President Donald Trump leapt to the defense of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh Sunday after allegations of sexual misconduct that had once threatened to torpedo his nomination to the bench resurfaced.
"He is an innocent man who has been treated HORRIBLY," Trump said on Twitter, referring to the accusations as "lies." The president also accused critics of attempting to influence Kavanaugh's opinions and suggested that Kavanaugh "start suing people for liable, or the Justice Department should come to his rescue." (Trump apparently meant "libel," and later re-issued the tweet with the correct spelling of the word.)
Kavanaugh was nominated by Trump after the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, a swing vote on the court. He was sworn in last October after a confirmation process that focused on the allegations — and the protests, controversy and high drama of the Senate hearing that followed.
Trump appeared to be reacting to an opinion-section article written by two New York Times reporters, published late Saturday, whose book on the Kavanaugh nomination will be published this week. In the book, which was summarized in Saturday's article, the authors wrote that they had found new corroboration for accusations that Kavanaugh exposed himself to Deborah Ramirez, a classmate at Yale.
The book, written by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, also uncovered a new accusation. Citing two officials, the reporters said that a former Yale classmate told senators and the FBI about a different episode of alleged sexual misconduct.
NBC News has not verified the reporting released Sunday.
Kavanaugh has strongly denied the allegation by Ramirez as well as accusations by Christine Blasey Ford that he sexually assaulted her when the two were in high school.
"During his Senate testimony, Mr. Kavanaugh said that if the incident Ms. Ramirez described had occurred, it would have been 'the talk of campus'," the reporters wrote in the New York Times article. "Our reporting suggests that it was."
Kavanaugh told the Senate Judiciary Committee under oath that the first time he heard of Ramirez's allegation was in a Sept. 23 article in The New Yorker.
But according to text messages obtained last year by NBC News, in the days leading up to Ramirez' public allegation Kavanaugh and his team were communicating behind the scenes with friends to refute the claim.
The FBI opened an expanded background investigation into Kavanaugh after pressure from Democrats in Congress initially delayed his confirmation process.
But dozens of people with potential information into the allegations against him were not contacted, according to multiple sources that include friends of both the nominee and his accusers.
Trump offered Kavanaugh and his family an unusual apology after attending his ceremonial swearing-in last October.
"On behalf of our nation, I want to apologize to Brett and the entire Kavanaugh family for the terrible pain and suffering you have been forced to endure," he said at the time.
Almost a year on, Kavanaugh's tenure has been largely untroubled by the controversy. But the resurfacing of the allegations led some on social media to call for renewed scrutiny against the judge, seemingly drawing Trump's ire.