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Kavanaugh sworn in as associate justice to the U.S. Supreme Court

The swearing-in came hours after the Senate on Saturday afternoon narrowly confirmed him, 50-48.
Administration of the Judicial Oath
Retired Justice Anthony M. Kennedy administers the Judicial Oath to Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh in the Justices' Conference Room, Supreme Court Building. Mrs. Ashley Kavanaugh holds the Bible.Fred Schilling / Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

WASHINGTON — Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in Saturday evening as an associate justice to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The swearing-in came hours after the Senate on Saturday afternoon narrowly confirmed Kavanaugh to the high court, 50-48.

As the roll call began on his confirmation vote, protesters in the Senate gallery began yelling "I do not consent!" and "shame on you" as Vice President Mike Pence — who was presiding over the session — called for order. Several women could be heard quietly sobbing and sniffling; some dabbed tears.

Before the swearing-in ceremony, protesters pushed past the police line to the front steps of the Supreme Court and chanted, "Hey hey, ho ho, Kavanaugh has got to go," "We believe survivors" and "shut it down."

The interruptions capped off two weeks of protest against President Donald Trump's nominee that swept Capitol Hill ahead of the final vote.

Kavanaugh's July nomination to the high court was followed by nearly three months of controversy, including a pair of confirmation hearings that consumed Washington — one that examined his judicial thinking, and the other in which the nominee denied allegations involving sexual misconduct by several different women.

Trump watched the vote aboard Air Force One, heading to Kansas for a campaign rally Saturday night.

The president told reporters with him on the aircraft he believes the accusation was a case of mistaken identity on Ford’s part. “I'm a hundred percent. I'm a hundred percent," that she had Kavanaugh confused with someone else, he said. "I have no doubt. And the FBI has done an excellent job.”

He also suggested that Republicans, despite the public protests, would perform well at the polls in November.

"I think we're going to do great in the midterms," Trump said. "Republicans are going to do great in the midterms. I think we have a momentum that hasn't been seen in years. When you hear those screamers in Congress today...screaming, you see how orchestrated it is," he said, in reference to the Senate protests. "How phony it is."

Immediately after the vote, he celebrated the victory on Twitter.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., took a victory lap during a news conference shortly after the vote, predicting that the Senate will move beyond the Kavanaugh controversy.

"We'll get past this. We always do," he said, adding that the Senate has had "plenty of low points" in U.S. history and that the much-criticized Kavanaugh confirmation process is "nowhere near" one of them. "We always get past them."

Before the vote, McConnell said it was time for the chamber to put the rancor behind it. "A vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh today is a vote to end this brief, dark chapter in the Senate’s history and turn the page toward a brighter tomorrow," he said in remarks on the Senate floor.

Democrats were furious with the outcome.

"This was a sit down and shut up moment for American women, sit down and shut up for survivors of sexual assault, sit down and shut up for everyone who doesn’t agree with the power structure in Washington," Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., told NBC News.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said after the vote that Kavanaugh's confirmation signaled to women who've been assaulted that men who commit such acts won't be punished.

"Women and sexual assault survivors have been sent a clear message that there are no consequences for men who abuse women. They can still achieve one of the most powerful positions in the country," she said in a statement.

“Progressive groups will also never believe they are getting a fair shake in front of Justice Kavanaugh. How could they when he yelled about Dr. Ford’s allegation being part of a conspiracy on the ‘left’ and to ‘seek revenge on behalf of the Clintons?”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who strongly backed Kavanaugh, expressed frustration with the process after the vote and suggested that Kavanaugh was a victim and not his accusers.

"I think the roles were reversed. The slut/whore/drunk was Kavanaugh," he told reporters.

"I’ve done this for a long time. I’ve prosecuted a lot of rape cases where it takes an enormous amount of courage to get up and go through it. I’ve defended some people who’ve been accused of sexual violence. I’ve been a judge," he said. "And I’ve tried to look at this thing through a process that stood the test of time. Some standards. Some presumptions. She evidentiary requirements.

"All I can say is that seldom do you advance justice by creating an injustice, and I think it would have been unjust for Judge Kavanaugh to have his life ruined based on the allegations."

By Friday afternoon, it had become clear that Kavanaugh had secured the necessary votes for a successful confirmation. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who had been one of a handful of officially undecided senators, revealed in a lengthy floor speech that she planned to vote in favor of his nomination. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., also previously undecided, quickly issued a statement afterward saying that he plans to vote to confirm the nominee.

Collins praised Kavanaugh’s judicial record and approach and said, while discussing the sexual misconduct allegations facing him, that the "presumption of innocence and fairness do bear on my thinking and I cannot abandon them."

Murkowsk, who announced on Friday that she opposes Kavanaugh's confirmation, asked to be recorded as "present" during the vote as a courtesy to Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., who supports Kavanaugh and will be walking his daughter down the aisle at her wedding on Saturday.

Kavanaugh, who has served on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals for 12 years, essentially delivered his closing argument in an op-ed article published Thursday night, saying that he might have been "too emotional" in his congressional testimony last week.

"I was very emotional last Thursday, more so than I have ever been. I might have been too emotional at times," he wrote in an article headlined, "I am an Independent, Impartial Judge," published by The Wall Street Journal.

The article was published the same day the FBI made available to senators a report on its speedy investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh. Republicans said Thursday the report had vindicated him, while Democrats blasted it as incomplete.

The investigation looked into the allegation by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her at a gathering of teenagers when they were in high school in the early 1980s.

Democrats and liberal activists have expressed concern that Kavanaugh would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade on the Supreme Court, and raised questions about his views on the limits of a president’s power to influence investigations of his own conduct. In his testimony, Kavanaugh said he could not answer questions about whether a president could pardon himself or whether a sitting president can be required to respond to a subpoena.

Throughout the confirmation fight, Trump had largely stuck by Kavanaugh, who is his second nominee to be confirmed to the high court. Trump's first nominee, Neil Gorsuch, was confirmed to the Supreme Court last year after the Senate changed its rules so that a nominee could be confirmed to the high court with a simple majority.