Maine Sen. Susan Collins said she was “appalled” by President Trump’s tweets Friday morning that criticized Christine Blasey Ford for not coming forward sooner with her allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Speaking at an event in Portland, Collins appeared to offer support for Ford, who has said Kavanaugh tried to sexually assault her 36 years ago, when they were both in high school.

The senator stopped short, though, of saying whether she believed Ford’s explosive allegations.

“I was appalled by the president’s tweet,” Collins said. “First of all, we know that allegations of sexual assault – I’m not saying that’s what happened in this case – but we know allegations of sexual assault are one of the most unreported crimes that exist. So I thought that the president’s tweet was completely inappropriate and wrong.”

Trump tweeted that if Ford thought what happened to her years ago was “as bad as she says,” she should have alerted law enforcement. He then reiterated his support for Kavanaugh, his pick to replace outgoing Justice Anthony Kennedy, saying Kavanaugh has an “impeccable reputation.”

The allegations have thrown Kavanaugh’s confirmation into chaos at the last minute, as Republicans face increasing pressure to get him confirmed before the midterm elections in November.

Collins said she still wants to hear from Ford directly, but also said members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is handling the confirmation, should be allowed to question her about the allegations. The committee chairman, Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa, has invited both Kavanaugh and Ford to testify before the committee on Monday. Ford, through her attorneys, has said she cannot appear Monday but could later in the week.

Sen. Susan Collins sits on a stage at The Cedars, a retirement community in Portland, during a groundbreaking ceremony for a new housing unit on Friday.

Grassley issued a deadline for negotiations on Friday night, saying the Judiciary Committee would vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination Monday if Ford’s attorneys didn’t reach an agreement by 10 p.m. on when she would testify before the committee.

Minutes before Grassley’s deadline, an attorney for Ford asked for another day to decide. Lawyer Debra Katz said the time limit’s “sole purpose is to bully Dr. Ford and deprive her of the ability to make a considered decision that has life-altering implications for her and her family.”

Collins said she would be comfortable allowing Ford to testify later in the week and said the committee should make reasonable accommodations to allow her to speak. Collins also said the committee should be able to use its discretion to structure the hearing as it sees fit, including using outside counsel, a step she called “not at all unusual.”

“I do think that both she and Judge Kavanaugh need to testify under oath, but I believe we should attempt to make this as comfortable a process for her as possible,” Collins said. “To me, Monday is the preferred date but I don’t see a problem with delaying to Wednesday or Thursday.”

Collins said, for her, hearing from Ford directly is critical.

“It’s very difficult to assess credibility if you don’t get to see the person or hear them and that’s what I want,” she explained.

Although Collins and some other possible swing votes have not indicated how they plan to vote when Kavanaugh’s confirmation is considered by the full Senate, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell seemed confident Friday that whether Ford testifies or not may not matter.

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine dumps dirt from an excavator bucket on Friday during a groundbreaking ceremony for a new housing unit at The Cedars, a retirement community in Portland. Afterward, Collins answered questions from reporters about President Trump’s Twitter remarks about Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination hearings.

“Here’s what I want to tell you,” McConnell said Friday morning at a summit for social conservatives, according to the Washington Post. “In the very near future, Judge Kavanaugh will be on the U.S. Supreme Court. So, my friends, keep the faith. Don’t get rattled by all this. We’re going to plow right through it and do our job.”

Collins was in Portland late Friday morning for an event at The Cedars, a senior living facility that is planning an expansion. After delivering remarks, the senator climbed into an excavator and scooped a pile of dirt to mark the symbolic start of that project.

Before the event, she was greeted by about 30 protesters who stood at the entrance with signs urging her to vote against Kavanaugh. In recent weeks, Collins has faced unrelenting pressure on her vote, including calls to her office, some of which have been threatening in nature.

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One of the protesters who stood outside Friday’s event, Kate Josephs of Damariscotta, said Collins needs to see and hear from her constituents.

“She’s one of only two Republican women (in the Senate) who can stop this,” Josephs said. “She has always said that she supports women. Well, this is her acid test.”

Asked if she had any reaction to the protesters, Collins said, “Not really.”

“I’ve had protesters at my house, I understand there is another protest scheduled at my house, at my offices. That seems to be the way that people want to express their views and they are welcome to do so,” she said. “I personally think that it’s far more constructive when someone sends me a well-thought-out email or a letter or call to my office. But people certainly have every right to protest, and they have certainly been exercising that right.”

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

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Twitter: PPHEricRussell

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