WHEELING (West Virginia) • US President Donald Trump has turned the fight over the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court into a midterm election rallying cry, denouncing "the ruthless and outrageous tactics of the Democrat Party".
Speaking last Saturday night, Mr Trump also suggested that Senator Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, was responsible for leaking a letter from Dr Christine Blasey Ford detailing her allegation that the judge sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers.
Ms Feinstein has denied that either she or her staff had leaked the letter. The Intercept, which first reported the allegation, has also denied Ms Feinstein's office was its source.
Earlier on Saturday, before leaving for the rally, Mr Trump struck an optimistic tone about Mr Kavanaugh's confirmation, saying an FBI investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against him that the White House and the Republican Party previously resisted could be a "blessing in disguise".
"Having the FBI go out and do a thorough investigation, whether it's three days or seven days - I think it's going to be less than a week - having them do a thorough investigation, I actually think it will be a blessing in disguise. It will be a good thing," he said.
Mr Trump also contradicted news reports suggesting the investigation would be limited in scope, at the White House's request. "They have free rein," he said of investigators. "They can do whatever they have to do, whatever it is that they do." He added: "And hopefully at the conclusion, everything will be fine."
A second woman who has accused Mr Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct will also be interviewed by FBI agents as part of the probe, her lawyer, Mr John Clune, said on Saturday. Ms Deborah Ramirez alleges that Mr Kavanaugh exposed his penis to her during a drunken party at a Yale University dormitory when they were undergraduates. Mr Kavanaugh denies both Dr Ford's and Ms Ramirez's allegations.
At the rally, Mr Trump framed the resistance to Mr Kavanaugh's nomination in partisan terms, despite Senator Jeff Flake and two other Republican senators forcing the FBI probe.
While Mr Trump has said the process should play out, he has also repeatedly suggested a failure to confirm that Mr Kavanaugh would be a shame. He praised Mr Kavanaugh's angry and defiant testimony last Thursday, which followed Dr Ford's appearance before the Senate Judiciary committee.
"On Thursday, the American people saw the brilliant and really incredible character, quality and courage of our nominee for the United States Supreme Court, Judge Brett Kavanaugh," Mr Trump said. "A vote for Judge Kavanaugh is also a vote to reject the ruthless and outrageous tactics of the Democrat Party."
Last Friday, Mr Trump ordered a one-week delay in a vote on Mr Kavanaugh so that the FBI could investigate the sexual misconduct claims. The probe, which the Republican Party had resisted, was forced by Senator Flake's last-minute decision to withhold his previously expressed support for Mr Kavanaugh.
This was Mr Trump's second trip to West Virginia in as many months in support of state Attorney-General Patrick Morrisey, who trails incumbent Democratic Senator Joe Manchin III in most polls. The US leader has frequented West Virginia, which is the closest strongly pro-Trump state to Washington, throughout his presidency.
A RealClearPolitics average of polls has Mr Manchin ahead by just over nine points, but Republicans hope the state's conservative lean will narrow the gap in the weeks to come.
Mr Trump on Saturday night also continued to fight back against the perception that world leaders diminished him last week by laughing at his claims of success at the United Nations General Assembly.
"Everybody is respecting us again," he said. "I just left the United Nations. Believe me: They respect us."
WASHINGTON POST, REUTERS