- U.S. Senators voted 50-48 to confirm Brett Kavanaugh as the next justice on the U.S. Supreme Court Saturday afternoon. The vote was halted numerous times due to protests erupting in the Senate gallery.
- Every voting Republican backed Kavanaugh plus Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who is facing a re-election next month in a state President Donald Trump won in a landslide in 2016.
- After the vote Trump congratulated the Senate for confirming a “GREAT NOMINEE.”
- A couple hours after the vote, Kavanaugh took the oaths of office to become the 114th Supreme Court justice.
- Canadian judges weighed in on the process, saying the politically charged nomination hearings reflect badly on the impartiality of the U.S. Supreme Court.
What happened Saturday?
After statements on the Senate floor, the U.S. Senate voted 50-48 confirming 53-year-old Brett Kavanaugh as the next justice of the Supreme Court. The move shifts the ideological balance on the court in favour of a conservative majority that could last a generation. The vote gives Trump his second appointee to the court.
Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, the only Republican to oppose the nominee, voted “present." The move offset the absence of Kavanaugh supporter Steve Daines of Montana, who was at his daughter’s wedding and unable to vote.
As anti-Kavanaugh protesters waived signs and marched outside the court shortly before the vote, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer delivered closing arguments saying that if people don’t like the outcome, they should vote in November. “Change must come from where change in America always begins: the ballot box," he said.
Shortly after the vote, Trump sent this tweet:
I applaud and congratulate the U.S. Senate for confirming our GREAT NOMINEE, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, to the United States Supreme Court. Later today, I will sign his Commission of Appointment, and he will be officially sworn in. Very exciting!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 6, 2018
Judge Kavanaugh was sworn in Saturday evening by Chief Justice John Roberts and the man he’s replacing, retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, as fellow Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan looked on — two conservatives and two liberals.
What happened Friday?
Friday’s vote was a procedural one to end debate, called “cloture” in Senate jargon. That motion passed 51-49, setting the stage for a second and final vote on whether to confirm Justice Kavanaugh or not. That final vote could come as early as Saturday.
Usually, senators vote the same on cloture as they do on final motions. But on Justice Kavanaugh, it’s possible a senator who votes yes on cloture could vote against his confirmation. That gives the waverers one last day to decide how they’ll vote.
What happened with the FBI report?
Who has it: At 2:30 a.m. (ET) Thursday, the White House delivered the FBI report to the Senate that contains an updated background check on Justice Kavanaugh, accused by Christine Blasey Ford of sexually assaulting her while the two were in high school. Justice Kavanaugh strongly denied the allegations and said he never assaulted anyone. The report comes just days after Justice Kavanaugh and Dr. Blasey Ford testified to the Senate judiciary committee.
Who’s read it: All 100 senators – 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats – had access to one copy of the file in a secure room on Thursday, which they and aides were allowed to view one at a time. The Senate judiciary committee said the measures were to prevent leaks of information protected under the Privacy Act. Barring leaks, it was unclear how much of the FBI report, if any, would be made public. While senators from both sides expressed support for revealing at least parts of the findings, FBI background checks on nominees are supposed to remain confidential.
Who the FBI talked to: White House spokesman Raj Shah said on CNN that the FBI reached out to 10 people and interviewed nine, including Deborah Ramirez, who also accused Justice Kavanaugh of exposing himself to her at a party when he was a freshman at Yale. She was interviewed Sunday, according to a person close to Ramirez. The FBI also questioned Mark Judge, a high school friend of Justice Kavanaugh, two people who Dr. Blasey Ford said attended the party, Leland Keyser, Dr. Blasey Ford’s friend, Patrick (P.J.) Smyth, and two of Judge Kavanaugh’s high school friends, Chris Garrett and Timothy Gaudette.
What the accuser thought of it: A member of Dr. Blasey Ford’s legal team said FBI interviewers focused on the wrong date. The FBI has interviewed people who, calendar entries show, were present for a July 1, 1982, gathering of high school students, including Justice Kavanaugh. But Dr. Blasey Ford never believed the assault occurred that night because some of those listed as having been present are people she knew well and would have remembered.
