Decrying the “trauma” inflicted upon his Supreme Court nominee by allegations of sexual assault, President Donald Trump stressed on Monday an FBI investigation into the accusations should be thorough but swift.
“We don’t want to go on a witch hunt, do we?” Trump asked toward the end of a lengthy and free-wheeling press availability in the Rose Garden that revealed his frustrations at the drawn-out process.
Seeking to rebut claims the White House is restricting the FBI’s probe, Trump stressed the bureau should speak with whomever Republican senators want, including beleaguered nominee Brett Kavanaugh himself, whose name was not on an initial list of potential witnesses.
After reports over the weekend suggested the White House was seeking to limit the scope of the FBI’s investigation, Trump and his aides appeared to alter course. The White House has made it clear to the FBI that its agents are not limited in their expanded background search, one White House official said.
“It wouldn’t bother me at all” if the FBI interviews all three women who have accused Kavanaugh of misconduct, Trump said, adding the accusations of a third accuser, Julie Swetnick, did not appear credible to him.
Some Republican senators had made clear to the White House through phone calls that a severely limited investigation into Kavanaugh was not what they had in mind when they launched the probe on Friday.
“We certainly want the FBI to do a real investigation and we are working to make sure that that happens,” said Sen. Jeff Flake, the Arizona Republican who pushed to initiate the FBI’s investigation, during a Monday event in Boston. He said he’d held discussions with his Senate colleagues and the White House counsel’s office, which is helping to steer the probe.
“It does no good to have an investigation that just gives us more cover,” he added.
For his part, Trump projected an open mind as the investigation proceeds, casting himself as just another American awaiting the results of the high-profile probe.
“I’m waiting just like you,” he said. “Certainly, if they find something, I’m going to take that into consideration.”
‘A little bit of difficulty’
Still, in his defense of Kavanaugh, the President appeared to stray from his team’s talking points. He suggested the federal judge conceded to having a drinking problem, despite no such admission during last week’s high-wattage testimony on Capitol Hill.
“I watched him and I was surprised at how vocal he was about the fact that he likes beer. He’s had a little bit of difficulty,” Trump said. “He talked about things that happened when he drank.”
That’s a distant cry from how Kavanaugh described his alcohol consumption, which stopped short of admitting any kind of problem. Instead, Kavanaugh characterized his love of beer as normal, and said suspected references to vomiting contained in his high school yearbook were the result of a weak stomach.
Trump on Monday said he was impressed with Kavanaugh’s candor about his alcohol use, which is now being scrutinized by some Democratic senators.
“I think the judge has been pretty amazing about describing his situation with alcohol and with beer,” Trump said.
Later, however, he raised his own penchant for avoiding alcohol.
“I’m not a drinker. I can honestly say I never had a beer in my life. It’s one of my only good traits,” he said to laughter. “Can you imagine if I had? What a mess I would be.”
‘They are not angels’
The remarks came toward the end of a nearly 90-minute appearance in a sun-dappled Rose Garden, where the President was hoping to trumpet a trade agreement reached with Canada and Mexico that would replace NAFTA. He initially declined several questions on Kavanaugh, angrily denouncing them as off-topic, before returning to the matter.
Privately, the President has been frustrated at how Kavanaugh’s once-assured confirmation process has been upended by multiple allegations of sexual assault and misconduct. He’s expressed concern at how a failed nomination will affect him politically, and accused some aides of failing to confront the crisis adequately.
Those frustrations were evident on Monday, as the President railed against Democrats for their behavior in the process. At one point, the President claimed, without proof, to have caught an unnamed Democratic senator in a compromising position. Pressed later, he wouldn’t elaborate.
“You know what? They are not angels,” he said.
He did not attack Christine Blasey Ford, who offered a stark description of her alleged assault last week before Congress. But the President stressed again that Kavanaugh’s life had been all but ruined by allegations he suggested were false.
“You look at his life, until this happened, what a change he’s gone through. The trauma for a man who has never had any accusations,” Trump said.
“I want them to do a very comprehensive investigation,” Trump said of the FBI, which was tasked on Friday with looking into the allegations after a last-minute request from Republican members of Congress. “Whatever that means according to the senators and the Republicans and the Republican majority, I want them to do that.”
But, Trump said, “I want it to go quickly” since the lingering accusations are damaging to Kavanaugh.
“It’s unfair to him at this point,” Trump said.
CNN’s Betsy Klein contributed to this report.