President Donald Trump said Wednesday he is open to changing his mind on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh — if the evidence at Thursday's Senate committee hearing is compelling.
Trump said at a news conference in New York that he'll watch the testimony from Kavanaugh and a woman who's accusing Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct.
The president was asked about whether he might be persuaded to withdraw Kavanaugh's nomination. Trump said: "If I thought he was guilty of something like this ... yeah, sure."
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Trump called Kavanaugh was "one of the highest quality people" he's ever met. The president insisted the accusations are false and he accused Democrats of playing politics.
Trump spoke after a third woman came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct agains Kavanaugh. Her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, revealed her accusation on Twitter Wednesday, just a day before Kavanaugh was set to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Julie Swetnick said in the written declaration that she observed Kavanaugh "engage in abusive and physically aggressive behavior toward girls" including trying to expose their private parts during high school parties, as well as trying to inebriate and disorient girls so they could be "gang raped" at parties. She said she recalls Kavanaugh and his close friend, Mark Judge, waiting in lines to take part in such attacks, which she said were referred to as a "train."
Swetnick said she was the victim of such an attack, though she did not specifically allege Kavanaugh took part — she believes she was drugged at the time, she said.
She wrote: "In approximately 1982, I became the victim of one of these 'gang' or 'train' rapes where Mark Judge and Brett Kavanaugh were present. Shortly after the incident, I shared what had transpired with at least two other people. During the incident, I was incapacitated without my consent and unable to fight off the boys raping me. I believe I was drugged using Quaaludes or something similar placed in what I was drinking."
NBC News has not independently verified the accusations, which Kavanaugh forcefully denied.
"This is ridiculous and from the Twilight Zone," Kavanaugh said in a statement. "I don't know who this is and this never happened."
An attorney for Judge told NBC News that "Mr. Judge vehemently denies Ms. Swetnick's allegations."
Trump said at his news conference he “won’t get into that game” when asked if the three Kavanaugh accusers are lying. He also called Democrats "obstructionists" and "con artists."
The hearing featuring Kavanaugh and accuser Christine Blasey Ford is still scheduled for Thursday. Judiciary committee lawyers are in the process of reviewing Swetnick's declaration provided by Avenatti, said a spokesman for Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.
All 10 Democrats on the committee wrote to President Donald Trump that Kavanaugh should withdraw from consideration or be withdrawn in light of the accusation, which Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer echoed in a speech in the Senate.
"If he will not, at the very least, the hearing and vote should be postponed while the FBI investigates all of these very serious and very troubling allegations," Schumer said.
Trump stood by Kavanaugh and lamented the accusations against him, saying Wednesday that "they could do it to anybody." He said in earlier remarks that the judge is "an absolute gem."
Shortly after Swetnick's account came out, the committee released Kavanaugh's prepared testimony, in which he defended his character and called the allegations against him "last-minute smears."
"There has been a frenzy to come up with something—anything, no matter
how far-fetched or odious—that will block a vote on my nomination," Kavanaugh wrote. "These are last-minute smears, pure and simple."
Kavanaugh said he "drank beer with my friends, usually on the weekends," during high school, and that "sometimes I had too many. In retrospect, I said and did things in high school that make me cringe now."
But he flatly denied the allegation brought by Ford, that Kavanaugh held her down and tried to take off her clothes at a party in high school. Kavanaugh also called sexual assault horrific, "morally wrong," illegal and deserving of a public hearing. He didn't question whether Ford was sexually assaulted, but said "I have never done that to her or to anyone."
In a Fox News interview on Monday night, Kavanaugh denied that he ever gang raped anyone, an allegation Avenatti had hinted at on Twitter. Kavanaugh called such allegations are "false and outrageous."
Swetnick said she went to Gaithersburg High School, which is about 10 miles from Kavanaugh's high school, Georgetown Preparatory School, in the Washington, D.C., suburbs. Montgomery County Public Schools confirmed that a Julie Swetnick graduated from the high school in 1980.
She said she saw Kavanaugh's aggressive behavior toward women on one instance during "Beach Week" in Ocean City, Maryland. Kavanaugh referred to a "Beach Week" in a 1982 calendar provided to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which released them Wednesday.
After releasing the information, Avenatti said on MSNBC that Swetnick stands by her allegations "100 percent" and noted that she has received security clearances from the U.S. government. He said Kavanaugh's nomination should be withdrawn in light of the allegations against him.
Two other women have claimed that Kavanaugh engaged in sexual misconduct with them: Ford will testify Thursday about her claim, which was bolstered Wednesday by affidavits from four people who say they'd been told about her assault before Kavanaugh's nomination. Deborah Ramirez told The New Yorker that Kavanaugh caused her to touch his penis at a party when both were Yale freshmen.
Kavanaugh has denied both claims.
All three women who have brought allegations against Kavanaugh have called for the FBI to investigate their claims, which Trump and other top Republicans have resisted.
Sen. Jeff Flake, the Republican from Arizona who sits on the judiciary committe, is one of a few in his party who are publicly undecided on how to vote in the hearing. He delivered a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday bemoaning how the confirmation process has dehumanized both Ford and Kavanaugh, both of whom he believes to be well-intentioned.
"However this vote goes, I'm confident in saying that it will forever be steeped in doubt. This doubt is the only thing of which i am confident in this process," Flake said.
Avenatti said in recent days that his client would be coming forward. On Sunday, he tweeted his email to the chief counsel for nominations of the Senate Judiciary Committee where he listed questions Kavanaugh should answer.
"We are aware of significant evidence of multiple house parties in the Washington, D.C., area during the early 1980s during which Brett Kavanaugh, Mark Judge and others would participate in the targeting of women with alcohol/drugs in order to allow a 'train' of men to subsequently gang rape them," Swetnick wrote.
Avenatti alleged "multiple witnesses that will corroborate these facts."
Avenatti also represents Stormy Daniels in her legal fight with Trump, who nominated Kavanaugh to the court.
Trump lashed out at Avenatti Wednesday, saying he is just seeking attention: "Avenatti is a third rate lawyer who is good at making false accusations, like he did on me and like he is now doing on Judge Brett Kavanaugh. He is just looking for attention and doesn't want people to look at his past record and relationships - a total low-life!"
Avenatti replied by calling Trump a "habitual liar and complete narcissist who also is a disgrace as a president and an embarrassment to our nation."