By David Alexander and Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two moderate Republicans who could be pivotal in determining whether the Senate confirms U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh criticized President Donald Trump on Wednesday for mocking a woman who has accused the judge of sexual assault.
Senators Jeff Flake and Susan Collins were among the lawmakers who took issue with comments Trump made regarding Christine Blasey Ford, a university professor from California who detailed her sexual assault allegation against Kavanaugh at an extraordinary Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week.
At a political rally in Mississippi on Tuesday night, Trump mocked Ford’s testimony about the alleged assault in Maryland in 1982 when she was 15 and Kavanaugh was 17.
Ford testified that she could not remember the precise date or location of the alleged assault, but offered a detailed account of the incident itself in which she said a drunken Kavanaugh pinned her down, tried to remove her clothing and covered her mouth when she screamed.
“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 his imitation of Ford’s testimony.
“And a man’s life is in tatters,” Trump added.
Appearing on NBC’s “Today” show, Flake said that “there’s no time and no place for remarks like that, that discuss something this sensitive at a political rally.”
“It’s just not right. I wish he hadn’t … done it. I just say it’s kind of appalling,” Flake said of Trump’s comments.
Speaking briefly to reporters, Collins said, “The president’s comments were just plain wrong.” She did not respond when asked if his comments would affect her vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
Trump’s fellow Republicans control the Senate by a 51-49 margin. That means if all the Democrats vote against Kavanaugh, Trump could not afford to have more than one Republican oppose his nominee, with Vice President Mike Pence casting a tie-breaking vote.
So far, no Republicans have said they would vote against Kavanaugh.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said the Senate will vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation this week after each senator is given a report on the ongoing FBI investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct against Trump’s nominee for a lifetime job on the top U.S. court.
The fight over Kavanaugh’s nomination to a lifetime job on the top U.S. court comes against the backdrop of the #MeToo movement fighting sexual harassment and assault that has toppled a succession of powerful men.
Speaking on the Senate floor on Wednesday, McConnell again took aim at Kavanaugh opponents.
McConnell said that there is “no chance in the world they’re going to scare us out of doing our duty. We will not be intimidated by these people. This is all part of the organized effort to delay, obstruct and intimidate, including those of us who will be voting this week.”
The fight over Kavanaugh’s nomination has unfolded just weeks ahead of Nov. 6 elections in which Democrats are trying to seize control of Congress from Republicans.
(Reporting by David Alexander and Richard Cowan; Additional reporting by Lawrence Hurkley; Editing by Will Dunham and Paul Tait)