WASHINGTON (AP) — Abandoning his previous restraint, President Donald Trump challenged the credibility of the woman accusing his Supreme Court nominee of sexual assault on Friday, declaring that if the alleged attack was so terrible she would have reported it to law enforcement.
Trump's change in tone — and apparent shift in tactics — came as Christine Blasey Ford's lawyers negotiated with the Senate Judiciary Committee on the terms for her possible testimony next week in a dramatic showdown over her accusation that threatens Judge Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation.
Trump tweeted: "I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents. I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time, and place!"
The president previously had avoided naming Ford or plainly casting doubt on her account. Ford alleges that at a party when they were teenagers 30 years ago a drunken Kavanaugh held her down on a bed, tried to remove her clothing and clapped his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream before she managed to escape. Kavanaugh has denied all parts of the allegation.
Shortly after Trump's tweet, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., expressed his determination to get Kavanaugh confirmed. He told evangelical activists at the annual Values Voter conference the Senate will "plow right through."
The accusation has jarred the 53-year-old conservative jurist's prospects for winning confirmation, which until Ford's emergence last week had seemed all but certain. It has also bloomed into a broader clash over whether women alleging abuse are taken seriously and how both political parties address such claims with the advent of the #MeToo movement — a theme that could echo in this November's elections for control of Congress.
With his comment, Trump went against the advice of advisers who had counseled him to stay out of the fray. He has previously defended friends and other men against the claims of women.
Ford has said she didn't tell anyone at the time about the incident. According to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, a majority of rapes and other sexual assaults are not reported to police.