MANCHESTER, New Hampshire—Susan Collins’s message to President Donald Trump appears to be keep your mouth shut and your Twitter feed silent when it comes to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who’s accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault.
And the Republican senator from Maine, speaking Friday evening at an event at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire, said she believes that her GOP colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee should accommodate Ford’s request to testify later next week, rather than on Monday as initially requested.
The moderate Republican, who’s a crucial swing vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination, stressed that she wants both Ford and Kavanaugh “to come to the committee and testify under oath. I think that would help me make an assessment and that’s what I think should happen.”
At the ‘Constitutionally Speaking’ series event, Collins repeated what she had said earlier in the day, that she was appalled by Trump’s tweets disparaging Ford, who alleged that the President’s high court nominee sexually assaulted her at a party when they were both high school students in the early 1980’s. Kavanaugh has repeatedly denied the allegation.
“If the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed,” Trump said in a tweet Friday morning.
He had first gone on the attack against Ford the previous day, asking his Fox News ally Sean Hannity at a rally in Las Vegas, “why didn't someone call the FBI 36 years ago?"
Speaking with reporters after Friday's event, Collins took aim at Trump.
Asked by The Daily Beast if the President’s comments had damaged efforts to confirm Kavanaugh, Collins said “No. It hasn’t hurt Judge Kavanaugh but that doesn’t make it appropriate. And regardless of what the facts of this case prove to be, we know that the crime of sexual assault is one of the most underreported crimes in our country.
“So the president’s statement was wrong and I very much wish that he had had no comment at all. I think it was a disservice to Dr. Ford and likely a disservice to Judge Kavanaugh as well,” Collins added.
Ford’s attorneys have asked for a number of requests in order for their client to testify in front of the Judiciary Committee, and Collins believes that some of those requests should be honored.
“I have made clear that I believe that we should accommodate Dr. Ford’s requests that she testify later in the week, say on Wednesday or Thursday, rather than Monday,” she said. “I don’t think we should be stuck on a particular day.”
Collins also said that Ford’s requests for security and for Kavanaugh not to be present in the hearing room at the same time made sense.
But she added that “I don’t think that all of her lawyers’ demands or requests make sense. For example it does not make sense for her to insist that Judge Kavanaugh go before her, because otherwise how can he respond.”
Asked how she’ll make sense of what could turn into a ‘he said, she said” hearing, Collins explained that “you look at what you know about the person, their background, is there a pattern? Questions like that.”
“It’s why I feel so strongly about seeing both of them,” she added.
Collins, who remains undecided on how she’ll vote on the nomination, has faced intense pressure from both sides since the president nominated Kavanaugh in July to succeed retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.
“I’ve had protesters at my house. There’s another protest that going to come this Sunday morning I’m told. Protests at all my offices,” she shared. “I don’t think protesters really convey much. I think it’s much more thoughtful to do an email, a conversation, a letter, and I pay attention to that.”
Collins joked that “I can’t say the words I’ve been called the last couple of months.”
But turning serious, she highlighted that “threats are the worst way to approach me. An example is this crowdfunding effort that several people are involved in that’s raised $1.3 million and what I view as a quid pro quo. I wonder if it violates bribery statutes.”
Collins also described the current political climate in the nation as “an extremely difficult and ugly period in our history.”
While there were no protests during the event at Saint Anselm College, there was a small group of demonstrators in support of Ford at the entrance to the campus, organized by three progressive organizations.
With the sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh firmly in the national spotlight and Collins a key Republican vote, what would have normally been a quiet Friday night speaking series on the Saint Anselm campus turned into a much anticipated event. The auditorium was packed with national media and cameras, including a crew from Showtime’s “The Circus.”
Adding to the spectacle, retired Supreme Court Justice David Souter, a resident of nearby Hopkinton, New Hampshire, was in the audience.