President Donald Trump took a prime-time victory lap on Monday night following the successful confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, proudly proclaiming that the man had been “proven innocent” after a “campaign of political and personal destruction based on lies and deception.”
“On behalf of our nation, I would like to apologize to Brett and his family for the terrible pain and suffering that you have been forced to endure,” Trump, standing in the East Room of the White House, said in the televised event. “Those who step forward to serve our country deserve a fair and dignified evaluation.”
The event was the third swearing-in ceremony for the nominee after a historically contentious confirmation battle following several allegations against the judge. Christine Blasey Ford’s bombshell interview with The Washington Post and her emotional testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee threatened to upend the nomination after she accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were both in high school.
The nomination went forward, and Kavanaugh was confirmed in a slim 50-48 vote on Saturday.
Trump chastised the bitter process during his opening remarks Monday as every sitting member of the Supreme Court and several Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), looked on. He once again cast doubt on the women’s claims, calling them “lies,” following up on assertions he made earlier in the day when he told reporters at the White House that Kavanaugh was “caught up in a hoax that was set up by the Democrats.”
“What happened to the Kavanaugh family violates every notion of fairness, decency and due process,” the president said in his remarks at the swearing in. “In our country, a man or a woman must always be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.”
Trump continued: “And with that I must state that you, sir, under historic scrutiny, were proven innocent.”
Kavanaugh himself sought to recast himself as an impartial, evenhanded judge devoted to the rule of law in his own remarks, a departure from his fiery testimony before lawmakers last week.
“The Senate confirmation process was contentious and emotional,” he said. “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. My goal is to be a great justice for all Americans.”
Kavanaugh also singled out several lawmakers for their work, including Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), whose last-minute support and blistering 45-minute speech on the Senate floor all but secured his confirmation.
Despite the heated fight, the judge moved to distance himself from political divisions and said he planned to work with his new colleagues to be an “umpire, a neutral and impartial decider who favors no side.”
“The Supreme Court is an institution of law. It is not a partisan or political institution,” he said. “The justices do not sit on opposite sides of an aisle; we do not caucus in separate rooms. The Supreme Court is a team of nine, and I will always be a team player.”