Trump calls Ford testimony ‘compelling;’ backs Kavanaugh

US President Donald Trump answers a question about US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. (Reuters)
Updated 29 September 2018

Trump calls Ford testimony ‘compelling;’ backs Kavanaugh

  • Trump missed hardly a moment of Thursday’s hearing, relying on DVRs to keep up on the hearing from his private office on Air Force One as he traveled from New York to Washington
  • White House officials believe Kavanaugh’s passionate denials of Ford’s claims, including the judge’s tearful description of the impact the accusations had on his family, met the challenge

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump says he found the testimony by a woman who said she was sexually assaulted by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh decades ago to be “very compelling,” but added that he’d given no consideration to the idea of nominating someone else.
“Not even a little bit,” Trump said Friday.
The president told reporters that Christine Blasey Ford “was a very credible witness” but also that Kavanaugh’s own testimony on Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee was “an incredible moment.”
Reiterating his support for Kavanaugh, Trump said, “I think it will work out very well for the country.”
The president also expressed confidence in the confirmation process as an 11th-hour demand from a key Republican senator again threatened to derail the timeline for a Senate vote.
“I’m going to let the Senate handle that, they’ll make their decisions and they’ve been doing a good job and very professional,” he said. “I’m sure it will all be very good.”
The White House had resisted calls for another investigation, as Kavanaugh denied allegations of sexual misconduct in fiery testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday. But the White House’s hand was forced Friday by announcement by Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake that he would not vote in Kavanaugh’s favor without a follow-on probe.
Trump said in a statement that the updated investigation “must be limited in scope” and “completed in less than one week.”
On Twitter later Friday, Trump wrote: “Just started, tonight, our 7th FBI investigation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh. He will someday be recognized as a truly great Justice of The United States Supreme Court!“
Trump missed hardly a moment of Thursday’s hearing, relying on DVRs to keep up on the hearing from his private office on Air Force One as he traveled from New York to Washington, and continuing to monitor it back at the White House, where Ford’s voice echoed from TVs around the building.
Within moments of the eight-hour proceedings concluding, Trump tweeted his approval of Kavanaugh’s performance and called on the Senate to move swiftly to a vote. “His testimony was powerful, honest, and riveting,” Trump said. “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!“
Ford’s tearful recounting of allegations that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were in high school led Trump to express sympathy for Kavanaugh and his family for having to listen to the testimony, according to two Republicans close to the White House but not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations. They added that Trump expressed some frustration at the process — and the staff work — that led Kavanaugh to this point.
After seeing Ford’s powerful testimony, White House aides and allies expressed concern that Kavanaugh, whose nomination already seemed to be teetering, would have difficulty to deliver a strong enough showing to match hers.
White House officials believe Kavanaugh’s passionate denials of Ford’s claims, including the judge’s tearful description of the impact the accusations had on his family, met the challenge. A White House official who was not authorized to speak publicly said the West Wing saw the judge’s opening statement as “game changing” and said Trump appeared to react positively.
Trump told associates after the hearing that he liked Kavanaugh’s fighting attitude and was critical of Democrats who he sees as politicizing the process, said a person familiar with his thinking who was not authorized to disclose private conversations. He was happy with Republicans on the committee, though he was not impressed with the questioning from an outside female prosecutor. While he acknowledges the vote will be close, he currently thinks they will get there.


South Korea to deploy anti-piracy unit to the Strait of Hormuz

Updated 22 January 2020

South Korea to deploy anti-piracy unit to the Strait of Hormuz

  • South Korea will not officially be joining a coalition of forces known as the International Maritime Security Construct

SEOUL: South Korea’s military said on Tuesday it plans to expand the deployment of an anti-piracy unit now operating off the coast of Africa to the area around the Strait of Hormuz, after the United States pressed for help in guarding oil tankers.
Attacks on oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz off the coast of Iran last year prompted US officials to call for allies to join a planned maritime security mission.
While South Korea, a key US ally, will deploy its forces to the area, including the Gulf, it will not officially be joining a coalition of forces known as the International Maritime Security Construct, the defense ministry said.
“The South Korean government decided to temporarily expand the deployment of the Cheonghae military unit,” a ministry official told reporters, adding that the step would ensure the safety of citizens and free navigation of South Korean vessels.
The decision to divert the navy unit already operating southwest of Arabia is a political compromise that will not require fresh authorization by parliament ahead of an election in April.
The Cheonghae unit will continue with its mission while it cooperates with the coalition, the ministry said, adding that the United States had been briefed on the decision, which was also explained to the Iranians separately.
The United States welcomes and appreciates South Korea’s decision to expand the mission of its Cheonghae anti-piracy unit to the Strait of Hormuz, William Coleman, spokesman for the US Embassy in Seoul, told Reuters on Wednesday.
“This decision is a demonstration of the strength of the US-ROK alliance and our commitment to cooperate on global security concerns.”
The Iranian embassy in Seoul had no comment on the matter.
The Strait of Hormuz is a busy passageway into the Gulf, with vessels sailing through it approximately 900 times a year for South Korea, which gets more than 70% of its oil from the Middle East, the defense ministry says.
Sending troops to the area has been a politically sensitive issue in South Korea ahead of the election.
A survey by pollster Realmeter last week showed 48.4% of South Koreans were opposed to dispatching soldiers to the Strait, while 40.3% supported the idea.
Tuesday’s move was broadly supported by lawmakers although some said it could risk Iran ties and the safety of South Koreans in the region. A number of progressive activist groups issued a statement criticizing the decision and said they will stage a protest in front of the president’s office on Wednesday.
The Cheonghae unit has been stationed in the Gulf of Aden since 2009, working to tackle piracy in partnership with African countries as well as the United States and the European Union.
The 302-strong unit operates a 4,500-ton destroyer, a Lynx anti-submarine helicopter and three speed boats, South Korea’s 2018 defense white paper showed.
Among its operations were the rescue of a South Korean ship and its crew in 2011, shooting eight suspected pirates and capturing five others in the incident.
The South Korean troops have also evacuated South Korean citizens from Libya and Yemen, and as of November 2018 had escorted around 18,750 South Korean and international vessels.
South Korea, the world’s fifth-largest crude oil importer and one of Iran’s major oil customers, stopped importing Iranian crude from May after waivers of US sanctions ended at the start of that month.