016 campaign. “Hey, I’m the president of the United States. I’m not the president of the globe.”
Nakamura reported from Washington. John Wagner in Washington contributed to this report.