US Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh looks at his daughter Liza as his wife Ashley and daughter Margaret and US President Donald Trump look on, during his ceremonial public swearing-in at the White House on Monday. JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS
Trump hosts swearing-in of Supreme Court judge amid split
WASHINGTON－US President Donald Trump said on Monday that he was apologizing on behalf of the whole country to his new conservative Supreme Court justice after one of the most contentious confirmation processes in history of the United States.
At a White House swearing-in ceremony, Trump stood next to Justice Brett Kavanaugh and said he'd been "proven innocent" of the sexual assault allegations that threatened to derail him in a Senate confirmation process revealing the depth of the left-right split tearing through US politics.
"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," he said at the ceremony.
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".
But after being sworn in, Kavanaugh struck a markedly more conciliatory tone.
He told an audience that included the entire Supreme Court and a Who's Who of Republican movers and shakers that he had "no bitterness" and would never bring politics into the top court.
"The Supreme Court is a team of nine. And I will always be a team player on the team of nine. ... The Senate confirmation process was contentious and emotional. That process is over," he said.
The US Senate voted 50-48 on Saturday to confirm him, with just one Democrat supporting him.
Kavanaugh was scheduled to emerge on Tuesday morning from behind the courtroom's red velvet curtains and take his seat alongside his eight colleagues. Kavanaugh's predecessor, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who retired in June, was a more moderate conservative and sometimes sided with the court's four liberal justices.
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 two-year administration.
Fight for votes
It also came in the final run-up to midterm elections on Nov 6.
The president－whose Republicans fear losing at least the lower chamber of Congress－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. "I think you're going to see a lot of things happening on Nov 6."
Democrats had fought tooth and nail to stop Kavanaugh's candidacy, claiming that the conservative-minded judge was not suited to the Supreme Court.
Then, just as his confirmation seemed inevitable, 11th-hour allegations emerged that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted a 15-year-old girl while at high school and exposed himself to a female classmate at an alcohol-fueled dorm party at Yale University.
No concrete evidence was produced to back up the accusations, which Republicans described as a dirty tricks campaign.
After an extra FBI probe－which media reports say was drastically curtailed by the White House－also found nothing new, Kavanaugh was finally voted into the coveted post.
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.