WHITE HOUSE — The newest member of the United States Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, after a bruising confirmation process in the Senate that bitterly divided the nation, is vowing to hear every case with respect and an open mind.
“Every American can be assured that I will be an independent and impartial justice,” Kavanaugh said in the White House East Room after a ceremonial swearing-in ahead of his first day on the bench Tuesday.
The other eight members of the highest court, a number of Republican senators crucial to the confirmation process and President Donald Trump watched Monday as retired Justice Anthony Kennedy administered the judicial oath to Kavanaugh.
“The Senate confirmation process was contentious and emotional. That is now over,” declared Kavanaugh.
Kavanaugh added that the Supreme Court “is not a partisan or political institution,” promising to “always be a team player on a team of nine.”
Kavanaugh also announced that all four of his law clerks will be women — “a first in the history of the Supreme Court.”
Minutes earlier, Trump alluded to the fierce Democratic Party opposition to the federal circuit court judge he had nominated to the bench who was accused of sexual misconduct in his youth.
The allegation by Christine Blasey Ford, now a university professor in California, nearly derailed Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Kavanaugh denied the accusation.
“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,” Trump said. “You, sir, under historic scrutiny, were proven innocent.”
The FBI probe into the allegations was not a criminal investigation, however, and its report offered no conclusion of guilt or innocence.
Kavanaugh was officially sworn in Saturday, just after the Senate narrowly confirmed him by a vote of 50-48, to the lifetime seat on the country’s highest court.
Hours before Monday evening’s White House event, Trump accused opposition Democrats of already plotting to remove Kavanaugh from the bench.
Kavanaugh was “caught up in a hoax set up by the Democrats,” Trump told reporters, without elaborating. “And now they want to impeach him.”
The president, speaking before boarding the Marine One helicopter on the White House south lawn, predicted the attack on Kavanaugh would cost the opposition party in next month’s midterm congressional elections.
“The American public has seen this charade, and it was a disgrace. And I think it’s really going to show you something come November 6,” when the midterms are held, Trump added.
Trump and his fellow Republicans are hoping the confirmation of the 53-year-old conservative jurist will energize their supporters in the midterm voting when political control of Congress is at stake.
The ranking member of the House judiciary committee, Jerry Nadler of New York, has said his party would investigate the sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh if the Democrats reclaim the majority in the chamber.
Cory Booker of New Jersey, who sits on the senate’s judiciary committee, was asked Sunday in Iowa by Yahoo News about the prospects of a Kavanaugh impeachment.
“The reality is, right now, Republicans control the House and the Senate, and there’s no way to do even an investigation unless we flip one of the houses,” replied Booker, a Democrat seen as a potential presidential candidate in 2020. “So, I think even before you start focusing on questions about his truthfulness before a Senate committee, you’ve got to focus on the urgency of the work over the next 30 days, and that’s where my focus is.”
Other prominent Democrats indicate they have no immediate intention of pursuing an impeachment of Kavanaugh.
Senator Chris Coons of Delaware called impeachment talk “premature,” while House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said it “would not be my plan” to impeach the justice.
Only one U.S. supreme court justice has ever been impeached — Samuel Chase, in 1804, who was acquitted by the Senate.
When Trump ran for the presidency in 2016, he vowed to appoint conservative judges to the Supreme Court, disclosing a list of possible candidates. With Kavanaugh’s ascent to the nine-member high court, Trump now has filled two vacancies on the court from his list, including Neil Gorsuch last year.
Three weeks preceding the confirmation vote, Ford accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her at a suburban Washington house party more than three decades ago when both were teenagers.
“I thought it was one of the most disgraceful performances I’ve ever seen,” Trump said Monday of the Democrats’ fight against Kavanaugh, who replaces Kennedy, a conservative jurist who often cast the deciding swing vote on ideologically divisive issues, upholding abortion and gay rights and the use of affirmative action aiding racial minorities in college admissions.
Independent court analysts, however, predict Kavanaugh is likely to concur with more conservative interpretations of the law, given a solid 5-4 ideological edge on the court to those who lean to the right.