Donald Trump has mocked the woman who claimed she was sexually assaulted by the president’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh decades ago.
A campaign rally audience laughed as Mr Trump ran through a list of what he described as holes in Christine Blasey Ford’s appearance before the US Senate Judiciary Committee.
She alleged that Mr Kavanaugh pinned her on a bed, tried to take off her clothes and covered her mouth in the early 1980s when the two were teenagers.
Mr Kavanaugh has denied Ms Ford’s allegations.
“How did you get home? ‘I don’t remember,'” Mr Trump said imitating Ms Ford at the rally in Southaven, Mississippi.
He added: “How did you get there? ‘I don’t remember.’ Where is the place? ‘I don’t remember.’ How many years ago was it? ‘I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.'”
Imitating her, he said: “But I had one beer — that’s the only thing I remember.”
She is a remarkable profile in courage.Michael Bromwich, lawyer for Christine Blasey Ford
It marked the sharpest criticism by Mr Trump of Ms Ford since she came forward publicly with the allegation last month.
He had previously called her a “very credible witness”.
Ms Ford’s lawyer, Michael Bromwich, called Mr Trump’s attack “vicious, vile and soulless”.
“Is it any wonder that she was terrified to come forward, and that other sexual assault survivors are as well?” Mr Bromwich tweeted.
“She is a remarkable profile in courage. He is a profile in cowardice.”
His comments came as lawyers for Ms Ford and a second accuser, Deborah Ramirez, said they fear the FBI is not conducting a thorough investigation into their allegations.
Ms Ford’s legal representatives wrote a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray asking why the bureau has not contacted their client after she offered to cooperate in its reopened background investigation of Mr Kavanaugh.
Meanwhile Ms Ramirez’s lawyer said he had not seen an indication that the FBI has reached out to any of the 20 people who she said may be able to corroborate her account that Mr Kavanaugh exposed himself to her when they were undergraduates at Yale.
John Clune said Ms Ramirez was interviewed by the FBI on Sunday and provided agents with the witnesses’ contact numbers.
Mr Trump was in Mississippi on Tuesday looking to use his influence to sway the outcome of a low-profile election that could tip the balance of the Senate.
All signs suggest Democratic women are energised by opposition to Mr Trump’s presidency and the primary season yielded record numbers of female candidates.
The message from Mr Trump and his allies looks to channel the frustration and anxieties of the party’s core voters — white men — just weeks before an election.
The president said: “It’s a very scary time for young men in America when you can be guilty of something that you may not be guilty of. You can be somebody that was perfect your entire life and somebody could accuse you of something … and you’re automatically guilty.”
Mr Trump also pretended to be a son asking his mother how to respond to an accusation.
Mr Kavanaugh’s confirmation battle and the national soul-searching over sexual consent it has provoked threaten only to further motivate liberal female voters, leaving Republicans searching for a counterweight.
In his warning, Mr Trump echoed some of his allies.
Steve King, a Republican member of the US House of Representatives from Iowa, said: “If Kavanaugh is not confirmed, every man is subject to seeing their life’s work and their reputation destroyed by an unsubstantiated allegation.”
Republican Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana declared: “This is no country for creepy old men. Or young men. Or middle-aged men. But this is no country at all.”
And Mr Trump’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr, told the Daily Mail this week: “I’ve got boys, and I’ve got girls. And when I see what’s going on right now, it’s scary,” adding that at the moment he fears more for his sons.
A vicious, vile and soulless attack on Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. 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. https://t.co/UJ0bGxV1EZ— Michael R. Bromwich (@mrbromwich) October 3, 2018
The rising frustration came as Mr Kavanaugh’s confirmation process played out before the country, with him and Ms Ford appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week to discuss her accusation.
His confirmation continues to hang in the balance as the FBI investigates the allegation, which Mr Kavanaugh has forcefully denied.
With the midterm elections just weeks away, Republicans risk losing the House and possibly the Senate as they face an energised Democratic party — particularly educated, suburban women and minorities.
They also have to confront a wave of Republican retirements, as well as the president’s sagging approval ratings and the tide of controversy around his White House.
Polls show Republicans are more likely to be sceptical of the #MeToo movement, which has spurred women to come forward with their stories of sexual assault and harassment, and to believe it has gone too far.
Republicans argue the Kavanaugh debate will drive enthusiasm among men and women.