Inside the White House and its war room devoted to the Supreme Court nomination fight, little has changed since the news broke Thursday afternoon that Christine Blasey Ford might eventually testify about her sexual assault allegation against Brett Kavanaugh, according to one White House aide and one person familiar with the confirmation process.
For the past four days, former law clerks to Kavanaugh, White House lawyers and a handful of other aides have been prepping Kavanaugh for a potential public hearing next week and running through tough questions that could come up before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
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Kavanaugh told committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in a letter Thursday that he would attend the hearing scheduled for Monday.
Now the major outstanding questions include the time, date, and parameters of Ford’s testimony — her lawyer said Thursday she is willing to testify, but not Monday — as well as President Donald Trump’s response to it.
So far, the president has taken a measured and muted tone to the hour-by-hour changes in the Kavanaugh confirmation process since Ford came forward to accuse Kavanaugh of assaulting her when they were both in high school. Trump has tweeted about the Supreme Court position only once this week and expressed openness to hearing Ford’s story.
“I really want to see her. I really would want to see what she has to say,” Trump said on Wednesday. “If she doesn’t show up, that would be unfortunate.”
At the same time, he has gone to great lengths to stress the greatness of Kavanaugh’s character and has called him an extraordinary man with an unblemished record who’s been treated unfairly. His comments have increased in their frequency, aides and allies say, as he’s become more confident that Kavanaugh will end up being confirmed.
Still, it remains to be seen whether Trump will maintain that calm posture throughout the weekend and during two campaign-style rallies in Nevada and Missouri, followed by two days in Bedminster, N.J., at his golf club, especially as the pressure builds toward a potential vote next week on Trump’s second Supreme Court pick.
The president views his judicial nominations as a core part of his legacy and one that binds him to the evangelical and conservative parts of his base to ensure their loyalty. With the midterms just weeks away, the president and his team are attuned to the balancing act of pleasing the base without alienating female voters.
White House counsel Don McGahn has urged the president to maintain his current stance and has successfully argued that much of the confirmation process is the purview of the Senate, not the White House.
“I think Trump understands that this is the moment when the nominee needs to be front and center and not the president,” said the person familiar with the confirmation process.