Ka­vanaugh sworn to high court after ran­corous con­fir­ma­tion

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - By ALAN FRAM, LISA MASCARO & MATTHEW DALY As­so­ci­ated Press writ­ers Mary Clare Jalonick, Pad­mananda Rama, Ken Thomas, Cather­ine Lucey, Juliet Lin­der­man and Mark Sher­man con­trib­uted to this re­port.

WASH­ING­TON (AP) — Brett Ka­vanaugh was sworn in Satur­day night as the 114th jus­tice of the U.S. Supreme Court, after a wrench­ing de­bate over sex­ual mis­con­duct and ju­di­cial tem­per­a­ment that shat­tered the Se­nate, cap­ti­vated the na­tion and ush­ered in an ac­ri­mo­nious new level of po­lar­iza­tion — now en­croach­ing on the court that the 53-year-old judge may well swing right­ward for decades to come.

Even as Ka­vanaugh took his oath of of­fice in a quiet pri­vate cer­e­mony, not long after the nar­row­est Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion in nearly a cen­tury and a half, protesters chanted out­side the court build­ing across the street from the Capi­tol.

The cli­mac­tic 50-48 roll call capped a fight that seized the na­tional con­ver­sa­tion after claims emerged that he had sex­u­ally as­saulted women three decades ago — al­le­ga­tions he em­phat­i­cally de­nied. Those ac­cu­sa­tions trans­formed the clash from a rou­tine strug­gle over ju­di­cial ide­ol­ogy into an an­gry jum­ble of ques­tions about vic­tims’ rights, the pre­sump­tion of in­no­cence and per­sonal at­tacks on nom­i­nees.

His con­fir­ma­tion pro­vides a defin­ing ac­com­plish­ment for Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and the Re­pub­li­can Party, which found a uni­fy­ing force in the cause of putting a new con­ser­va­tive ma­jor­ity on the court. Be­fore the sex­ual ac­cu­sa­tions grabbed the Se­nate’s and the na­tion’s at­ten­tion, Democrats had ar­gued that Ka­vanaugh’s rul­ings and writ­ings as an ap­peals court judge had raised se­ri­ous con­cerns about his views on abor­tion rights and a pres­i­dent’s right to bat away le­gal probes.

Trump, fly­ing to Kan­sas for a po­lit­i­cal rally, flashed a thumbs-up ges­ture when the tally was an­nounced and praised Ka­vanaugh for be­ing “able to with­stand this hor­ri­ble, hor­ri­ble at­tack by the Democrats.” He later tele­phoned his con­grat­u­la­tions to the new jus­tice, then at the rally re­turned to his own at­tack on the Democrats as “an an­gry left-wing mob.”

Like Trump, se­na­tors at the Capi­tol pre­dicted vot­ers would re­act strongly by de­feat­ing the other party’s can­di­dates in next month’s con­gres­sional elec­tions.

“It’s turned our base on fire,” de­clared Se­nate Re­pub­li­can leader Mitch Mc­Connell of Ken­tucky. But Demo­cratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York fore­cast gains for his party in­stead: “Change must come from where change in Amer­ica al­ways be­gins: the bal­lot box.”

The jus­tices them­selves made a quiet show of sol­i­dar­ity. Ka­vanaugh was sworn in by Chief Jus­tice John Roberts and the man he’s re­plac­ing, re­tired Jus­tice An­thony Kennedy, as fel­low Jus­tices Sa­muel Al­ito, Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Gins­burg and Elena Ka­gan looked on — two con­ser­va­tives and two lib­er­als.

Still, Ka­gan noted the night be­fore that Kennedy has been “a per­son who found the cen­ter” and ‘it’s not so clear we’ll have that’ now.

Noisy to the end, the Se­nate bat­tle fea­tured a call of the roll that was in­ter­rupted sev­eral times by protesters shout­ing in the spec­ta­tors’ gallery be­fore Capi­tol Po­lice re­moved them. Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence presided, his po­ten­tial tie-break­ing vote un­nec­es­sary.

Trump has now put his stamp on the court with his sec­ond jus­tice in as many years. Yet Ka­vanaugh is join­ing un­der a cloud. Ac­cu­sa­tions from sev­eral women re­main un­der scru­tiny, and House Democrats have pledged fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion if they win the ma­jor­ity in Novem­ber. Out­side groups are culling an un­usu­ally long pa­per trail from his pre­vi­ous govern­ment and po­lit­i­cal work, with the Na­tional Archives and Records Ad­min­is­tra­tion ex­pected to re­lease a cache of mil­lions of doc­u­ments later this month.

