Trump, fuming privately, gives measured response to Kavanaugh news

The president comments on the sexual assault allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. CNN's Jeff Zeleny reports.

Posted: Sep 18, 2018 4:42 PM
Updated: Sep 18, 2018 4:42 PM

It was not immediately clear how Judge Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court confirmation process would further unfold as he arrived at the White House just after 10 a.m. on Monday, now facing a public allegation of sexual assault.

But by the time Kavanaugh left about nine hours later, a public hearing to address the allegation had been scheduled and the White House's battle plan had begun to take shape.

RELATED: Brett Kavanaugh, Christine Blasey Ford to testify on assault allegations in public Monday

While Kavanaugh huddled with his confirmation team, called Republican senators and began to prepare for next Monday's public hearing, White House officials tasked with supporting his confirmation began to mount the public relations campaign that will aim to bolster the nominee's public image over the next week, said White House officials familiar with the matter.

The plan, the officials said, will rely heavily on women who will attest to Kavanaugh's good character -- including from his teenage years, during which he is alleged to have sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford.

The White House has been contacting many of the 65 women who signed a letter in support of Kavanaugh that was released after an anonymous allegation of sexual assault surfaced -- before Ford emerged this weekend to put a name and a face to her accusation -- to see if they would be willing to publicly back him in the coming week. Many of those women, one official said, are prepared to publicly defend Kavanaugh.

Some of those women and other female surrogates will be out front this week attesting to his character. Already on Monday, women who worked with Kavanaugh in the administration of President George W. Bush began to release statements expressing their support for him as part of a campaign to defend the federal judge's integrity using the hashtag #IStandWithBrett.

"I've known Judge Brett Kavanaugh for nearly 20 years," wrote Sara Fagen, the former Bush White House political director. "I don't believe he would ever harm any person, let alone assault a woman. These eleventh hour allegations as he was about to be confirmed to the Supreme Court reflect the sad state of American politics today. He's a good man, a brilliant jurist, and he does not deserve to have his good name ruined because the base of the Democratic party doesn't want a conservative on the Supreme Court."

One White House official said the White House is also discussing holding an event later this week -- possibly a news conference -- with a group of women who know and support Kavanaugh.

The entire effort is aimed at blunting the impact of the undoubtedly emotional testimony Ford will deliver before the Senate Judiciary Committee next Monday.

Before the committee announced the hearing, Ford's attorney said the California professor was willing to testify under oath about her allegation and that Ford had already taken a polygraph test that indicated her allegation was truthful.

Kavanaugh, who has denied Ford's accusation, was said to be "flabbergasted" by it and "shaken, but focused" as he arrived at the White House on Monday to assess the next steps in advancing his suddenly imperiled nomination.

It became clear as the day wore on, one official said, that a public hearing was the only way to salvage his nomination. Before leaving the White House, Kavanaugh had a call Monday evening with Judiciary Committee staffers to discuss the parameters of the hearing and the next steps.

Conversations at the White House, one official said, revolved entirely around "defending his integrity," an effort President Donald Trump had joined in earlier Monday before the cameras.

Though Trump did not meet with Kavanaugh at the White House on Monday, he showered praise on his nominee, calling him "one of the finest people that I've ever known."

Unlike in cases involving allegations of misconduct against himself or others in his administration, the President did not attack Kavanaugh's accuser or dismiss the allegation out of hand. Instead, he offered his support for a "full process" to "hear everybody out" on the matter and accepted that such a process would delay Kavanaugh's confirmation process.

"If it takes a little delay, it'll take a little delay," Trump said. "It will, I'm sure, work out very well."

The President's restraint on the matter was notable and a sign, a source close to the White House said, of how critical Kavanaugh's nomination is for Trump.

The President "can't afford to do anything to derail this nomination," said the source, who is also in touch with prominent conservative activists.

Those activists have "made it clear that he (Trump) is about to run out of mulligans," the source said.

Putting another conservative justice on the Supreme Court will help seal Trump's legacy with conservatives and if Kavanugh's nomination sinks, the President likely won't be able to secure the confirmation of another high court nominee until after the midterm elections, which are threatening to shift the balance of power in the Senate.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 314509

Reported Deaths: 7247
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21626259
Hinds20359415
Harrison17934309
Rankin13634278
Jackson13447246
Madison10099217
Lee9980174
Jones8381163
Forrest7683152
Lauderdale7191241
Lowndes6401147
Lamar623086
Lafayette6200118
Washington5339134
Bolivar4802132
Oktibbeha462798
Panola4588107
Pearl River4512146
Marshall4443103
Warren4393121
Pontotoc420772
Monroe4113133
Union411076
Neshoba4031176
Lincoln3968110
Hancock379386
Leflore3497125
Sunflower336090
Tate334084
Pike3325105
Scott315973
Alcorn313368
Yazoo311669
Itawamba300477
Copiah297065
Coahoma295479
Simpson295288
Tippah288768
Adams286882
Prentiss279760
Marion269280
Leake268373
Wayne262641
Grenada261487
Covington259681
George248048
Newton246861
Winston227281
Tishomingo226967
Jasper221148
Attala214473
Chickasaw207857
Holmes189173
Clay185454
Stone182833
Tallahatchie178841
Clarke178080
Calhoun170832
Yalobusha164338
Smith162434
Walthall133945
Greene130633
Lawrence128624
Montgomery126942
Noxubee126734
Perry126338
Amite123142
Carroll121829
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis107133
Tunica105726
Claiborne102430
Benton99525
Humphreys96733
Kemper95828
Franklin83823
Quitman80916
Choctaw76418
Wilkinson67331
Jefferson65728
Sharkey50217
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 532895

Reported Deaths: 11001
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson771431528
Mobile41089808
Madison34837505
Tuscaloosa25810454
Montgomery24355588
Shelby23730249
Baldwin21191309
Lee15892171
Calhoun14522316
Morgan14324279
Etowah13861353
Marshall12250223
Houston10581281
Elmore10060205
Limestone9986151
Cullman9705194
St. Clair9702243
Lauderdale9441242
DeKalb8846187
Talladega8255176
Walker7246277
Autauga6938108
Jackson6815112
Blount6694137
Colbert6310134
Coffee5524119
Dale4850111
Russell443238
Chilton4308112
Franklin426282
Covington4136118
Tallapoosa4039152
Escambia393977
Chambers3578123
Dallas3557152
Clarke351161
Marion3130101
Pike311377
Lawrence300798
Winston275673
Bibb261564
Geneva251477
Marengo249664
Pickens234761
Barbour231756
Hale223277
Butler216469
Fayette212562
Henry189044
Cherokee184745
Randolph181742
Monroe178040
Washington167639
Macon159950
Clay156857
Crenshaw152757
Cleburne149141
Lamar142935
Lowndes139053
Wilcox127130
Bullock122841
Conecuh110629
Coosa107928
Perry107826
Sumter104832
Greene92534
Choctaw61124
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