President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that allegations of sexual misconduct against his US Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, showed that “it’s a very scary time for young men in America” who now may be presumed guilty even when innocent. Five days after an extraordinary Senate hearing watched by millions of people in which university Professor Christine Blasey Ford detailed her sexual assault allegation against Kavanaugh, Trump raised the issue of false accusations against men.
“My whole life, I’ve heard you’re innocent until proven guilty. But now, you’re guilty until proven innocent. That is a very, very difficult standard,” Trump said outside the White House. “Well, I say that it’s a very scary time for young men in America when you can be guilty of something that you may not be guilty of.”
The fight over Kavanaugh’s nomination to a lifetime job on the top US court comes against the backdrop of the #MeToo movement fighting sexual harassment and assault that has toppled a succession of powerful men.
Under pressure from Democrats and some moderate fellow Republicans, Trump on Friday ordered an FBI investigation lasting up to a week into the allegations against his nominee.
He told reporters on Tuesday he thought the conservative federal appeals court judge would win Senate confirmation once the FBI finishes its investigation.
The nomination has become a politically explosive issue ahead of Nov. 6 elections, when control of Congress is at stake.
Some Republicans fear pushing ahead with Kavanaugh’s confirmation could alienate women voters, while Democrats are seeking to capitalize on the controversy.
Trump, who was himself accused during the 2016 presidential race of sexual misconduct with numerous women, tried to link the allegations against Kavanaugh to what he said was a broader problem.
“What’s happening here has much more to do than even the appointment of a Supreme Court justice. It really does. You could be somebody that was perfect your entire life, and somebody could accuse you of something. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a woman,” Trump said.
Ford testified that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a party in 1982 when they were high school students in Maryland.
At a rally in Mississippi on Tuesday night, Trump mocked Ford for not having answers to some questions during her testimony.
“What neighborhood was it in? I don’t know. Where’s the house? I don’t know. Upstairs, downstairs, where was it? I don’t know. But I had one beer. That’s the only thing I remember,” Trump said in imitation of Ford’s testimony.
“And a man’s life is in tatters,” he added.