Constrained From Fighting, Trump Is Left a Spectator With Kavanaugh in Peril

While the president, cognizant of the stakes, has mostly restrained himself from attacking Dr. Blasey publicly, he reverted to form on Friday, questioning her credibility in a tweet in which he demanded to know why she or her parents had not reported the assault to law enforcement authorities if it had been “as bad as she says.” Later, at his rally in Springfield, Mo., Mr. Trump said Judge Kavanaugh would be confirmed because “he was born for” the Supreme Court.

His tweet drew a backlash from Senator Susan Collins of Maine, one of a few moderate Republicans whose votes will determine whether Judge Kavanaugh is confirmed. She noted that many sexual assaults are never reported, and called the president’s remark “appalling.”

Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, who has teamed up with Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, to try to push through Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation, privately told Mr. Trump that his tweet was not helpful. And on Sunday, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a member of the Judiciary Committee, had similar counsel.

“I would advise the president to let us handle this,” Mr. Graham said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Mr. McConnell has explained to the president the political reality that, as much as Republicans might want to try to quickly move past Dr. Blasey’s allegation, they must tread carefully to avoid alienating Ms. Collins or other senators who have been noncommittal about their position on the judge, including Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona.

With Senate Republicans holding only a 51-to-49 majority, Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee, who led painstaking negotiations with Dr. Blasey’s legal team over the terms of the hearing, has been driven in large part by a desire to accommodate the concerns of senators in his own party.

“You’re dealing with two different worlds,” said Ron Bonjean, a Republican consultant and former Senate aide who helped shepherd the confirmation of Neil M. Gorsuch, Mr. Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee, last year. “Senators McConnell and Grassley both know that they need Senators Murkowski and Collins to get across the line, and if they decided to put their foot on the accelerator and just hold the vote, that could backfire.”

“If you’re President Trump, there’s good reasons for being frustrated by the delay,” Mr. Bonjean added, noting that many conservative activists believe that the Democrats backing Dr. Blasey are playing “a stalling game” designed to provide time to unearth more allegations against Judge Kavanaugh or further discredit him.

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