Trump Says George Soros Backs ‘Paid Professional’ Kavanaugh Protesters

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump claimed that demonstrators protesting against Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination at Senate office buildings are “paid professionals’ backed by billionaire investor George Soros.

“The very rude elevator screamers are paid professionals only looking to make Senators look bad,” Trump wrote in a tweet Friday. “Don’t fall for it! Also, look at all of the professionally made identical signs. Paid for by Soros and others. These are not signs made in the basement from love! #Troublemakers.”

Soros, whose philanthropy often advances liberal causes, has become a favorite villain of right-leaning conspiracy theorists around the world. The Fox New host Glenn Beck portrayed Soros in a series of television programs as a “puppet master” who wanted “to bring America to her knees, financially.”

Trump didn’t provide any evidence to back up his assertion. Michael Vachon, a spokesman for the billionaire, didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

U.S. Capitol Police say 302 people were arrested Thursday for protesting Kavanaugh’s nomination illegally inside Senate buildings. Actresses Amy Schumer and Emily Ratajkowski were reportedly among the demonstrators who were detained.

Last week, two women who said they were sexual assault victims confronted Senator Jeff Flake, the Arizona Republican, in a Senate elevator shortly before the Judiciary Committee was set to vote on advancing Kavanaugh’s nomination. The incident was partially credited for Flake’s decision to request an additional FBI investigation into the accusations against the nominee, delaying his final confirmation vote.

Other Republicans have been more dismissive when confronted by protesters, with fellow Judiciary Committee member Orrin Hatch of Utah waving off female demonstrators Thursday and telling them to "grow up."

The sexual assault survivor who confronted Flake, Ana Maria Archila, is co-executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy, an advocacy group that supports policies in favor of workers, immigrants, and racial and economic justice. She responded to Trump’s tweet in a statement Friday.

"No one can pay for someone’s lived experiences. The pain, the trauma, and the rage that I expressed when I spoke with Senator Jeff Flake in an elevator were my own, and I held it for more than 30 years to protect the people I love from it” she said. Trump is “trying to ignore the experiences of people in this country by discrediting individuals who dare to raise our voices and force elected officials to listen to our stories, to look us in the eye, to not turn away.”

Lia Weintraub, a spokeswoman for the Center for Popular Democracy, said the organization has received funding from Soros for its work but that “in no way compelled Ana’s actions.”

Trump’s comments echoed criticism of the protesters leveled earlier Friday by senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, who argued on Fox News that victims of sexual abuse should focus their efforts on confronting their attackers, rather than Republican lawmakers.

“Did they individually wrong these women?” Conway said. “They can’t be held responsible for whatever man or men have wronged these women.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, also criticized protesters during an appearance on Fox News. Grassley said the demonstrations were “a reflection of the incivility in American society generally” and criticized Democrats for encouraging those upset by the Kavanaugh allegations to confront GOP lawmakers.

“We as senators ought to be setting an example for civility, not encouraging incivility,” Grassley said.

Advocacy groups that support Kavanaugh have been outspending groups that oppose his nomination by more than two-to one on TV advertising, according to an Ad Age Datacenter analysis.

Protests continued in Washington on Friday, including a group gathered outside the Capitol Hill home of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell drinking beer from red plastic cups. The protesters repurposed a sea shanty to criticize Kavanaugh’s drinking habits, singling “What Do We Do With A Drunken Justice?” outside McConnell’s front door.

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