Donald Trump jumped in to defend his embattled nominee for the Supreme Court on Tuesday, saying he felt “terribly” for Brett Kavanaugh even as senators grapple with how to deal with decades-old allegations of sexual assault.
“I feel so badly for him that he’s going through this, to be honest with you, I feel so badly for him," said Mr Trump during a news conference with the president of Poland. “This is not a man that deserves this.”
He added that he not spoken to Mr Kavanaugh about Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation that he assaulted her at a party in 1982 but said the allegations "should’ve been brought up long ago”.
Mr Kavanaugh has “categorically and unequivocally” denied the allegations.
Ms Ford has said she is willing to testify before senators but on Wednesday night it emerged she wanted the FBI to investigate her allegations before she appears in Congress.
"Nothing of substance and nothing legitimate can happen by Monday," Lisa Banks, her attorney told CNN, referring to the next hearing of the judiciary committee hearing.
Who is Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee?
Democrats also said they wanted more time for the FBI to investigate — and more witnesses besides Mr Kavanaugh and his accuser, hoping to avoid what would turn into a "he said, she said" moment.
Those witnesses would include Mr Kavanaugh’s high school friend Mark Judge, who Ford said was in the room when she was assaulted, but Judge, who says he does not remember any such incident, has refused.
The furious jockeying over the hearing underscored the political potency so close to an election that will decide control of both the House and Senate, not to mention the confirmation of a conservative justice likely to serve on the high court for decades.
Democrats see their arguments about treating women fairly as the best hope for either sinking the appellate judge’s nomination or, should Mr Kavanaugh win confirmation, amplifying their appeals to female voters in November’s midterm elections.
Republicans have been careful to be seen as giving Ford a chance to be heard, mindful that outright dismissal of her accusation could hurt on election day.
Still, the risks of a public hearing starring the all-male lineup of Republicans on the committee could be high.
Republicans said late on Tuesday they were considering hiring outside attorneys, presumably including women, to question the witnesses.
Mr Kavanaugh, 53, was at the White House for a second straight day, but again did not meet with Mr Trump, who said he was "totally supporting" the nominee and rejected calls for the FBI to investigate the accusation.