US President Donald Trump has hit out at female protesters who have confronted senators over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, labelling them “paid professionals only looking to make senators look bad”.
Mr Trump’s tweet came before a crucial Senate vote on Mr Kavanaugh, who stands accused of a high school-era sexual assault, which he denies.
Amid a national reckoning around gender roles and sexual consent, protesters have flooded the Capitol in recent days, with many women angrily addressing senators, some identifying themselves as sexual assault victims.
The president struck a more upbeat note after the Senate pushed Mr Kavanaugh past a key procedural hurdle, saying on Twitter that he was “very proud”.
As the Kavanaugh nomination has dragged out, protests – and direct lobbying – have grown.
An emotional exchange last week between Republican senator Jeff Flake and two women quickly went viral and appeared to contribute to Mr Flake’s demand that a vote be delayed by a week for an FBI background investigation.
On Thursday several women approached Republican senator Orrin Hatch near Capitol lifts to ask why he was backing Mr Kavanaugh.
Mr Hatch told them to “grow up”.
Democrat Joe Manchin was also confronted.
“How do you know how I’m going to vote?” the senator responded after criticism from a protester.
All three voted to push the nomination through.
Taking on the protesters directly, Mr Trump said in Friday’s tweet: “Don’t fall for it!”
After initially saying that Mr Kavanaugh’s accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, should be heard and speaking cautiously, Mr Trump has grown increasingly frustrated.
Placing himself firmly against the MeToo moment, he has warned that this process could lead to false accusations against men and mocked Ms Ford’s emotional testimony.
Mr Trump has vigorously defended Mr Kavanaugh, who denies the allegations against him.
Other Republicans have echoed Mr Trump’s frustration.
On Fox And Friends, Republican senator Chuck Grassley said the protests were “a reflection of the incivility of American society generally”.
He added: “I think it’s also evidence that people will go to any lengths when they are encouraged by people on Capitol Hill.”
Some of the women protesting are members of or paid staffers for activist groups.
Ana Maria Archila, one of the two women who confronted Mr Flake, is co-executive director of the non-profit Centre for Popular Democracy Action.
She said that if Mr Trump “wants to say I have a job where I advocate for justice, he is right”.
Ms Archila said: “This is what he does, he’s a bully. But you know what? I am standing next to thousands and thousands and thousands of women who are feeling incredibly powerful in this moment and I am not afraid.”