By CATHERINE LUCEY and COLLEEN LONG, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump lashed out Friday at female protesters who have confronted senators over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, labeling them “rude elevator screamers” and “paid professionals only looking to make Senators look bad.”
Trump’s tweet Friday came before a crucial Senate vote on Kavanaugh, who stands accused of a high school-era sexual assault. Amid a national reckoning around gender roles and sexual consent, protesters have flooded the capitol in recent days, with many women angrily addressing senators, some identifying themselves as sexual assault victims.
The president struck a more upbeat note after the Senate pushed Kavanaugh past a key procedural hurdle, saying on Twitter that he was “very proud.”
As the Kavanaugh nomination has dragged out, protests — and direct lobbying — have grown.
An emotional exchange last week between Republican Sen. Jeff Flake and two women quickly went viral and appeared to contribute to Flake’s demand that a vote be delayed by a week for an FBI background investigation. On Thursday several women approached Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah near capitol elevators to ask why he was backing Kavanaugh. Hatch told them to “grow up.” West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin was also confronted. “How do you know how I’m going to vote?” the senator responded to criticism from a protester.
All three voted Thursday to push the nomination through.
Taking on the protesters directly, Trump said in Friday’s tweet: “Don’t fall for it!”
After initially saying that Kavanaugh’s accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, should be heard and speaking cautiously, Trump has grown increasingly frustrated. Placing himself firmly against the #MeToo moment, he has warned that this process could lead to false accusations against men and mocked Ford’s emotional testimony.
Trump has vigorously defended Kavanaugh, who denies the allegations against him. At a rally Thursday night, Trump mocked former Sen. Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat, for quickly vacating his seat in January in response to a string of sexual misconduct allegations and amid tremendous pressure from Democrats. Trump marveled at the speed, saying “boy, did he fold up like a wet rag.”
Other Republicans have echoed Trump’s frustration. On “Fox and Friends” Friday, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley said the protests were “a reflection of the incivility of American society generally.” He added: “I think it’s also evidence that people will go to any lengths when they are encouraged by people on Capitol Hill”
Some of the women protesting are members of or paid staffers for activist groups. Ana Maria Archila, one of the two women who confronted Flake, is co-executive director of the nonprofit Center for Popular Democracy Action. She said Friday that if Trump “wants to say I have a job where I advocate for justice, he is right.”
To Trump’s criticism, Archila said: “This is what he does, he’s a bully. But you know what? I am standing next to thousands and thousands and thousands of women who are feeling incredibly powerful in this moment and I am not afraid.”