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It was a mystery that left political reporters scratching their heads: Why was President Donald Trump being so restrained in his comments about Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her when they were high school students?

The president’s comments about the accusations were amazingly … presidential. As late as Thursday, he told a rally in Las Vegas: “Brett Kavanaugh — and I’m not saying anything about anybody else — but I want to tell you that Brett Kavanaugh is one of the finest human beings you will ever have the privilege of knowing or meeting.” He later added: “So we will let it play out, and I think everything is going to be just fine.”

That was then, this is now. On Friday morning Trump tweeted this:

“I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents. I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time, and place!”

That tweet came on the heels of another one in which Trump argued that both the judge and the president who nominated him were victims of “radical left wing politicians who don’t want to know the answers, they just want to destroy and delay.” He added, evidently with no self-awareness, “Facts don’t matter. I go through this with them every single day in D.C.”

By equating criticism of Kavanaugh with criticism of himself, Trump isn’t likely to help the nominee with senators who might be on the fence. But the tweet that took on Ford by name will do the real damage. Not only did Trump suggest that Ford’s allegation must be exaggerated because she didn’t report it at the time; he seemed to mock her family (“her loving parents”).

Of course, Kavanaugh has insisted that Ford’s allegation is not just exaggerated but utterly false. He has denied it “categorically and unequivocally.” But he hasn’t engaged in the sort of ridicule Trump has now displayed.

Nor have other figures in the administration. On Monday, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, saying she was speaking for Trump, said that Ford “should not be insulted and she should not be ignored.”

More: Details of Thursday hearing for Kavanaugh accuser to be set

More: AP FACT CHECK: Trump’s errant claims on Kavanaugh, economy

The president apparently now thinks differently. At a time when Kavanaugh’s nomination hangs by a thread — with negotiations continuing on whether Ford will testify next week before the Senate Judiciary Committee — Trump has intervened in a clumsy way that complicates his nominee’s confirmation prospects.

Unless this was a Machiavellian maneuver to signal that he wants to cut Kavanaugh loose, this was a stupid as well as an offensive move.

— Michael McGough is the Los Angeles Times’ senior editorial writer, based in Washington, D.C.

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