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Trump says he’ll defer to senators on Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote

“I will be totally reliant on what Sen. Grassley and the group decides to do,” the president said about whether lawmakers will delay the floor vote.

President Trump Hosts Chilean President Sebastian Pinera At The White House
President Donald Trump welcomes the president of Chile, Sebastian Pinera, at the White House on September 28, 2018.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Jen Kirby is a senior foreign and national security reporter at Vox, where she covers global instability.

President Donald Trump praised his Supreme Court pick, Brett Kavanaugh, for his “riveting” testimony during his Senate Judiciary hearing on Thursday night, then demanded, “The Senate must vote!”

But on Friday, answering reporters’ questions as he met with Chilean president Sebastián Piñera, Trump said he’d defer to senators on how they wanted the nomination to play out. “Well, I’m going to let the Senate handle that, they’ll make their decisions,” Trump told reporters.

The Senate Judiciary voted along party lines Friday to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination, though Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), a key Republican swing vote, has argued for a one-week delay on a floor vote allowing the FBI to investigate allegations against Kavanaugh, including Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony that the Supreme Court nominee sexually assaulted her more than 30 years ago, when they were both in high school. Kavanaugh has denied the allegations.

When asked if Trump would approve a reopening of an FBI investigation into Kavanaugh, Trump said he would rely on lawmakers. That’s going to “be a decision that they’re going to make,” the president said. “And I suspect they’ll be making some decision soon, whether to take a vote, or to do whatever else they want to do.”

“I will be totally reliant on what Sen. Grassley and the group decides to do,” Trump added.

Trump was uncharacteristically measured in his assessment of the tension playing out over the Kavanaugh vote. Trump said he was not considering a replacement for Kavanaugh, but when asked about Republican senators who were undecided about voting for his nominee, he said he didn’t have any message. “They have to do what they think is right,” he said. “They have to be comfortable with themselves.”

Trump also called Ford’s testimony “very compelling and she looks like a very fine woman to me, very fine woman.” He added that she was “very credible.”

Trump lauded Kavanaugh on Twitter after the hearings wrapped Thursday but didn’t mention Ford at all. But even as he offered measured comments about Ford’s testimony, he praised Kavanaugh again.

“I thought that Brett’s testimony likely was really something that I haven’t seen before — it was incredible. It was an incredible moment in the history of our country.”