Washington - President Donald Trump came under heavy fire Wednesday for mocking the woman who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, with two key Republican senators voicing repugnance over the comments.
Jeff Flake, one of three Republicans crucial to Kavanaugh's being approved for the court but seen as undecided, called Trump's ridicule of Christine Blasey Ford in a Mississippi campaign speech "appalling."
"There's no time and no place for remarks like that," Flake said in an interview with NBC News early Wednesday.
"To discuss something this sensitive at a political rally is just not right. I wish he hadn't done it. It's kind of appalling."
Senator Susan Collins, another of the trio of senators yet to come out in support of the conservative jurist, said Trump's comments "were just plain wrong."
Their comments injected fresh doubts over the fate of Kavanaugh, as the Federal Bureau of Investigation reviews the allegations three women have made that the appeals court judge drank heavily and sexually abused women while he was a student in the 1980s.
They also came amid concerns that the FBI is limiting its one-week review of the allegations under pressure from Senate Republicans and the White House, and is not interviewing a number of witnesses.
With Republicans eyeing Kavanaugh as the justice who will turn the well-balanced Supreme Court in a decidedly conservative direction, Senate leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday demanded a final vote this week on the nominee.
"The Senate will vote on this nomination this week," McConnell declared on the Senate floor Wednesday.
"It's time to put this embarrassing spectacle behind us," he said, calling the criticism of Kavanaugh "a feeding frenzy."
- 'Women are watching' -
Trump stirred a furious backlash late Tuesday when he mocked Blasey Ford's testimony last week on her allegation that Kavanaugh drunkenly tried to rape her in 1982 when both attended elite private high schools in suburban Washington.
Addressing the Senate Judiciary Committee, Blasey Ford spelled out some key details of the incident at a party in a private home, saying she was absolutely certain that Kavanaugh was the attacker.
But she could not remember some other details, and Trump made fun of that in front of an auditorium of supporters.
"I had one beer, right?" Trump said, echoing one point Blasey Ford did recall.
"'How did you get home?' I don't remember. 'How did you get there?' I don't remember. 'Where was the place?' I don't remember. 'How many years ago was it?' I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. I don't know," he added, to cheers from supporters.
"But I had one beer. That's the only thing I remember." Trump continued.
Michael Bromwich, one of Blasey Ford's attorneys, called it "a vicious, vile and soulless attack" on his client.
"Is it any wonder that she was terrified to come forward, and that other sexual assault survivors are as well? She is a remarkable profile in courage. He is a profile in cowardice."
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer called Trump's remarks "reprehensible" and said the president owes her "an immediate apology."
Actress Alyssa Milano, who attended last Thursday's hearing in support of Blasey Ford, called Trump's speech "the most misogynist display of barbaric insensitivity I've ever seen."
"Women are watching. And we vote," she said in a tweet.
- FBI report looms -
But Kellyanne Conway, a senior Trump advisor and one of the most public faces of his administration, defended the president's comments, saying he was merely "pointing out factual inconsistencies in her story."
"Excuse me, she's been treated like a Faberge egg by all of us, beginning with me and the president," Conway told reporters.
Still undecided, Collins, Flake and another Republican senator, Lisa Murkowski, hold the key in a Senate where Republicans hold a slim 51-49 majority over Democrats.
Democrats say Kavanaugh cannot be confirmed with the still-unproven accusations hanging over his head. Kavanaugh steadfastly denies the allegations.
Given one week from last Friday to complete the review by the Senate, the FBI was under heavy pressure to demonstrate that they were interviewing all possible witnesses to the three decade old allegations.
Flake and Democratic Senator Chris Coons, who engineered the 11th hour FBI review, questioned reports that the bureau would complete its report as early as Wednesday.
"That would concern me," Coons said on NBC News. "Jeff and I came to an important agreement that it would be a one-week investigation."
"I hope the FBI has been allowed to follow all the reasonable leads from the credible allegations that were before the committee last week."AFP