In a long, strange press conference in which he changed topics frequently — sometimes mid-sentence — President Trump repeated his “con job” characterization of the accusations of sexual assault and other misconduct against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. What was more remarkable was his tendency to identify Kavanaugh’s accusers with the women who have accused him of sexual misconduct in the past. At the same time, however, he left the door open to withdrawing his nomination, depending on what happens at tomorrow’s Judiciary Committee hearing. Trump plans to watch the hearing, and has postponed his momentous meeting with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in order not to distract attention from the show.
Here’s CNN’s summary of the exchanges in which Trump made it clear he viewed the accusations against Kavanaugh through the lens of his own experience:
President Trump, speaking at a press conference in New York, said allegations against Brett Kavanaugh “effect” him because he has had similar allegations [made] against himself “many times.”
“People want fame. They want money. When I see it, I view it differently,” Trump said. “It’s happened to me many times. I’ve had many false charges.”
“When you say does it [a]ffect me? Absolutely. Because I’ve had it many times,” Trump said regarding the allegations surrounding Kavanaugh.
“I was accused by, I believe it was four women … who got paid a lot of money to make up stories about me,” Trump said as he continued to blast the media for repeating the allegations.
In reality, at least 17 women have accused Trump of sexual assault.
“I’ve had a lot of false charges against me,” Trump said.
Despite his interest in watching tomorrow’s hearing, Trump at other points indicated a closed mind about the allegations against Kavanaugh, calling them “all false,” and a fabrication by “evil” Democrats. Asked why he didn’t support an FBI investigation of the allegations, he replied: “There was nothing to investigate.” And then there was this strange tangent:
There were two particular moments where Trump seemed to be really out of touch with the way the Kavanaugh saga is playing out publicly. Asked about how women felt about his dismissal of the allegations against Kavanaugh, he claimed that “women are so angry” about how the judge is being treated, citing the narrow majority of women (actually, just white women) who voted for him in 2016. This on a day when fresh polling showed Kavanaugh and Trump himself losing ground rapidly with Republican women.
Similarly, at the very end of the press conference, Trump was given the opportunity to talk about the message his comments on Kavanaugh might send to young men — you know, young men who hear the president of the United States identifying with and defending someone accused of sexual assault even as the #MeToo movement unveils decades of predatory behavior. His response was remarkable:
Agreeing that this was a “historic moment,” Trump thought it was all about the damage wreaked on men whose accusers were believed despite insufficient corroborating evidence. Watch out, boys! he seemed to be saying to teenagers: these lying women will say anything to bring you down.
Asked very directly if he ever gave women the benefit of the doubt in situations like Kavanaugh’s, Trump tossed out one of the most incoherent word salads since Andrew Johnson showed up drunk at his inauguration as vice president:
QUESTION: To follow up on a question that a colleague asked as well about the benefit of the doubt that you have given to people like Roy Moore, to Roger Ailes, to Bill O’Reilly, to Brett Kavanaugh. They’re all men. Why is that?
TRUMP: It’s not a benefit of the doubt. I …
QUESTION: Has there ever been an instance when you’ve given the benefit of the doubt to a woman?
TRUMP: I’ve known them — Hallie (ph), I’ve known them for a long time and a lot of these people. A lot of people. And some I’ve been disappointed with. I have been disappointed with some others like — you know, there are charges that are pretty weak. But I’ve known people for a long time. I never saw them do anything wrong. I never saw them do anything wrong. And there’s some that probably I agree. I can tell you there’s some that I — I’ve been watching for a long time. And in a couple of cases they weren’t Republicans, and a lot of cases they were not. They were exactly the opposite. But I’ve been watching them for a long time and I knew for a long time these were not good people, and they were never brought up.
It’s hard to imagine the president did Brett Kavanaugh much good in this bizarre performance; instead, he publicly put the judge on notice that he might dump him tomorrow if he doesn’t look good on television.