President Donald Trump vociferously defended Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, implied that he has dirt on an unnamed Senate Democrat whom he called “pretty aggressive” in “very bad situations,” and said he wants the FBI investigation into Kavanaugh to be “quick” and “comprehensive” — all while speaking to reporters Monday at a press conference that was initially about trade.
“What [Kavanaugh’s] wife is going through, what his beautiful children are going through is not describable, it’s not describable. It’s not fair,” Trump said. “I think it’s fair to do it to me because I have been going from day one, long before I got to office. For me, it’s part of my job description to handle this crap.”
The president has become increasingly annoyed at the stalled process on Kavanaugh’s nomination after multiple women came forward with sexual assault and misconduct allegations against him. The Senate called for a week-long investigation into the allegations on Friday, and Trump subsequently ordered the FBI to conduct it. There have been multiple reports that the White House is limiting the scope of the probe.
On Monday, after discussing the new trade deal the US has reached with Canada and Mexico, Trump took questions about Kavanaugh: “Okay, you people want to get off trade. You people are falling asleep with trade,” he said, almost egging on reporters to get to the Kavanaugh questions. “All right, let’s go, come on.”
Trump accused an unnamed senator of … something
One of the most bizarre moments in the press conference came when Trump pointed out that lawmakers aren’t “angels” and implied he has damaging information on a certain Democratic senator — but he wouldn’t say who.
“I’ll tell you what, I happen to know some United States senators, one who is, on the other side, who is pretty aggressive,” he said. “I’ve seen that person in very bad situations, okay? I’ve seen that person in very, very bad situations, somewhat compromising.”
A reporter later asked what he was referring to. “I think I’ll save it for a book like everybody else and I’ll write it,” Trump replied. “I’m not giving it to you.”
Trump went after specific Democrats, too
Beyond the blind accusation of the unnamed senator, Trump name-checked a couple of specific Democratic lawmakers as well.
He mentioned Sen. Richard Blumenthal from Connecticut, who he said “lied about Vietnam.” (Blumenthal made a handful of misleading or false claims about having served in the Vietnam war but has said it was unintentional.) He took a swipe at New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker, who he said ran Newark “into the ground” when he was mayor.
Trump also went after Sen. Dianne Feinstein, to whom Christine Blasey Ford sent a letter about her allegations in July, and asked why the California Democrat hadn’t made Ford’s claims public earlier. “If she wanted a thorough investigation, we had all the time in the world,” he said. “She didn’t have to wait until after the hearing was closed, essentially.”
Trump said everyone has skeletons in their closet — except the vice president.
“There are bad reports on everybody in here, most of the people sitting down here — except for Mike Pence, by the way,” he said, to laughter. “And if we find one on him, then I’m ... that’s going to be it, that’ll be the greatest shock of all time.”
Trump said the FBI investigation is going fine
The Wall Street Journal, NBC News, and the New York Times reported over the weekend that the White House was putting restrictions on the FBI’s Kavanaugh probe. Trump refuted the reports on Twitter and on Monday said that he wants the investigation to go ahead as planned.
“What I said is let the Senate decide, whatever they want is okay with me, and, also, the FBI. I think the FBI should do what they have to do to get the answer,” he said.
Trump did point out Kavanaugh has undergone multiple FBI background investigations in the past.
“My White House will do whatever the senators want,” he said. “I’m open to whatever they want. The one thing I want is speed.”
Trump also said that if the FBI finds a witness who can corroborate one of Kavanaugh’s accusers’ stories, he would look at it. “I’m open,” he said, adding that Kavanaugh is a “fine man” and “great scholar.”
Trump pointed out he doesn’t drink — and acknowledged that if he did, he would be the “world’s worst”
There have been questions about whether Kavanaugh lied about his drinking while in high school and college. He has said he didn’t drink heavily while he was young, but others who knew him have refuted that claim.
A reporter asked Trump whether he would pull Kavanaugh’s nomination if he lied about his drinking. Trump responded by talking about the fact that he doesn’t drink.
“I don’t think [Kavanaugh lied],” Trump said. “I’m not a drinker. I can honestly say I’ve never had a beer in my life. It’s one of my only good traits. I don’t drink.”
In a brief moment of self-awareness, he acknowledged that alcohol would likely make his already volatile nature worse: “Can you imagine if I had? What a mess I would be? I would be the world’s worst,” he said.
Trump worried no one will want to be a judge after this
Nearing the end of the press conference, a reporter asked if Trump has a “plan B” for Kavanaugh. Trump said he hopes he doesn’t need a backup but that he’s approaching the situation with an “open mind.”
“The person that takes that position is going to be there for a long time,” he said.
Even so, the president said he worried about how Kavanaugh has been treated. “I just think he’s an outstanding person. I think he’s been treated horribly. Even if you are going to bring up some of the subjects that were brought up, they didn’t have to treat him so viciously and so violently as they’ve treated him,” he said.
Trump either said a reporter wasn’t “thanking” — or “thinking”
One more strange, awkward moment in the press conference came when Trump called on ABC’s Cecilia Vega.
Did I hear this right?— Talal Ansari (@TalalNAnsari) October 1, 2018
President: She's shocked that I picked her. She's in a state a shock.
Reporter: I'm not, thank you Mr. President.
Trump: That's OK, I know you're not thinking, you never do.
Reporter. I'm sorry?
Trump: No, go ahead. Go ahead. pic.twitter.com/Ss280FA7mK
“She’s shocked that I picked her,” Trump said as she prepared to ask her question. “She’s in a state of shock.”
“I’m not, thank you Mr. President,” Vega replied.
“That’s okay,” Trump replied, and then either said, “I know you’re not thinking” or “thanking,” adding, “you never do.”
The transcript the White House initially put out of the press conference said Trump told Vega she wasn’t “thanking.” On Tuesday, the White House corrected its transcript to say “thinking.”
Update: Story updated with White House transcript correction.