President Trump is taking a more aggressive stance against the sexual assault allegations made about his Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
During an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity Thursday night, Trump rhetorically asked, "Why didn't somebody call the FBI 36 years ago?" And on Friday morning, the president openly questioned the credibility of Christine Blasey Ford's allegations, suggesting on Twitter the then-15-year-old should have reported the attack to police if it was "as bad as she says."
"I want to congratulate the White House staff for keeping the president under wraps for as long as they have," Eleanor Holmes Norton, the D.C. delegate to the House of Representatives, said on CNN Friday morning. "The last thing you want to do is to attack a woman who at 15 years old didn't go and report that she had been raped … The president is undermining all that Republicans and Democrats are doing to give her a fair hearing,"
Trump's shift in tone came after Ford, who has accused Kavanaugh of groping her at a party when the two were in high school, said in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee that she was prepared to testify next week about her allegations, provided the senators offer her "terms that are fair and which ensure her safety." Those conditions reportedly include security, testifying after Kavanaugh and not being forced to be in the same room as the Supreme Court nominee.
Kavanaugh has repeatedly denied the allegations though statements issued by the White House, most recently saying, "I have never done anything like what the accuser describes — to her or to anyone." Kavanaugh has also said he would testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee in order to respond to the allegations.
Here are other updates surrounding the Kavanaugh nomination, and potential testimony that could take place next week:
Pennsylvania's senators weighed in on the controversy surrounding Kavanaugh in separate interviews with the Inquirer on Friday.
Democrat Bob Casey called for an investigation into Ford's claims of sexual assault. Republican Pat Toomey, meanwhile, said Senate should vote on the nominee soon after the chamber hears from Kavanaugh and his accuser.
Republican Sen. Susan Collins, a moderate from Maine who is a key vote if Republicans hope to confirm Kavanaugh, said she was "appalled" by Trump's decision to unleash on Ford and publicly question her credibility.
"I was appalled by the president's tweet," Collins said at an event in Portland, Maine, according to the Portland Press Herald. "First of all, we know that allegations of sexual assault – I'm not saying that's what happened in this case – but we know allegations of sexual assault are one of the most unreported crimes that exist. So I thought that the president's tweet was completely inappropriate and wrong."
Both Collins and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski are considered the most-likely swing votes on Kavanaugh's confirmation. With no Democrats signaling they'd vote in favor of his nomination, Republicans would need either Collins or Murkowski to vote yes to garner the 50 votes necessary (along with Vice President Mike Pence's tie-breaking vote) to land Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court.
Among the conditions senators have agreed to meet include providing additional security and preventing both Ford and Kavanaugh from being in the same room at the same time.
But Republicans have offered her the opportunity to testify to the committee on Wednesday, rather than Thursday, as she requested. They also don't appear ready to budge on her request to testifying last, insisting that Kavanaugh has the right to defend himself against any allegations brought up during the hearing.
A Republican spokesman for the Judiciary Committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Ford will be interviewed by the FBI this afternoon in San Francisco about death threats she has received since publicly accusing Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her, her lawyer Lisa Banks told the New York Times.
Both Ford and Kavanaugh have received a number of death threats in recent days. Kavanaugh, who is married with two daughters, has received protection from U.S. Marshals since he became Trump's Supreme Court nominee in July.
Ed Whelan, an influential conservative, former law clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia and longtime friend of Kavanaugh, apologized for rolling out an "appalling and inexcusable" conspiracy theory in an attempt to explain away the sexual assault allegations.
"I take full responsibility for that mistake, and I deeply apologize for it. I realize that does not undo the mistake," Whelan wrote.
Whelan, the president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C., floated the theory in a series of reckless tweets Thursday night. His baseless theory suggested that Ford was assaulted by a different classmate who, in Whelan's view, could easily have been confused with Kavanaugh.
As part of the series of now-deleted tweets, Whelan not only revealed the public identity of the former classmate, he also shared the man's home address.
Ford immediately dismissed the wild theory shortly after it began to circulate, telling the Washington Post in a statement that not only did she know the former classmate Whelan floated, she had also once visited him in the hospital.
"There is zero chance that I would confuse them," Ford told the Post.
But the conspiracy theory was given new steam on Friday morning's Fox & Friends, which Trump often watches and tweets about in real time. Host Steve Doocy casually outlined the conspiracy theory to co-host Ainsley Earhardt and fill-in host Ed Henry, Fox News' chief national correspondent, who quickly noted Ford's statement to the Post. Later in the show, Doocy did read Whelan's tweet where he apologized for releasing the baseless theory.
During an appearance on Hannity Thursday night, Fox News host and ardent Trump supporter Jeanine Pirro suggested Ford could have been hypnotized by her therapist.
"My understanding is, didn't they say that this came out for the first time in couples therapy in 2012?" Hannity asked, referencing notes taken by Ford's therapist and reviewed by the Washington Post, where Ford claims she was attacked by students "from an elitist boys' school" who went on to become "highly respected and high-ranking members of society in Washington."