President Donald Trump worked to wrest his beleaguered Supreme Court nomination back from the brink on Wednesday, insisting during a lengthy and truculent news conference that allegations against Brett Kavanaugh were “all false to me.”
At the same time, he frankly conceded his mind could be changed after watching a blockbuster Senate hearing set for Thursday morning, when one of Kavanaugh’s accusers will detail her claims before the Judiciary Committee and a national television audience.
And in a stark moment, he admitted his view of sexual misconduct claims is colored by the litany of charges – all false, he claimed – that women have lobbed against him for decades.
“I’m going to see what happens tomorrow. I’m going to be watching,” he said during a rare solo news conference. “I’m going to see what’s said. It’s possible they will be convincing.”
“I can be persuaded also,” the President went on. “I can’t tell you if they’re liars until I hear them.”
Embittered at how a once-assured confirmation process for Kavanaugh has unraveled, Trump was hoping to regain back control during the early evening appearance in New York. It’s only the second time he’s held a solo news conference on US soil as president.
In an upbeat but combative mood, the President’s freewheeling event focused mainly on Kavanaugh, but also veered into topics as wide-ranging as trade and the role of Iraqi Kurds in the fight against ISIS (he labeled the reporter who inquired about that topic “Mr. Kurd”).
Trump called on reporters at will, often taking time to malign or praise their respective news outlets. He went on for nearly an hour and a half, at some moments joking and others dismissive.
He stood by his decision not to call on the FBI to reopen its background investigation of Kavanaugh, and repeated his insistence the parade of accusations against Kavanaugh amount to a “big fat con” orchestrated by Democrats.
He even suggested that President George Washington – who he recalled had “a couple of bad things in his past” – may be maligned by modern-day Democrats.
“The Democrats would vote against him,” he said of America’s first president. “Just so you understand. And he may have had a bad past. Who knows, you know?”
But asked directly whether there is a scenario in which he could withdraw Kavanaugh’s nomination, Trump indicated there was.
“If I thought he was guilty of something like this, sure,” he said.
In his hometown for the annual United Nations General Assembly, Trump has engaged in a week of intensive diplomacy pocked by the persistent political chaos in Washington. Six one-on-one meetings and two major addresses have not proved ample distraction for the President, who has railed against Democrats for orchestrating what he’s deemed a politically motivated farce.
Still, Trump sought to emphasize his foreign policy victories during the news conference. He defended his decision to meet again with North Korean despot Kim Jong Un, while at the same time launching a new attack on Canada, a longtime US ally. Trump said he rejected a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as trade negotiations seem to falter.
“We’re not getting along at all with their negotiators,” Trump said, warning that the US would soon go after Canadian auto imports.
Hours before Trump was due to address reporters, a third accuser came forward to allege Kavanaugh engaged in inappropriate behavior in high school. Kavanaugh has denied all allegations of sexual misconduct.
Behind the scenes, Trump has sought to take the reins of the narrative, disappointed that neither Kavanaugh nor congressional Republicans have been able to put the allegations to rest.
There was little Trump said Wednesday that is likely to convince those on the fence about Kavanaugh or his accusers. Asked separately about the messages he was sending to young men and women by dismissing accusations of sexual assault, Trump demurred.
Instead, he questioned why the woman – who all accuse Kavanaugh of misconduct when he was in high school or college – didn’t come forward sooner.
“I only say this: 36 years, no charge, no nothing,” he said.
And he described what he said was a pattern of women falsely accusing powerful or famous men – including himself – of misconduct.
“People want fame. They want money. When I see it, I view it differently,” Trump said. “It’s happened to me many times. I’ve had many false charges.”