Donald Trump apologises to Kavanaugh for his ‘incredible pain’, says he was ‘proven innocent’
Trump said that the new Supreme Court judge was ‘proven innocent’ while under ‘historic scrutiny’, although a week-long FBI investigation into historical sexual assault claims did not come to any conclusions
US President Donald Trump apologised to Brett Kavanaugh on Monday for the bitter battle over his confirmation to the Supreme Court and declared him “innocent” of the sexual assault allegations that nearly derailed his nomination.
“I want to apologise to Brett and the entire Kavanaugh family for the incredible pain you have been forced to endure,” Trump said during a ceremonial swearing-in at the White House. “You sir, under historic scrutiny, were proven innocent.”
Kavanaugh, acknowledging the “contentious and emotional” fight over his confirmation, said he had “no bitterness” and promised to “always be a team player on the team of nine”.
Retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, whom Kavanaugh once clerked for and whose place he has taken on the court, then administered the oath of office with Trump standing by them.
Kavanaugh’s installation cements the strongest Supreme Court conservative majority since the New Deal, delivering on a decades-long ambition of the American right.
It comes just in time to motivate evangelicals and social conservatives to turn out to vote in November elections that will determine control of Congress.
Trump has spent the past few days relishing Kavanaugh’s confirmation, which appeared in doubt as recently as a week ago after three women made sexual assault allegations against him.
At a speech in Florida earlier on Monday, Trump denounced the accusations against his nominee as “a hoax” perpetrated “by people that are evil”.
All eight of the Supreme Court’s other justices attended the White House ceremony, a show of collegiality by members of an ideologically divided court. Kavanaugh was joined at the ceremony by his wife and two daughters.
Kavanaugh will take the bench on the Supreme Court for the first time on Tuesday. The court will hear arguments in two previously little-noticed cases involving the Armed Career Criminal Act, a federal law that imposes heightened penalties on people who repeatedly commit serious crimes.
The White House event was purely ceremonial. Kavanaugh took the two required oaths privately at the court on Saturday, letting him begin work right away.
He has already hired four law clerks, all women, and is expected to be on the bench on Tuesday when the court hears arguments in two cases.
President Barack Obama’s two Supreme Court appointees, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, didn’t participate in oath ceremonies at the White House. They took their oaths at the court in ceremonies that were televised live.
In 2009 when Sotomayor was sworn in, administration officials said Obama wanted to forgo a White House oath as a sign of the new justice’s independence. The president later hosted a reception at the White House for Sotomayor, as he did a year later with Kagan.
Trump’s first Supreme Court appointee, Neil Gorsuch, also took part in a White House oath ceremony.
Earlier on Monday, Trump said that it was “an insult to the American public” for Democrats to consider impeaching Kavanaugh and predicted that Republicans would benefit at the polls following the chaotic confirmation process.
Trump lauded Kavanaugh as a “brilliant jurist” and blamed Democrats for the focus on decades-old allegations of sexual misconduct that dominated debate in the weeks before the nominee’s Senate confirmation, which was held on Saturday.
“The way they really tortured him and his family, I thought it was a disgrace,” Trump said. “A brilliant jurist, a man that did nothing wrong, a man that was caught up in a hoax that was set up by the Democrats using the Democrats’ lawyers, and now they want to impeach him.”
While liberal activists have called for impeaching Kavanaugh, many Democratic lawmakers have tried to tamp down such talk in recent days.
“I think that’s premature,” Senator Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday.
“I think, frankly, we are just less than a month away from an election. Folks who feel very strongly one way or the other about the issues in front of us should get out and vote and participate.”
Even before the allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced, some Democrats questioned Kavanaugh’s truthfulness during his initial Senate confirmation hearing. “Untruthful testimony, under oath and on the record,” Senator Pat Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, said in a tweet.
More recently, Democrats have cast doubt on Kavanaugh’s account of his drinking while a teenager, an issue that came up repeatedly during a Senate hearing that included testimony from Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, who accused him of drunkenly assaulting her while they were in high school.
Untruthful testimony, under oath and on the record. https://t.co/ngXLaZ5Is1
— Sen. Patrick Leahy (@SenatorLeahy) September 8, 2018
Two other accusers stepped forward in the closing weeks of Kavanaugh’s confirmation process to allege that he had behaved inappropriately with them while in high school and college.
“It was all made up, it was fabricated, and it was a disgrace,” Trump said of the allegations of one of Kavanaugh’s other accusers.
Democrats have said that an FBI investigation into the allegations that Trump ordered was too limited in scope to be useful. Trump and Senate Republican leaders agreed to the FBI probe at the request of Republican senators whose support for Kavanaugh appeared to be wavering.
Trump predicted that Democrats would pay a price in the midterm elections.
“I think you’re going to see a lot of things happen on November 6 that would not have happened before,” he said. “The American public has seen this charade.”
“I think a lot of Democrats are going to vote Republican,” Trump added. “The main base of the Democrats have shifted so far left that we’ll end up being Venezuela. This country would end up being Venezuela.”
Speaking later on Monday at the National Press Club, House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican representing Wisconsin, said that based on his own travels over the past several days, he believes the Republican base “is very much activated” as a result of the Kavanaugh fight.
Ryan praised the speech that Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine gave on the Senate floor announcing her vote to confirm Kavanaugh.
He added that he wasn’t personally involved in speaking with Trump or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, on the issue of Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
Trump made his comments as he left the White House en route to an event with law enforcement officials in Florida, where he devoted a segment of his comments to Kavanaugh.
“When I decided on Brett, I said he’s flawless,” Trump told the annual convention of the International Association of Chiefs of Police in Orlando, Florida.
“He’s a flawless person. The best student, the best scholar, the great intellect, incredible record over many years, and yet he’s a young man. I said, ‘Brett, congratulations, this is going to be a piece of cake getting you confirmed.’”
Trump said that what followed was “a disgraceful situation brought about by people that are evil, and he toughed it out. We all toughed it out together.”