President Donald Trump apologized to Brett Kavanaugh and claimed that he was “proven innocent” of multiple sexual misconduct allegations during an elaborate swearing-in ceremony for the new Supreme Court justice.
“I would like to begin tonight’s proceeding differently than perhaps any other event of such magnitude,” Trump said Monday evening in the East Room of the White House, where he announced Kavanaugh’s nomination three months ago.
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“On behalf of our nation, I want to apologize to Brett and the entire Kavanaugh family for the terrible pain and suffering you have been forced to endure. Those who step forward to serve our country deserve a fair and dignified evaluation, not a campaign of personal and political destruction based on lies and deception,” Trump said. “What happened to the Kavanaugh family violates every notion of fairness, decency and due process. In our country, a man or a woman must always be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.”
Trump added: “And with that, I must state that you, sir, under historic scrutiny, were proven innocent.”
Those statements from the president were his second attempt of the day to discredit Kavanaugh’s accusers, including Christine Blasey Ford, who testified before lawmakers that the justice drunkenly attempted to force himself on her at a house party in suburban Maryland in the 1980s, when Kavanaugh was in high school.
Trump told reporters earlier Monday outside the White House that Kavanaugh’s nomination “was caught up in a hoax that was set up by the Democrats, using the Democrats’ lawyers.” He also said: “It was all made up, it was fabricated, and it’s a disgrace.”
But Monday evening, flanked by Kavanaugh and retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, the president emceed what amounted to a conservative victory party for the Senate Republicans who muscled a perpetually imperiled nomination across the finish line and seemingly willed the former federal judge’s confirmation into political reality.
“We are joined tonight by a leader who has never wavered in his support and devotion to the rule of law and to Brett Kavanaugh’s elevation,” Trump said of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “He’s worked very, very hard and he truly has done just an incredible and wonderful job for the American people.
“I think that’s the biggest hand he’s ever received,” Trump quipped, after urging McConnell to rise for a standing ovation. “They don’t get it, Mitch. You’re great. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.”
Trump went on to thank Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), as well as the other Republican members of that panel — including Jeff Flake of Arizona, whose insistence on an FBI investigation into the allegations against Kavanaugh threw his nomination battle into another week of limbo.
Trump also singled out for praise Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who cast the deciding vote last week in favor of Kavanaugh’s nomination following weeks of speculation as to whether she would break with her party’s rank-and-file and deny the president his second high court appointment.
“We are indebted to Sen. Susan Collins for her brave and eloquent speech, and her declaration that when passions are most inflamed, fairness is most in jeopardy,” Trump said. “How true, how true.”
After Kennedy administered the judicial oath to his former clerk, Kavanaugh turned to the president and thanked him for the White House’s backing throughout a confirmation fight marked by bitter partisan warfare.
“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 you have extended to my family and me,” Kavanaugh said. “Mr. President, thank you for everything.”
After thanking McConnell for his “leadership and stead resolve,” and Grassley for his “wisdom and fairness,” Kavanaugh invoked a quintet of lawmakers whose blessings helped ensure his political survival.
“I give special gratitude to Sens. Rob Portman, Susan Collins, Joe Manchin, Jon Kyl and Lindsey Graham,” he said. “They’re a credit to the country and the Senate. I’ll be forever grateful to each of them and to all the senators who carefully consider my nomination.”
Portman, an Ohio Republican who served alongside Kavanaugh in former President George W. Bush’s White House, introduced Kavanaugh at his first Senate confirmation hearing last month. Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, was one of the few red-state Democrats who ultimately rubber-stamped Kavanaugh’s nomination. Kyl, an Arizona Republican, acted as Kavanaugh’s “sherpa” as he first met with senators on Capitol Hill. And Graham, a South Carolina Republican who sits on the Judiciary Committee, emerged as Kavanaugh’s most aggressive congressional defender as the number of allegations against the justice increased.
On Monday, Kavanaugh sought to assuage critics who claimed he would be unsympathetic to women’s issues in his new job and argued that his emotional testimony before lawmakers two weeks ago was evidence of an unduly conservative political bent not befitting a Supreme Court justice.
Kavanaugh announced that he hired exclusively women to become his four new clerks — “a first in the history of the Supreme Court,” he said — and vowed to “always be a team player on the team of nine” that interpreted law at the highest level of America’s judicial system.
“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,” he said, adding: “Although the Senate confirmation process tested me, as it has tested others, it did not change me. My approach to judging remains the same.”