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Trump, Kavanaugh celebrate after brutal confirmation battle

Trump, Kavanaugh celebrate after brutal confirmation battle
© Greg Nash

President TrumpDonald John TrumpJoaquín Castro: Trump would be 'in court right now' if he weren't the president or 'privileged' Trump flubs speech location at criminal justice conference Comey reveals new details on Russia probe during House testimony MORE on Monday used the ceremonial swearing-in of Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughGraham vows to push Trump’s AG pick through Judiciary Committee Log Cabin Republicans leader 'not nervous' about conservative Supreme Court impacting LGBT rights Dem pollster says concerns over Kavanaugh were 'merit-based,' not about partisanship MORE to apologize for his brutal confirmation fight and proclaim him "innocent" of sexual misconduct allegations that nearly derailed his nomination. 

In a primetime event from the East Room of the White House, Trump said Kavanaugh and his family deserved the apology "for the terrible pain and suffering you have been forced to endure."

"You, sir, under historic scrutiny, were proven innocent," the president told the justice.

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Without detailing the allegations, Trump decried the "campaign of personal destruction" he said Democrats ran against Kavanaugh in order to keep him off the bench. 

“Those who step forward to serve our country deserve a fair and dignified evaluation, not a campaign of political and personal destruction based on lies and deception," he said. “What happened to the Kavanaugh family violates every notion of fairness, decency and due process. In our country, a man or woman must always be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.” 

Trump’s defense of Kavanaugh prompted applause from those in the room, including Justice Clarence Thomas, who was confirmed the court in 1991 in the face of sexual harassment allegations from Anita Hill, a former subordinate.

The bitter partisan battle over Kavanaugh's nomination turned into open warfare after multiple women came forward to accuse the judge of sexual misconduct. The judge forcefully denied the allegations during a contentious Senate hearing and he was eventually confirmed over intense objections from Democrats.

The divisive process prompted fears that the court's reputation as an institution free of political bias could take a hit. 

Kavanaugh sought to allay those concerns, saying he is taking the bench with "no bitterness" and pledged to be a "team player on a team of nine" despite the "contentious and emotional confirmation process."

“On the Supreme Court I will seek to be a force for stability and unity," the justice said. "My goal is to be a great justice for all Americans and for all of America."

Kavanaugh was officially sworn in at a private ceremony on Saturday, so Monday's event served as yet another opportunity for the television-conscious Trump to tout a signature achievement in front of a primetime audience. 

Retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, whom Kavanaugh is replacing and for whom he once clerked, administered the judicial oath to the new justice as his wife and two daughters looked on. Kavanaugh smiled and winked at members of his family as Trump introduced him before the oath was taken.

The other eight justices were all in attendance for the ceremony, as were top Republican senators and prominent conservative figures and Trump allies, such as Laura Ingraham, David Bossie, Matt Schlapp and the Federalist Society's Leonard Leo, who consulted with Trump on his selection of Kavanaugh. 

Kavanaugh's ascension to the Supreme Court cements its conservative majority, which has long been a goal on the right. 

Trump and Senate Majority Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump flubs speech location at criminal justice conference Sunday shows preview: Trade talks, Cohen sentencing memo take center stage Trump tells McConnell to let Senate vote on criminal justice reform MORE (R-Ky.), who received a standing ovation upon entering the room on Monday, have bet that victory, combined with fervent anti-Kavanaugh protests that broke out inside and around the Capitol in recent weeks, will ignite the Republican base ahead of the midterm elections.

Earlier Monday, Trump dismissed the allegations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh as a “hoax that was set up by the Democrats." 

“It was all made up, it was fabricated and it’s a disgrace,” Trump told reporters. “And I think it’s going to really show you something come Nov. 6.”

Kavanaugh was confirmed in a 50-48 vote on Saturday, with one Republican senator voting “present” and another absent. Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinSchumer to Trump: Future infrastructure bill must combat climate change Overnight Energy: Senate confirms controversial energy pick | EPA plans rollback of Obama coal emissions rule | GOP donor gave Pruitt K for legal defense Senate confirms Trump’s controversial energy pick MORE (W.Va.), who faces a tough reelection fight, was the lone Democrat to vote for the judge.

The narrow vote came after a five-day supplementary FBI investigation into allegations by three separate women of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh.

One of the accusers, Christine Blasey Ford, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed and groped her, trying to remove her clothes, when the two were in high school.

Kavanaugh fiercely denied the claims, saying in his own testimony that they were part of an “orchestrated political hit” born out of Democrats bent on seeking "revenge for the Clintons." 

The justice formerly worked for the office of independent counsel Kenneth Starr, who carried out a wide-ranging investigation into President Clinton's business dealings and extramarital affairs.

— Updated at 8:36 p.m.