WASHINGTON — On a Washington day like no other, President Donald Trump found himself in an unusual spot: Publicly absent from a melodrama gripping the nation.
Closeted in his third-floor White House residence, he avoided opportunities to comment on the proceedings occurring two miles away on Capitol Hill.
But nearing the end of a more-than-eight-hour hearing stamped by unusually raw displays of human emotion and political drama, the president was telling aides and confidants that he believed his Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh had successfully acquitted himself from accusations of sexual assault and was one step closer to being installed on the highest bench.
“Judge Kavanaugh showed America exactly why I nominated him,” he wrote on Twitter fewer than five minutes after the hearing was gaveled to a close.
“His testimony was powerful, honest, and riveting. Democrats’ search and destroy strategy is disgraceful and this process has been a total sham and effort to delay, obstruct, and resist.”
He offered a command to Senate Republican leaders: “The Senate must vote!”
Judge Kavanaugh showed America exactly why I nominated him. His testimony was powerful, honest, and riveting. Democrats’ search and destroy strategy is disgraceful and this process has been a total sham and effort to delay, obstruct, and resist. The Senate must vote!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 27, 2018
The president had spent most of the previous week enraged, in public and private, at how the man he selected to reshape the ideological bent of the Supreme Court was being maligned.
He decried Senate Republicans for not pushing for a vote on his nominee’s confirmation before the allegations emerged. He was dismayed by a timid defense offered by Kavanaugh himself during a leaden interview with Fox News.
On Thursday, Trump found himself revived by Kavanaugh’s irate and tearful denial, delivered over the course of 45 minutes as his wife wept at the edge of the camera frame.
The sharply political tinge of his statement — railing against Democrats’ tactics and accusing them of executing “revenge on behalf of the Clintons” — gave Trump confidence an eventual Justice Kavanaugh would rule in his favor.
“President Trump is very pleased with Brett Kavanaugh’s righteous indignation regarding the personal destruction of his good name and his family,” a senior White House official said. “He’s confident in his choice.”
Trump’s confidence, of course, isn’t wholly relevant in the ultimate question of whether Kavanaugh is confirmed.
Republican fence-sitters, namely Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska have yet to say how they’ll vote after expressing concerns about the accusations that emerged over the past week.
But White House officials who appeared uncertain about a beleaguered nomination earlier in the week had regained confidence as the hearing neared its end.
“Only way to earn respect in Trumpworld is to brawl and he is brawling,” said one source close to the White House.
“Brett saved his bacon,” said another person with ties to the administration.
Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, assessed the day saying: “Anyone who opposes Brett Kavanaugh is basically signaling their retirement.”