Trump gets another chance to celebrate Kavanaugh at court ceremony

Posted at 10:27 AM, Nov 08, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-08 14:32:09-05

Justice Brett Kavanaugh repeated the judicial oath in the ornate chamber of the Supreme Court on Thursday before President Donald Trump and a roomful of supporters and government officials who were largely responsible for his confirmation.

The investiture was largely ceremonial and it came about a month after Kavanaugh first received the oath in private from Chief Justice John Roberts while critics stormed the plaza in front of the court outside in protest.

No cameras were allowed in the court and Kavanaugh did not appear with Roberts in front of the building for what has become a customary public photo session, with the court citing security concerns.

But Thursday was another chance for Trump and allies to celebrate their success in getting Kavanaugh on the bench, cementing a 5-4 conservative majority.

While his hearings triggered a nationwide debate about sexual misconduct that almost derailed his confirmation (Kavanaugh has denied all accusations against him), the dialogue in the country has now shifted to the results of the midterm elections and the future of the Mueller investigation. Kavanaugh, and his new colleagues have kept a low profile dealing with a docket of under the radar cases since his narrow Senate confirmation last month.

Kavanaugh’s confirmation, as tumultuous as it was, remains a high point for Trump who smiled broadly at one point on Thursday from the front row of the chamber. The President and First Lady sat next to retired Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy who watched as his former clerk took his place on the bench.

The President did not speak during the brief ceremony.

But Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, appointed by Trump Wednesday, took his place speaking briefly from the podium. Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions had been scheduled to attend the investiture and deliver Kavanaugh’s commission to the Court.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was not present Thursday. She remains in a Washington, DC, hospital recovering from a fall that resulted in three fractured ribs.

Also in the room was Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein whose future might also be in question. He sat next to former White House Counsel Donald McGahn who shepherded through Kavanaugh’s confirmation, as well as that of Justice Neil Gorsuch, despite a somewhat tumultuous relationship with the President.

Sitting near McGahn was Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-South Carolina.

Garland, Miers in attendance

On the other side of the court room sat Judge Merrick Garland whose nomination under the Obama administration was foiled when Republicans refused to hold hearings. Garland is the chief judge of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, where Kavanaugh served before joining the bench.

Also in the room was Harriet Miers, a former nominee who withdrew her nomination after attacks from conservative Republicans during the Bush administration.

And Leonard Leo, the Federalist Society vice president who has played a critical role in the President’s efforts to reshape the judiciary attended the event. Leo, working with McGahn, McConnell and Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, has been behind an unprecedented push to change the face of the courts.

Although retired Justice John Paul Stevens was present for Neil Gorsuch’s ceremony in 2017, he did not attend Kavanaugh’s investiture. That is perhaps because Stevens questioned Kavanaugh’s judicial temperament last month during a talk in Florida.

For the ceremony, Kavanaugh initially took a seat on a chair used by Chief Justice John Marshall, and then was led to his current seat on the bench. In the audience were Kavanaugh’s parents, his wife Ashley and his two daughters, Liza and Margaret.