Brett Kavanaugh Confirmed, Sworn In As Supreme Court Justice
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United State Senate voted 50-48 to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the position of associate justice to the Supreme Court on Saturday. Vice President Mike Pence presided over the vote that got underway around 3:45 p.m. and was repeatedly interrupted by protesters opposed to Kavanaugh screaming from the Senate gallery.
Saturday’s vote ended a months long confirmation process that culminated in a painful national debate about sexual assault spurred and supported by the #MeToo movement. Despite accusations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh and a subsequent FBI background investigation, the GOP-controlled Senate had the votes to confirm the judge, filling the seat left behind by Anthony Kennedy.
“Following the Senate confirmation vote, the President called Judge Kavanaugh to congratulate him,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “The President also spoke to the Vice President, Sen. McConnell, and Speaker Ryan. The President signed Judge Kavanaughs commission on Air Force One.”
Kavanaugh was sworn in Saturday evening as protesters gathered around the country and in front of the steps of the Supreme Court.
Before the vote, about 100 anti-Kavanaugh protesters climbed the Capitol’s East Steps on Saturday as the vote approached, pumping fists and waving signs, and U.S. Capitol Police officers began arresting some of them. Hundreds of other demonstrators watched from behind barricades. Protesters have roamed Capitol Hill corridors and grounds daily, raising anxieties and underscoring the passions the nomination fight has aroused.
“November is coming,” ”Vote them out” and “We believe survivors,” they chanted.
In a statement, the American Civil Liberties Union said it was deeply disappointed in the outcome of the vote but thanked Dr. Christine Blasey Ford for her “act of civic bravery.” The ACLU had earlier taken the rare step of announcing its opposition to a Supreme Court nominee by coming out against Kavanaugh. The organization said its opposition was not based on predictions of how Kavanaugh would vote as a justice but rather due to the credible allegations of sexual assault made against him.
On Friday, the Senate voted 51-49 to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination for a final vote. On that vote, three key senators, Republicans Susan Collins of Maine, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia, voted yes to advance the nomination, but had indicated that the votes did not reflect their final intentions. Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, another key Republican, voted against moving the nomination ahead and was the sole Republican to not support Kavanaugh’s nomination. Soon after the cloture vote Friday, Flake, Manchin and Collins all said they would yes on Kavanaugh, ensuring that President Trump gets his second nominee to the Supreme Court.
Collins announced her final decision in a speech on the Senate floor Friday afternoon. She said she evaluated Kavanaugh’s judicial record on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and cited cases he had ruled on, explaining her reasoning in arriving at a yes vote.
The Maine Senator also lambasted the partisanship inserted into the confirmation process and the active role taken on by special interest groups in opposing Kavanaugh. She said the confirmation process has become so dysfunctional, “it looks more like a caricature of a gutter-level political campaign than a solemn occasion.”
When Collins voted “aye” in Saturday’s roll-call vote, protesters could be heard shouting “Shame on you.”
Similarly, after Manchin cast his vote, demonstrators shouted “Shame, shame.” The senator from West Virginia was the only Democrat to vote to confirm Kavanaugh.
Murkowksi, who had joined Collins and late Republican Sen. John McCain in voting against a Republican plan to repeal Obamacare last summer, gave a speech Friday night explaining why she would be voting no.
Crucial to her decision appeared to have been Kavanaugh’s temperament when he testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. His testimony came after Dr. Christine Blasey Ford told the committee that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers in the summer of 1982. Kavanaugh denied the allegations, delivering an angry opening statement and at times taking a sharp tone with senators questioning him.
Murkowski said that after Thursday’s hearing, “it was becoming clearer that that appearance of impropriety has become unavoidable.” She said that someone seeking a seat on the highest court in the land, “must meet the highest standard in all respects at all times and that is hard.”
The Alaska Senator voted “present” on Saturday as a courtesy to Kavanaugh supporter Sen. Steve Daines, a Republican from Montana, who is attending his daughter’s wedding in Montana. That procedure lets a senator offset another’s absence without affecting the outcome, and will allow Kavanaugh to win by the same two-vote margin he’d have received had both lawmakers voted.
Kavanaugh’s nomination to the court hit a roadblock when it was reported by The Intercept that California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, was withholding a document from other Democrats on the committee. The Intercept report said the document was a letter from one of Feinstein’s constituents who was being represented by a prominent #MeToo attorney. The woman who wrote the letter, identified as Ford, later came forward and told her story to The Washington Post.
Ford alleged that Kavanaugh and his friend, Mark Judge, cornered her in a suburban Maryland home in the summer of 1982. She told the Senate Judiciary Committee she believed that Kavanaugh was going to rape her that day. Ford said she had spent almost every day that summer swimming and practicing diving at the Columbia County Club in Chevy Chase, Maryland, and one evening attended a small gathering at a nearby house.
At the gathering, Ford says she went up a set of stairs to use the bathroom when she was pushed from behind into a bedroom. While she said she didn’t see who pushed her, Kavanaugh and his friend, Mark Judge, entered the room and locked the door behind them, she said, adding the two were “visibly drunk.”
Ford recounted that she was pushed onto a bed, where she said Kavanaugh groped her and tried to take off her clothes. In her testimony, Ford said what terrified her the most was when Kavanaugh put his hand over her mouth as she screamed.
“This was what terrified me the most, and has the most lasting impact on my life,” she said.
Ford said she was able to get away when Judge jumped on them at one point, sending all three tumbling to the ground.
After the emotional hearing, the judiciary committee voted to advance the nomination to the full Senate but Jeff Flake called for a one-week delay in the final vote, pending an FBI investigation. The investigation, which reports (including in The New York Times) say appeared to have been curtailed was completed and Senators viewed the findings on Thursday. The FBI said it had not unearthed any evidence to corroborate Ford’s allegations, as well as those made by a second woman, Deborah Ramirez, a classmate of Kavanaugh’s from Yale University who accused him of shoving his penis in her face at a college party.
Citing Ford’s allegations against Kavanaugh, Collins said in her speech that the presumption of innocence and fairness bear on her thinking. Collins said she found Ford’s testimony to be “sincere, painful and compelling” and she believes she is a survivor of sexual assault. However, Collins added that witnesses named by Ford could not corroborate her account of the alleged assault. She said she believes Ford was assaulted that night but the evidence put forward does not meet the “more likely than not” standard to prove the allegations.
In a statement, Ford’s attorneys disputed a number of claims that have been made leading up to the vote. In the statement released Friday night, the attorneys said the FBI investigation was not meaningful since neither Ford nor Kavanaugh were interviewed. Her team said they would have been happy to provide medical records and other corroborating evidence to the FBI and the assertion that Ford is lacking in credibility because she failed to provide medical records to the committee is false. The attorneys said they had lost confidence in the committee’s ability or desire to maintain confidentiality of the documents they provided.
In a statement through her lawyers, Ramirez says the Senate is “looking the other way” when it comes to her accusation that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh exposed himself to her when they were students at Yale.
The statement said that the FBI refused to speak to witnesses who could corroborate her story. She says senators are “deliberately ignoring” Kavanaugh’s behavior.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Photo: Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and his daughter Liza depart their home in Chevy Chase, Md., enroute to his swearing-in ceremony for the Supreme Court, Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018. Photo by Cliff Owen/Associated Press