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Trump Continuing To Defend Embattled Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh

Sep 26, 2018
Originally published on September 29, 2018 10:12 am
Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

President Trump made news on a number of fronts in a press conference tonight that lasted more than an hour. This comes on the eve of a high-stakes Senate hearing where Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and a woman who has accused him of sexual assault are both set to testify. NPR's Tamara Keith has been monitoring the president's press conference, and she joins me now. Hi there.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Hello.

KELLY: Start with the story that is sucking the air out of everything in Washington today - these accusations against Kavanaugh, accusations which we keep stressing he completely denies. Is the president sticking with him?

KEITH: Well, so far, the president is sticking with him. But the president also said that he's keeping an open mind, that he plans to watch the hearing, that he could be convinced by Christine Blasey Ford in her testimony, that he really wants to watch. But then he was also asked, Mr. President, it seems like you - as you talk, you seem to side with Kavanaugh more, to side with the men more, and is there a reason for that? And this is what the president ultimately came to.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I've had a lot of false charges made against me - really false charges. I know friends that have had false charges. People want fame. They want money. They want whatever. So when I see it, I view it differently than somebody sitting at home watching television where they say, oh, Judge Kavanaugh this or that. It's happened to me many times. I've had many false charges.

KEITH: So that's where the president says he's coming from. Still, he says he does want to see it and even talked about the possibility of having to pick someone different, though, to be clear, he is still sticking with Kavanaugh.

KELLY: Sticking with him but maybe a tiny bit of softening there.

KEITH: It seemed like it.

KELLY: Interesting, OK. He was also asked more than once about whether he thinks these three women are lying. How did he handle that?

KEITH: Well, he didn't address it directly. He kept trying not to answer that question and kept being asked it again. He expressed a lot of concern about what would happen for future nominees if this - if someone can be taken down in this way, more or less. And he also questioned the timing. He blamed Democrats, and he also said basically the Democrats wouldn't support any candidate, whether it was Brett Kavanaugh with these charges or anybody else.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: If we brought George Washington here and we said, we have George Washington, the Democrats would vote against him - just so you understand. And he may have had a bad past. Who knows, you know? He may have had some, I think, accusations made - didn't he have a couple of things in his past?

KEITH: You know, a presidential press conference with President Trump, there is a decent chance there will be some surprises and some randomness.

KELLY: Yes, and questions about George Washington's character record we were not expecting today. But let me ask something else he was asked about, the other big story that we're watching for tomorrow. President Trump is scheduled to meet with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, this amid a lot of reports about whether Rosenstein will keep his job. Did the president tip his hand one way or the other on that?

KEITH: He did a bit. First, he said that he may actually postpone that meeting so that he can focus on watching the hearing, the Kavanaugh hearing. But then he said, well, maybe he was inclined not to fire him.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: My preference would be to keep him and to let him finish up. You know, I call it a witch hunt.

KEITH: Finish up - finish up the Russia investigation. Rosenstein oversees that investigation. And as you heard there, the president linked Rosenstein's potential firing to the Russia investigation in a way that lawyers maybe would say, hey, don't do that.

KELLY: Would have preferred him not to do, yeah.

KEITH: Exactly. But - and as a reminder, the reason Rosenstein's job is on the line right now is because of a New York Times article where Rosenstein was alleged to have considered the 25th Amendment to remove President Trump from office. Trump said Rosenstein denies it.

KELLY: All right. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith, thank you.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.