WHITE HOUSE - Hours prior to a ceremonial swearing-in of the newest U.S. Supreme Court justice, President Donald Trump accused opposition Democrats of already plotting to remove Brett Kavanaugh from the bench.
Kavanaugh, who survived a bruising Senate confirmation process amid allegations of sexual assault in his youth, was “caught up in a hoax set up by the Democrats,” Trump said. “And now they want to impeach him.”
The president, speaking to reporters before boarding the Marine One helicopter on the White House south lawn, predicted the attack on Kavanaugh would cost the opposition party in next month’s midterm congressional elections.
“The American public has seen this charade, and it was a disgrace. And I think it’s really going to show you something come November 6,” when the midterms are held, Trump added.
A ceremonial swearing-in of Kavanaugh is set for Monday evening in the White House East Room. He was officially sworn in hours after the Senate narrowly confirmed him Saturday to a lifetime seat on the country's highest court.
Trump and his fellow Republicans are hoping the confirmation of the 53-year-old conservative jurist will energize their supporters in the midterm voting when political control of Congress is at stake.
The ranking member of the House judiciary committee, Jerry Nadler of New York, has said his party would investigate the sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh if the Democrats reclaim the majority in the chamber.
Cory Booker of New Jersey, who sits on the senate’s judiciary committee, was asked Sunday in Iowa by Yahoo News about the prospects of a Kavanaugh impeachment.
“The reality is, right now, Republicans control the House and the Senate, and there’s no way to do even an investigation unless we flip one of the houses,” replied Booker. “So, I think even before you start focusing on questions about his truthfulness before a Senate committee, you’ve got to focus on the urgency of the work over the next 30 days, and that’s where my focus is."
Other prominent Democrats indicate they have no immediate intention of pursuing an impeachment of Kavanaugh.
Sen. Chris Coons, a Democrat from the state of Delaware, called impeachment talk “premature,” while House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said it “would not be my plan” to impeach the justice.
Only one U.S. supreme court justice has ever been impeached — Samuel Chase, in 1804, who was acquitted by the Senate.
When Trump ran for the presidency in 2016, he vowed to appoint conservative judges to the Supreme Court, disclosing a list of possible candidates. With Kavanaugh's ascent to the nine-member high court, Trump now has filled two vacancies on the court from his list, including Neil Gorsuch last year.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who led the fight for Kavanaugh's confirmation and for other conservative judges to lower courts, called the effort "the most important thing that the Senate and an administration of like mind ... could do for the country.”
“Putting strict constructionists, relatively young, on the courts for lifetime appointments is the best way to have a long-term positive impact on America," McConnell said, "And today is a seminal moment in that effort.”
Kavanaugh won confirmation on a 50-48 vote on nearly a party-line vote, with almost all Republicans supporting him and all but one Democrat opposing him. His nomination was thrown into turmoil in the three weeks preceding the vote after university professor Christine Blasey Ford accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her at a suburban Washington house party more than three decades ago when both were teenagers.
“I thought it was one of the most disgraceful performances I’ve ever seen,” Trump said Monday of the Democrats’ fight against Kavanaugh.
One of Kavanaugh's most vocal supporters, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a Republican on the judiciary committee, told Fox News, "I’m happy because the effort to railroad and humiliate this man failed. Those who tried to destroy his life fell short. I had never been more [angry] in my life."
Kavanaugh, now the country's 114th Supreme Court justice, could give conservatives a solid 5-4 ideological edge on the court and shape rulings for decades.
He is replacing retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, a conservative jurist who often cast the deciding swing vote on ideologically divisive issues, upholding abortion and gay rights and the use of affirmative action aiding racial minorities in college admissions. But independent court analysts say Kavanaugh is likely to lean toward more conservative rulings.
Ken Bredemeier contributed to this report.