GOP centrists unsettled by Trump's mockery of Ford

GOP centrists unsettled by Trump's mockery of Ford

Three Republican centrists who will likely decide the fate of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh said Wednesday they were unsettled by President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? MORE’s mockery of Christine Blasey Ford at a rally in Mississippi the previous night.

The backlash by GOP moderates adds to the headwinds that Kavanaugh faces in the Senate, which is expected to vote on his nomination this week following an FBI investigation stemming from Ford's accusation that he sexually assaulted her at a party in the early 1980s when they were both in high school.

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Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOvernight Energy: Trump administration issues plan to reverse limits on logging in Tongass National Forest| Democrats inch closer to issuing subpoenas for Interior, EPA records| Trump's plan to boost ethanol miffs corn groups and the fossil fuel industry Trump administration issues plan to reverse limits on logging in Tongass National Forest Democrats can lose Trump impeachment battle and still win electoral war MORE (R-Alaska) called Trump’s comments “unacceptable” and would consider them among a number of factors when weighing whether to confirm Kavanaugh.

Asked if Trump’s comments would impact her vote, Murkowski told reporters Wednesday: “I am taking everything into account. I think the president’s comments yesterday mocking Dr. Ford were wholly inappropriate and in my view unacceptable.”

Trump mocked Ford at a rally for not remembering key details from 36 years ago, such as the date and location of the alleged incident.

“How did you get home? 'I don’t remember,' " Trump said Tuesday, mocking Ford's answers before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. "How’d you get there? 'I don’t remember.' Where is the place? 'I don’t remember.' How many years ago was it? 'I don’t know.' ”

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTrump-GOP tensions over Syria show signs of easing Susan Collins raises .1 million in third quarter Poll: 50 percent of Maine voters disapprove of Susan Collins's job performance MORE (R-Maine), another swing vote, denounced Trump’s remarks but ignored questions from reporters who swarmed around her, asking if the president's comments would affect her vote.

“I thought those comments were wrong,” she said. “I think the president shouldn’t have made those comments, and that is all I have to say.”

Sen. Angus KingAngus Stanley KingOvernight Defense: Dems grill Trump Army, Air Force picks | House chair subpoenas Trump Afghanistan negotiator | Trump officials release military aid to Ukraine Democrats grill Army, Air Force nominees on military funding for border wall Bipartisan panel to issue recommendations for defending US against cyberattacks early next year MORE, an independent from Maine who is opposed to Kavanaugh, said Trump’s comments likely would drag on Kavanaugh’s nomination.

“I don’t think it helps,” he said. 

King said two-thirds of the mail he’s received from Maine constituents is from residents who are opposed to Kavanaugh’s nomination, while one-third is in favor.

Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeTrump's GOP impeachment firewall holds strong How to survive an impeachment Are Senate Republicans certain that Trump can return to office? MORE (Ariz.), the third undecided Republican senator, sharply criticized Trump’s comments, calling them “appalling.”

“There’s no time and no place for remarks like that,” Flake said on NBC’s “Today” when asked about Trump’s speech.

“To discuss something this sensitive at a political rally is just not right, it’s just not right," Flake said. "I wish he hadn’t done it. It’s kind of appalling.”

The three moderates said they wanted to wait for a supplemental FBI background investigation of Kavanaugh to come out before stating their positions.

Protesters have been filling the halls of Capitol Hill in recent days to confront GOP senators about the allegations against Kavanaugh, and a vote for him will be portrayed by many, not just demonstrators, as lacking sensitivity to the victims of assault.

Flake asked for a one-week delay on a floor vote for Kavanaugh after two women who said they were victims of sexual assault confronted him in an elevator outside his office on Friday. The confrontation took place shortly after he had announced he would vote for Kavanaugh.

Daily confrontations with camera-wielding protesters asking senators whether they believe people who say they are victims of sexual assault are starting to wear on lawmakers' nerves.

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) lost his patience when two protesters ran up to him on his way to a vote to ask him about his views on sexual assault.

“Would you please leave me alone!” he snapped as police officers blocked the protesters from boarding a shuttle train from the Dirksen Senate Office Building to the Capitol.

Collins, perhaps the most prominent Republican woman on Capitol Hill, was seen last week as likely to vote for Kavanaugh.

But the nominee’s combative performance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, combined with Ford’s testimony, which even Trump at the time described as “compelling” and “credible,” has cast fresh doubt on what Collins will do. 

King, Collins’s home-state colleague, said Trump’s comments would make it tougher for Collins, Flake and Murkowski to vote for Kavanaugh.

“Everybody essentially is talking about an audience of three here and I don’t think that was a way that would be calculated to win over those three votes,” King said.

— Jordain Carney contributed.