The Slatest

New GOP Strategy: Let Trump Mock Christine Blasey Ford While Grumbling That They’d Rather He Wouldn’t

Donald Trump speaking at a rally in Mississippi.
President Donald Trump speaks at a Make America Great Again rally in Southaven, Mississippi, on Tuesday. Mandel Ngan/Getty Images

Whether or not Trump’s mocking and misrepresentation of Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations against Brett Kavanaugh were part of a planned strategy, his rhetoric has quickly become the de facto talking points of the Republican Party and White House as the world awaits the FBI supplement background check on the Supreme Court nominee.

“He’s pointing out factual inconsistencies. Do you have corroboration for her claims? Can you fill in her memory gaps, her factual inconsistencies?” Kellyanne Conway told reporters Wednesday outside the White House, after saying that Ford had been “treated like a Fabergé egg by all of us.”

Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders parroted the point later in the day: “The president was stating the facts.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has emerged as one of Trump and Kavanaugh’s loudest defenders, said Wednesday at the Atlantic Festival: “President Trump went through a factual rendition, and I didn’t like it. I would tell him to knock it off—it’s not helpful.”*

Trump’s comments Tuesday night go beyond “pointing out factual inconsistencies” in Ford’s story. While he dwelled on Ford’s admitted lapses in memory, like not knowing the exact house she was at during the alleged assault and how she got home, Trump also said that she didn’t know if she was upstairs or downstairs when the alleged assault happened—”Upstairs, downstairs, where was it? I don’t know, but I had one beer. That’s the only thing I remember.” This is false: She has always said that the attack took place in an upstairs bedroom, and there are plenty of other details she recalled consistently as well.

While Senate Republicans made a big point of listening to Ford’s testimony and not directly challenging her during Thursday’s hearing itself, they raised questions about her reliability and memory both before and after the session. But they’ve also hinted that Trump’s comments are unwelcome. “There’s a lot of time expiration in memory here. I think it would have been better left unsaid,” Sen. Orrin Hatch told reporters, essentially backing up Trump’s claims while acknowledging that he probably shouldn’t have said them: “I wish he would just stay out of it.”

Questioning Ford is not a new tack for Hatch: He was one of the earliest proponents of the mistaken identity theory so disastrously taken up by Kavanaugh’s friend and conservative judicial activist Ed Whelan.

One group of Republicans hasn’t gone after Ford’s claims: the three who do not support Kavanaugh’s nomination (yet). Susan Collins told CNN on Wednesday that Trump’s comments about Ford “were just plain wrong.” Lisa Murkowski said they were “wholly inappropriate and entirely unacceptable.” Jeff Flake told NBC, “I wish he hadn’t done it, and I just say it’s kind of appalling.”

Correction, Oct. 3, 2018: This post originally misstated that Graham made his remark Tuesday.