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White House to host swearing-in event for Barrett on Monday night

The White House plans to host a swearing-in ceremony for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - Dem leaders back smaller COVID-19 relief bill as pandemic escalates Supreme Court sees new requests for religious COVID-19 carve-outs Pompeo to host indoor holiday parties at State Department despite warning to employees to hold some missions virtually MORE on Monday night following her expected confirmation, despite concerns that a gathering for her nomination in September was a super-spreader event for the coronavirus.

White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsAlyssa Farah resigns as White House communications director Trump hits Barr over voter fraud remarks: 'He hasn't looked' Trump had tense meeting with Barr after statement DOJ found no widespread election fraud: reports MORE told reporters on Monday that if Barrett is confirmed by the Senate later in the day, "then we expect for a swearing-in to happen later this evening if all goes well."

"We’re doing ... the best we can to encourage as much social distancing as possible. It’ll be outdoors if it goes off as planned right now," Meadows said. "And still continue to do testing in and around those that are critical to the mission to try to get there."

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A senior White House official said that Justice Clarence ThomasClarence ThomasFor Thanksgiving, the Supreme Court upholds religious liberty Defusing the judicial confirmation process Will the Supreme Court take ObamaCare off life-support? MORE would administer the official constitutional oath to Barrett at the White House event Monday evening. 

Meadows brushed aside criticism that the ceremony would be a repeat of the late September Rose Garden event for Barrett by arguing that other factors may have contributed to the White House outbreak.

"The very first event, while there’s a whole lot of connects that have been made with who was at the event and who came down with it, we’ve been able to look at that and track as many as three different areas where the virus actually infected different people within the White House," Meadows said. "So it didn’t all come from that particular event."

The Senate is expected to vote to confirm Barrett in a party-line vote Monday evening. Vice President Pence, who is facing an outbreak of coronavirus cases within his own staff, is expected to preside over the vote.

The Barrett confirmation marks a significant political win for President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him Biden: Trump attending inauguration is 'of consequence' to the country Biden says family will avoid business conflicts MORE and Republicans, as it will be the president's third justice confirmed to the court and will solidify a conservative majority on it for years to come. Administration officials are hopeful that the confirmation will buoy support for GOP senators ahead of Election Day as well.

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But the optics of holding an in-person swearing-in are sure to generate intense criticism. The White House hosted dozens of guests in the Rose Garden followed by an indoor reception on Sept. 26 when Trump nominated Barrett. Anthony FauciAnthony FauciHarris: 'Of course I will' take COVID-19 vaccine Overnight Health Care: Biden asked Fauci to serve as chief medical adviser | COVID-19 relief picks up steam as McConnell, Pelosi hold talks | Rhode Island Gov. Raimondo says she won't be Biden's HHS secretary Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter encourage people to take COVID-19 vaccine MORE, the government's top infectious diseases expert, later deemed it a super-spreader event.

Among the guests who later tested positive for the virus were Trump, first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpBiden warns Americans against traveling for Christmas McEnany hits Democratic leaders for not following their own COVID-19 restrictions Capitol physician advises lawmakers against attending dinners, receptions during COVID-19 spike MORE, ex-White House aide Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayWomen set to take key roles in Biden administration Lara Trump mulling 2022 Senate run in North Carolina: report Press: Where is Jim Baker when we need him? MORE, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, Sens. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeGovernment used Patriot Act to gather website visitor logs in 2019 Grassley returns to Capitol after having coronavirus McConnell halts in-person Republican lunches amid COVID-19 surge MORE (R-Utah) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisRep. Mark Walker announces Senate bid in North Carolina Grassley returns to Capitol after having coronavirus McConnell halts in-person Republican lunches amid COVID-19 surge MORE (R-N.C.) and former New Jersey Gov. Chris ChristieChris ChristieTrump transition order follows chorus of GOP criticism Trump relents as GSA informs Biden transition to begin Biden moves forward as GOP breaks with Trump rise MORE (R).

But the president and White House staff have repeatedly downplayed the threat of the virus even as cases surge around the country. Meadows on Sunday dismissed the possibility of controlling the virus, instead saying the focus should be on developing vaccines and treatments.

Morgan Chalfant contributed to this report, which was updated at 4 p.m.