US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that allegations of sexual misconduct against his US Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, showed that "it's a very scary time for young men in America" who now may be presumed guilty even when innocent.
Five days after an extraordinary Senate hearing watched by millions of people in which university professor Christine Blasey Ford detailed her sexual assault allegation against Kavanaugh, Trump raised the issue of false accusations against men.
WH not 'micromanaging' FBI probe
"My whole life, I've heard you're innocent until proven guilty. But now, you're guilty until proven innocent. That is a very, very difficult standard," Trump said outside the White House.
"Well, I say that 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."
The fight over Kavanaugh's nomination to a lifetime job on the top US court comes against the backdrop of the #MeToo movement fighting sexual harassment and assault that has toppled a succession of powerful men.
Under pressure from Democrats and moderate Republican Senator Jeff Flake, Trump on Friday ordered an FBI investigation lasting up to a week into the allegations against his nominee.
He told reporters on Tuesday he thought the conservative federal appeals court judge would win Senate confirmation once the FBI finishes its investigation.
The nomination has become a politically explosive issue ahead of November 6 elections, when control of Congress is at stake.
Some Republicans fear pushing ahead with Kavanaugh's confirmation could alienate women voters, while Democrats are seeking to capitalize on the controversy.
Trump, who was himself accused during the 2016 presidential race of sexual misconduct with numerous women, tried to link the allegations against Kavanaugh to what he said was a broader problem.
"What's happening here has much more to do than even the appointment of a Supreme Court justice. It really does. You could be somebody that was perfect your entire life, and somebody could accuse you of something. It doesn't necessarily have to be a woman," Trump said.
Republicans control the Senate by a 51-49 margin. That means if all the Democrats vote against Kavanaugh, Trump could not afford to have more than one Republican oppose his nominee, with Vice President Mike Pence casting a tie-breaking vote.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said each senator would get a copy of the FBI's report on its investigation. "But here's what we know ... one thing for sure. The Senate will vote on Judge Kavanaugh here, on this floor, this week," McConnell told the chamber.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, the Judiciary Committee's top Democrat, said a Friday vote on Kavanaugh would not give senators enough time to evaluate the FBI probe.
Ford's lawyers said on Tuesday she had offered her full cooperation with the FBI in its investigation but had received no reply.
"It is inconceivable that the FBI could conduct a thorough investigation of Dr. Ford's allegations without interviewing her, Judge Kavanaugh, or the witnesses we have identified in our letters to you," the lawyers said in their letter to FBI director Christopher Wray.
A person familiar with the matter said the FBI questioned Deborah Ramirez, who has said Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a party when both were Yale University students. She was questioned for more than two hours on Sunday and provided the FBI with a list of over 20 possible witnesses, the person said.
The FBI was also due to question Leland Keyser and PJ Smyth, two people who Ford said were at the gathering of teenagers where Kavanaugh allegedly assaulted her.
A third woman who has accused the judge of sexual misconduct in the 1980s, Julie Swetnick, was not on the initial list of witnesses to be interviewed.