Ka­vanaugh, a fa­ther of two, stren­u­ously de­nied the al­le­ga­tions of Chris­tine Blasey Ford, who says he sex­u­ally as­saulted her when they were teens. An ap­pel­late court judge on the District of Co­lum­bia cir­cuit for the past 12 years, he pushed for the Se­nate vote as hard as Re­pub­li­can lead­ers — not just to reach this cap­stone of his le­gal ca­reer, but in fight­ing to clear his name

After Ford’s al­le­ga­tions, Democrats and their al­lies be­came en­gaged as sel­dom be­fore, though there were ob­vi­ous echoes of Thomas’ com­bat­ive con­fir­ma­tion over the sex­ual ha­rass­ment ac­cu­sa­tions of Anita Hill, who worked for him at two fed­eral agen­cies. Protesters be­gan swarm­ing Capi­tol Hill, cre­at­ing a tense, con­fronta­tional at­mos­phere that put Capi­tol Po­lice on edge.

As ex­hausted se­na­tors pre­pared for Satur­day’s vote, some were flanked by se­cu­rity guards. Hangers and worse have been de­liv­ered to their of­fices, a Roe v. Wade ref­er­ence.

Some 164 peo­ple were ar­rested, most for demon­strat­ing on the Capi­tol steps, 14 for dis­rupt­ing the Se­nate’s roll call vote.

Mc­Connell told The As­so­ci­ated Press in an in­ter­view that the “mob” of op­po­si­tion — con­fronting se­na­tors in the hall­ways and at their homes — united his nar­rowly di­vided GOP ma­jor­ity as Ka­vanaugh’s con­fir­ma­tion teetered and will give mo­men­tum to his party chances this fall.

Be­yond the sex­ual mis­con­duct al­le­ga­tions, Democrats raised ques­tions about Ka­vanaugh’s tem­per­a­ment and im­par­tial­ity after he de­liv­ered de­fi­ant, emo­tional, tes­ti­mony to the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee where he de­nounced their party.

Schumer said Ka­vanaugh’s “par­ti­san screed” showed not only a tem­per­a­ment un­fit­ting for the high court but a lack of ob­jec­tiv­ity that should make him in­el­i­gi­ble to serve. At one point in the hear­ing, Ka­vanaugh blamed a Clin­ton-re­venge con­spir­acy for the ac­cu­sa­tions against him.

The fight ended up less about ju­di­cial views than the sex­ual as­sault ac­cu­sa­tions that riv­eted the na­tion and are cer­tain to con­tinue a na­tional de­bate and #MeToo reck­on­ing that is yet to be re­solved.

Repub­li­cans ar­gued that a sup­ple­men­tal FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­sti­gated by wa­ver­ing GOP se­na­tors and or­dered by the White House turned up no cor­rob­o­rat­ing wit­nesses to the claims and that Ka­vanaugh had ster­ling cre­den­tials for the court. Democrats dis­missed the trun­cated re­port as in­suf­fi­cient.

In the end, all but one Re­pub­li­can, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, lined up be­hind the judge. She said on the Se­nate floor late Fri­day that Ka­vanaugh is “a good man” but his “ap­pear­ance of im­pro­pri­ety has be­come un­avoid­able.”

In a twist, Murkowski voted “present” Satur­day as a cour­tesy to Re­pub­li­can Ka­vanaugh sup­porter Steve Daines, who was to walk his daugh­ter down the aisle at her wed­ding in Mon­tana. That bal­anced out the ab­sence with­out af­fect­ing the out­come, and gave Ka­vanaugh the same two-vote mar­gin he’d have re­ceived had both law­mak­ers voted.

It was the clos­est roll call to con­firm a jus­tice since 1881, when Stan­ley Matthews was ap­proved by 24-23, ac­cord­ing to Se­nate records.

As the Se­nate tried to re­cover from its charged at­mos­phere, Murkowski’s move of­fered a mo­ment of ci­vil­ity. “I do hope that it re­minds us that we can take very small steps to be gra­cious with one an­other and maybe those small gra­cious steps can lead to more,” she said.

Repub­li­cans con­trol the Se­nate by a mea­ger 51-49 mar­gin, and an­nounce­ments of sup­port Fri­day from Repub­li­cans Jeff Flake of Ari­zona and Su­san Collins of Maine, along with Demo­crat Joe Manchin of West Vir­ginia, locked in the needed votes.

FRED SCHILLING/COL­LEC­TION OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES VIA AP

Re­tired Jus­tice An­thony M. Kennedy, right, ad­min­is­ters the Ju­di­cial Oath to Judge Brett Ka­vanaugh in the Jus­tices’ Con­fer­ence Room of the Supreme Court Build­ing. Ash­ley Ka­vanaugh holds the Bi­ble. At left are their daugh­ters, Mar­garet, back­ground, and Liza.

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