Justice Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Trump At Kavanaugh's Formal Swearing In: New Justice Was 'Proven Innocent'

October 08, 2018 - 8:22 am
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WASHINGTON (WCBS 880/AP) -- There were thunderous cheers at the White House Monday evening as President Donald Trump spoke for the formal swearing in of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh -- saying Kavanaugh had been humiliated but was proven innocent.

President Trump did address the allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh before swearing in the justice, saying Kavanaugh was subjected to “a campaign of personal and political destruction based on lies and deception.”

“What happened to the Kavanaugh family violates every notion of fairness, decency, and due process. Our country – a man or woman must always be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. And with that, I must state, that you sir, under historic scrutiny, were proven innocent,” Trump said.

Kavanaugh was then sworn in by Justice Anthony Kennedy, whom Kavanaugh is replacing in the Supreme Court and for whom he once clerked.

Kavanaugh himself spoke afterward, thanking Trump for the “great honor” of appointing him to the Supreme Court.

“I am grateful for your steadfast, unwavering support throughout this process, and I’m grateful to you and Mrs. Trump for the exceptional, overwhelming courtesy that you have extended to my family and me,” Kavanaugh said.

Kavanaugh added: “The Supreme Court is an institution of law. It is not a political or partisan institution.” He said he would “always be a team player on the team of nine.”

Of the Senate confirmation hearings, including the ones at which the sex assault allegations were addressed, Kavanaugh said: "The Senate confirmation process was contentious and emotional. That process is over. My focus now is to be the best justice I can be. I take this office with gratitude, and no bitterness."

The other eight justices were all in attendance for Monday's swearing-in, which is entirely ceremonial. Kavanaugh officially became a member of the high court Saturday. Kavanaugh already has been at the Supreme Court preparing for his first day on the bench Tuesday.

President Trump said earlier Monday that newly confirmed Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was "caught up in a hoax that was set up by the Democrats."

Trump said allegations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh were "all made up, it was fabricated and it's a disgrace."

Kavanaugh was accused by several women of sexual misconduct, including California professor Christine Blasey Ford, who testified under oath that he tried to assault her at a high school party decades ago. Kavanagh adamantly denied the allegations.

Trump had once said he found her testimony credible.

Trump said he thinks many Democrats will vote Republican in next month's midterm elections because they're angry about Kavanaugh's treatment.

Kavanaugh will officially take his place on the Supreme Court Tuesday.

“Tomorrow, Justice Brett Kavanaugh will take his seat on the far right end of the bench tomorrow morning at 10 o’clock as the court hears arguments in cases involving a federal sentencing statute. Justice Brett Kavanaugh… is now the junior-most justice. It will be his job to open and close the door when he and his new colleagues are in conference making decisions on the key cases of our time, and you know, that’s the story at the Supreme Court,” said CBS News White House Correspondent Steven Portnoy.

Republicans on Sunday were celebrating Kavanaugh’s confirmation in the face of staunch liberal opposition.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) said Kavanaugh's confirmation was a shining moment for the GOP heading into next month's pivotal elections.

However, GOP Gov. John Kasich of Ohio predicted "a good year" for Democrats and said he wonders about "the soul of our country" in the long term after the tumultuous hearings.

“Organizers and operatives of both parties believe that the last couple of weeks have energized both of their respective bases,” Portnoy said. “Republicans say that Republican voters are more energized and engaged now as a result of the process, and the top Senate Republican said yesterday that he believes his party’s chances of holding onto the Senate are greater now as a result of this process. Democrats, however, say that they’re equally engaged if not more so, and have been for a longer stretch of time, and that they’re confident that they’ll take control of at least the House and maybe even the Senate.”

McConnell, in two news show interviews, tried to distinguish between President Donald Trump's nomination of Kavanaugh this year and his own decision not to have the GOP-run Senate consider President Barack Obama's high court nominee, Merrick Garland, in 2016. McConnell called the current partisan divide a "low point," but he blamed Democrats.

"The Senate's not broken," said McConnell. "We didn't attack Merrick Garland's background and try to destroy him." He asserted that "we simply followed the tradition of America."

On “Face the Nation” Sunday, McConnell also said if Republicans control the Senate in 2020 and if Trump should nominate another Supreme Court justice in that same year, McConnell would move forward to confirm that justice – even in an election year – because his party would control the White House and the Senate.

Kavanaugh was confirmed on Saturday in a 50-48 vote, with one Republican senator voting “present” and another unable to attend.

The climactic vote was the closest vote to confirm a justice since 1881. It capped a fight that seized the national conversation after claims emerged that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted women three decades ago. Kavanaugh emphatically denied the allegations.

The accusations transformed the clash from a routine struggle over judicial ideology into an angry jumble of questions about victims' rights and personal attacks on nominees.

Ultimately, every Democrat voted against Kavanaugh except for Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

Accusations from several women remain under scrutiny, and House Democrats have pledged further investigation if they win the majority in November. Outside groups are culling an unusually long paper trail from his previous government and political work, with the National Archives and Records Administration expected to release a cache of millions of documents later this month.

Still, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Delaware) said he believed it would be premature for Democrats to talk about re-investigating Kavanaugh or a possible impeachment if the party takes control of the chamber in November, stressing a need to help heal the country.

"Frankly, we are just less than a month away from an election," Coons said. "Folks who feel very strongly one way or the other about the issues in front of us should get out and vote and participate."

Ilya Shapiro, editor in chief of the Cato Supreme Court Review, told WCBS 880’s Steve Scott and Joe Avellar that Kavanaugh will be going into the Supreme Court and will be in the thick of things right away.

As to the cases he’ll be hearing, Shapiro said: “The most interesting ones, or most of the most interesting ones, were actually heard this past week, and there are a number of key cases on property rights; on federal structure, where it looks like the justices are coming down four-to-four, so it really would have been handy to have that ninth justice. They might schedule them for re-argument now. But currently, the ones on the docket this week are mostly criminal justice cases; nothing too high-profile. The next thing is going to be a lot of business cases – again, not front-page stuff, and not anything on which necessarily Kavanaugh would be the deciding vote.”

But there will be some cases to come where a court with five conservatives will be significant.

“They need four votes to grant a case, and with five conservatives now, they’re going to be more willing to take up cases that otherwise they wouldn’t, like Second Amendment, like gerrymandering, the cross on public lands – certain stuff that you’ll definitely hear about it if they take it,” Shapiro said.

(© 2018 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report)