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6 Oct, 2018 19:56

Kavanaugh confirmed & sworn in as US Supreme Court justice amid protests

Brett Kavanaugh has become the fifth conservative judge in America’s highest court, after being narrowly confirmed by senators and quickly sworn in amid protests in the aftermath of sexual assault allegations against him.

In a chamber where Republicans hold the narrowest of majorities, all senators voted in accordance with party lines, with the exception of Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who endorsed Kavanaugh, and Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski, who voted against. The final result was 50 to 48 in favor of Kavanaugh. 

Some screams could be heard in the gallery ahead of the vote, with Vice President Mike Pence calling for order to be restored. The disruptions continued periodically throughout the roll call.

The vote marks the end of the most fraught successful confirmation process at least since the 1991 appointment of Clarence Thomas, another conservative judge, who was also nearly derailed by claims of personal misconduct. 

The decision is being seen as a win for Trump, who applauded the Senate in a tweet immediately following the vote, and a blow to Democrats.

A petition to have Kavanaugh impeached was started immediately after he was voted onto the Supreme Court by the group Free Speech for People.

“No one is above the law, not even a Supreme Court Justice,” co-founder and president of Free Speech For People John Bonifaz said in a statement.

The result was not in serious doubt after a group of potential Republican swing voters confirmed on Friday that they would go ahead with President Donald Trump’s nominee, following an investigation by the FBI that failed to unearth evidence of sexual assault.

One day before the final vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Fox News' 'The Ingraham Angle' that the "mob" was not able to intimidate the Senate.

“We stood up to the mob. We did the right thing for a good man that filled a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court," he said, calling Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) "outstanding" in her 44-minute speech in which she detailed the reasons she would be backing Kavanaugh.

Some Democrats are blaming Michael Avenatti, the attorney who represented Kavanaugh accuser Julie Swetnick, for making the case against Kavanaugh less powerful, as she ultimately faced questions about her credibility when she appeared to walk back some of her previous statements and it appeared she had a history of legal disputes.

When asked if Avenatti had been helpful, Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) said on Saturday: "I think we should have focused on the serious allegations that certainly appeared very credible to me that would be our best course of action," CNN reported. It also cited an anonymous Democratic senator and an aide, both of whom agreed.

Avenatti responded on Saturday by saying it is "disgusting that these cowards blame my client and the other accusers from coming forward."

Ahead of the vote, the Senate held its final debate. As they did so, anti-Kavanaugh protesters turned out in force on the US Capitol, many of them breaking barriers to access the steps of the building. Some were arrested.

Many of the demonstrators held signs reading "I am a survivor, not a troublemaker," recalling the #troublemaker hashtag used by President Donald Trump on Friday in reference to protesters who opposed Kavanaugh's nomination.

Despite weeks of pointed and tempestuous questioning by senators, Brett Kavanaugh, a 53-year-old Yale graduate, who rose to prominence as a member of Ken Starr’s legal team, which led the campaign to impeach Bill Clinton two decades ago, appeared set for a relatively straightforward confirmation.

But an eleventh hour accusation in late September by Christine Blasey Ford that Kavanaugh attempted to rape her during a 1982 school party upended the entire process, with help from the Senate Democrats, who had held on to the allegations since July.

The dueling testimonies by Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh in front of the Senate last week provided one of the most memorable and partisan political spectacles in recent American history. Liberals and women’s groups turned this into a referendum on dealing with unpunished past sex crimes, while conservatives painted the judge as a victim of an opportunistic smear campaign, ahead of November’s midterms.

Kavanaugh gives the conservatives their first reliable majority on the nine-person panel since the mid-20th century, and though Democrats could attempt to impeach the judge in the future, they will need two-thirds backing in Senate, something that is considered unlikely unless new firm allegations come to light.

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