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Did Donald Trump just hedge on Brett Kavanaugh's future?

Just before taking off to tour the damage done in the Carolinas by Hurricane Florence, ...

Posted: Sep 20, 2018 11:44 AM
Updated: Sep 20, 2018 11:44 AM

Just before taking off to tour the damage done in the Carolinas by Hurricane Florence, President Donald Trump was asked about the possibility of Christine Blasey Ford testifying in front of Congress about her allegations of sexual assault by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

"If she shows up and makes a credible showing, that will be very interesting, and we'll have to make a decision," responded Trump.

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Wait, whaaaaaat?

Yes, it's very much up in the air as of this writing that Ford will show up to Monday's hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Her lawyers have made clear that she wants the FBI to look into the allegation that Kavanaugh assaulted her at a party in the 1980s before she agrees to tell her story publicly. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley responded to that request from Ford's camp with an assertion that she will either testify in Monday's hearing or Republicans will move on and set the vote on Kavanaugh's confirmation sometime in the very near future.

That leaves us exactly nowhere on the prospect of hearing from Ford and Kavanaugh on Monday -- or whether there is even a hearing at all. But politics is a funny business. And an unpredictable one. Things change. Especially on a story like this one, which has gone from nothing to a supernova, news-wise, within four days.

So stay tuned on that front. But in the meantime, it seems noteworthy that the President of the United States -- who nominated Kavanaugh and has, to date, stood firmly behind him -- appears to be hedging on the judge's confirmation prospects if and when Ford testifies. It doesn't take much reading between the lines of Trump's quote to see him saying this: If Ford testifies and is convincing, then we may have to rethink things. Right?

Now, this is Trump we are talking about here. He just says stuff. It's hard to know whether the stuff he says is strategic trial-balloon floating or just whatever popped into his mind at that moment. My general assumption is that the answer is almost always the latter rather than the former -- that Trump talks first and makes strategy around what he says later.

Is this that? Or is Trump genuinely open to reversing his view on Kavanaugh depending on what -- if anything -- Ford tells the Senate Judiciary Committee?

His other comments from Wednesday morning suggest he is sincerely interested in hearing from Ford. "I really want to see her," said Trump. "I really would want to see what she has to say. But I want to give it all the time they need. If she shows up, that would be wonderful. If she doesn't show up, that would be unfortunate."

Again, this is Trump. So tomorrow or even later today, he may well change his mind on all of this. But we know that Trump hates when people who work for him -- and, yes, you can bet that he views Kavanaugh, at least at the moment, as working for him -- drawing negative publicity. It's not a massive leap from what Trump said on Wednesday morning to a scene next Tuesday, following Ford's testimony, where Trump cuts bait on Kavanaugh because it's just not worth the agita.

As of today, there is no hearing. And therefore no chance that Trump walks away from Kavanaugh. But judging from what the President said today, Kavanaugh and his supporters should be at least slightly wary of what Trump might do if Ford does end up telling her story on a national stage sometime soon.

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