Administration

Clarence Thomas set to swear in Barrett at White House

Justice Clarence Thomas will swear in Judge Amy Coney Barrett as an associate justice on the Supreme Court on Monday evening following her expected confirmation by the Senate.

"Justice Clarence Thomas will administer the official Constitutional Oath to Judge Amy Coney Barrett at the White House tonight," a senior White House official said.

The White House is planning to host the swearing-in ceremony on Monday evening for President Trump's nominee, though the details have not been officially announced. The GOP-controlled Senate will vote on Barrett's nomination Monday evening and is widely expected to confirm her as the 115th justice on the nation's highest court.

The event would also take place just more than a week before Election Day. Trump and the GOP have seen the Barrett confirmation as something that could drive conservative support for the president, though Democrats believe it also amps up their own voters.

Such events are typical; the White House previously hosted swearing-in ceremonies for Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. The coronavirus pandemic, however, has spurred questions about the safety of such gatherings if health guidelines are not followed.

The senior White House official said that the audience will be seated and socially distanced, and that face coverings would be required for everyone in attendance. All those in close proximity to Trump will be tested ahead of time, the official said. 

The face-mask requirement represents a departure from past practice. 

Several cases were tied to the Rose Garden ceremony during which Trump announced Barrett as his nominee in late September, where attendees were seen interacting closely together without wearing masks. Trump himself was diagnosed with COVID-19 in early October.

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters Monday morning that the White House would encourage social distancing at the event and hold it outdoors.

"The very first event, while there's a whole lot of connections 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."

"We're tonight doing the best we can to encourage as much social distancing as possible. It will be outdoors if it goes off as planned right now," Meadows continued.  

Speaking to reporters in Allentown, Pa., Trump said the event would not be a "large event" but a "just a very nice event."

Trump nominated Barrett to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg roughly a week after her death. The Senate has moved quickly to advance Barrett's nomination, despite objections from Democrats and a pair of Republicans to confirming her so close to Election Day.

Barrett is expected to win the votes of every GOP senator except for Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), who has said she will vote against Barrett's nomination because of the proximity to the election. Collins is currently facing a difficult reelection battle.  

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