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‘I apologise on behalf of nation’: Donald Trump to US Supreme Court judge Brett Kavanaugh

At a White House swearing-in ceremony, US President Donald Trump stood next to Brett Kavanaugh and said he’d been “proven innocent” of the sexual assault allegations.

world Updated: Oct 09, 2018 22:15 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Donald Trump,Supreme Court,Brett Kavanaugh
Brett Kavanaugh (L) is sworn in as associate justice of the US Supreme Court as President Donald Trump and the Kavanaugh family looks on.(AFP)

US president Donald Trump swore in Brett Kavanaugh as the ninth justice on the Supreme Court with an apology for what he was made to go through during his confirmation, but the new justice seemed to have moved on as he vowed to be a “great justice for all Americans and for all of America”.

Kavanaugh said the confirmation process was “contentious” and though it tested him, it “did not change me”.

With his family standing by with the president, he said at a White House event on Monday, “My focus now is to be the best justice I can be. I take this office with gratitude and no bitterness. On the Supreme Court, I will seek to be a force for stability and unity. My goal is to be a great justice for all Americans and for all of America. I will work very hard to achieve that goal.”

But President Trump would not let go of it, as Republicans prepare to use the issue to rally voters for the mid-term election at which control of both chambers of US congress is at stake. “I would like to begin tonight’s proceeding differently,” he said at the start of his speech. “On behalf of our nation, I want to apologise to Brett and the entire Kavanaugh family for the terrible pain and suffering you have been forced to endure.”

Kavanaugh’s confirmation process was roiled in the last stages by allegations of sexual assault and misconduct levelled by at least two women. He denied them forcefully in an unusual TV interview at first, and then, in an angry and emotional deposition before a Senate committee that also heard one the accusers, Christine Blasey Ford.

Cleared by an FBI investigation, which Democrats criticised as limited in scope and incomplete, Kavanaugh was confirmed by the narrowest of margin by the Senate in a vote mostly along party lines.

Trump showed he still considers the nomination row a political battle. Before the ceremony, he’d described opposition Democrats as “evil” and the sexual assault claims as a “hoax”.

Fight for votes

Trump sees his success in getting Kavanaugh onto the court — tilting the crucial body to the right for potentially years to come — as one of the major successes of his turbulent two-year administration.

The president — whose Republicans fear losing at least the lower chamber of Congress in the mid-terms on November 6— predicted that Democrats would pay for their attempts to block the confirmation, especially during the lurid debate over decades-old sexual assault allegations.

“I think a lot of Democrats are going to vote Republican,” he said in his earlier comments outside the White House. “I think you’re going to see a lot of things happening on November 6.”

Democrats had fought tooth and nail to stop Kavanaugh’s candidacy, claiming that the accomplished, conservative-minded judge was not suited to the Supreme Court.

Kavanaugh officially took the oath in a more hurried, private procedure on Saturday, but the White House version on Monday gave the Trump administration to perform the equivalent of a victory lap on live television.

Lighting a match

Trump has repeatedly said that putting conservatives on the court -- Kavanaugh is his second appointment -- was among the top goals of his presidency. “I’ve always been told it’s the biggest thing a president can do and I can understand that,” he said.

He called the Kavanaugh row “a disgraceful situation brought about by people who are evil,” and said that the result was “very exciting”. “I’m doing rallies and people are loving that man and loving that choice,” he said.

The two-vote margin of victory in the Senate made it the closest Supreme Court confirmation vote since 1881 — and by far the most contentious since Clarence Thomas in 1991. Only one Democrat voted for Trump’s nominee.

(With inputs from agencies)

First Published: Oct 09, 2018 08:49 IST