Where the Republican leadership stands
On the nomination: Chuck Grassley, the Republican chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, urged Republicans ahead of Friday’s procedural vote to say no to “mob rule” and support the nomination.
On the FBI report: Mr. Grassley said Thursday that the FBI found “no hint of misconduct" in its latest background investigation, and that there is “nothing in it that we didn’t already know.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the FBI didn’t uncover information from any witnesses to corroborate the claims against Judge Kavanaugh, including from people his accusers named as eyewitnesses.
Where the Democrat leadership stands
On the nomination: Republicans have “a flawed nominee” in Justice Kavanaugh, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in Friday’s debate, adding that Republicans have only themselves to blame for the hurdles in his nomination. He blamed Republicans’ “scorched earth tactics” as they try to put conservatives on the bench. udge Kavanaugh’s testimony before the judiciary committee was “so shocking” it makes him unfit to serve on the Supreme Court, Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the committee, said Friday. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer echoed those sentiments in Friday’s debate.
On the FBI report: After viewing the FBI background check Thursday, senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the judiciary committee, said the most notable part “is what’s not in it.” Ms. Feinstein said the report is “very limited” and “it looks to be a product of an incomplete investigation.” Referring to the White House, she added, “It now appears that they also blocked the FBI from doing its job.”
Where the undecided senators stand
On the cloture vote: Four senators had been on the fence ahead of Friday’s vote, but Republicans Jeff Flake and Susan Collins and Democrat Joe Manchin voted yes. Republican Lisa Murkowski, another undecided senator, voted no.
On the nomination: On Friday, Ms. Collins confirmed she would vote yes to Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation, saying she does not believe sexual assault allegations against him should stop the nominee from being on the highest court. Mr. Manchin also said he will vote yes for Justice Kavanaugh. It is unclear how the other undecided senators might vote on Saturday, but Ms. Murkowski’s no vote raised questions about whether she would end up rejecting the nomination.
On the FBI report: Mr. Flake was the one who originally asked the judiciary committee to ask the FBI for a more thorough investigation last week, when the committee heard the testimonies of Justice Kavanaugh and Dr. Blasey Ford. Mr. Flake and Ms. Collins, after a closed-door briefing in which Republicans were told that no witnesses corroborated the accounts of Justice Kavanaugh’s main accusers, both made positive remarks.
What Trump said
U.S. President Donald Trump applauded the Friday vote to end debate, which brought his nominee to the Supreme Court one step closer to final confirmation.
Very proud of the U.S. Senate for voting “YES” to advance the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 5, 2018
Earlier, Mr. Trump weighed in on Twitter in support of his candidate, accusing Democrats of political interference and denouncing demonstrators as “very rude elevator screamers.” (That was a reference to two women who confronted Mr. Flake, one of the undecided Republicans, in an elevator last Friday.) He also suggested, without evidence, that the protesters were professionals in the employ of George Soros, a Hungarian-American billionaire who figures prominently in Trump supporters' conspiracy theories.
The very rude elevator screamers are paid professionals only looking to make Senators look bad. Don’t fall for it! Also, look at all of the professionally made identical signs. Paid for by Soros and others. These are not signs made in the basement from love! #Troublemakers— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 5, 2018
At a rally in Rochester, Minn., on Thursday night, Mr. Trump said anger over resistance to his Supreme Court nominee’s confirmation will drive Republican turnout this fall. He told a crowd of thousands that Democrats’ “rage-fueled resistance is starting to backfire at a level nobody has ever seen before.” He then talked up Judge Kavanaugh’s credentials. “We love it,” Trump told the crowd.
Unrest in Washington
About 3,000 demonstrators gathered outside the Supreme Court on Thursday to protest against Justice Kavanaugh’s nomination, in the latest of several protests in recent weeks. Protesters marched around the Capitol to the steps of the Supreme Court, undeterred by the rain and cold. Some had posters that read, “We believe all survivors.” Others stood in silence outside the Dirksen Senate Office Building, with the words “Believe Women” written on their hands. A group roiled between Senate office buildings, fists raised, chanting “We believe her!” They were later arrested.
Analysis and commentary
Compiled by Globe staff
With reports from the Canadian Press, the Associated Press, Reuters and New York Times News Service