President Trump has repeatedly defended Brett Kavanaugh’s character over the last week as his Supreme Court nominee’s confirmation came into question after he was accused of sexual assault. “He is such an outstanding man—very hard for me to imagine that anything happened,” Trump said Wednesday. His defense of the judge mostly revolved around praising Kavanaugh, and he resisted mentioning his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford.
But on Friday morning, Trump’s defenses shifted in tone. He directly questioned the actions of Ford and tweeted about her by name.
It was the president’s first tweet directly referencing Ford and questioning the specific allegations, rather than simply defending Kavanaugh as a person. But Trump’s shift started the night before. Ahead of a rally in Las Vegas on Thursday night, Trump spoke briefly, if not with characteristic anger, about the accusations with Sean Hannity:
Frankly, Sean, to see what’s going on is just very, very sad. You say, “Why didn’t somebody call the FBI 36 years ago?” I mean, you could also say, “When did this happen, what’s going on?” To take a man like this and besmirch—now, with that being said, let her have her say, and let’s see how it all works out. I don’t think you can delay it any longer. They’ve delayed it a week already.
Hannity then called Trump “very accommodating,” to which Trump agreed. “They’ve delayed it a week,” he said, “and they have to get on with it.” On Friday morning, Trump repeated his question about the FBI not being called three decades ago.
Ford and Senate Democrats have called for an impartial FBI investigation of her allegation that Kavanaugh assaulted her when they were teenagers in the 1980s. Trump, who like Senate Republicans wants Kavanaugh to be confirmed before the midterm elections, told reporters on Wednesday that “the FBI really doesn’t do that,” even though the FBI would do so if it was ordered to by the president.
As for Trump’s question to Hannity, many have commented on the many reasons why a teenage girl in the 1980s—or any survivor of serious trauma—would be afraid to come forward publicly with a sexual assault accusation. Ford remained quiet about the alleged assault, mentioning it only in couples’ therapy sessions in 2012 and 2013, where notes mark that she described a “rape attempt” by boys from the school who went on to become “highly respected and high-ranking members of society in Washington.”
She agreed to speak publicly with the Washington Post only after she became convinced she would be identified from a confidential letter she wrote to her legislator, and she agreed to testify as the conversation about her allegations became more heated. Since she came forward, some of Kavanaugh’s defenders have asserted that the assault she describes and that Kavanaugh denies would simply be horseplay among teenagers and not a real crime. And as harassers repeatedly published her address on social media, she and her family have received so many threats that they were forced to flee their home.