In what has been billed as a historic vote Saturday, the U.S. Senate confirmed Judge Brett Kavanaugh as justice to the Supreme Court by a vote of 50-48. Kavanaugh was sworn in as the 102nd associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court in a private ceremony early Saturday evening.
The new justice could join the court as early as Tuesday and is seen as shoring up a 5-4 conservative majority on the court.
President Donald Trump nominated Kavanaugh in July to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was a swing vote on the court. He cleared the biggest hurdle Friday when senators, by a vote of 51-49, advanced a final vote on his confirmation after reviewing a 46-page FBI report following accusations of sexual misconduct in high school and college.
On Friday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told Fox News opinion host Laura Ingraham that he didn't know he had the votes to support Kavanaugh until the Senate roll was called and Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., announced their support along with Jeff Flake of Arizona.
McConnell condemned the actions of activists who sent death threats and thousands of wire coat hangers to Collins' office. He also condemned the actions of former Democrat staffer Jackson Cosko, 27, who posted Republican senators' personal information online, such as their home addresses and phone numbers, and threatened to release their children's health information and Social Security numbers. Cosko worked as an unpaid fellow for Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, and is facing nearly 50 years in prison after being charged with five federal offenses and second-degree burglary and unlawful entry.
"I think the main point is the mob was not able to intimidate the Senate," McConnell said on "The Ingraham Angle" Friday night. "We stood up to the mob. We did the right thing for a good man that filled a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court. There is a lot to celebrate today. I couldn't be prouder of all my members. Senator Collins was outstanding," he added.
Also lauding Collins was Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who described her as "stopping the closest thing to McCarthyism in my lifetime — that a man is guilty until proven innocent [and] facts don't matter. The best thing that can happen to a good man is for a strong woman to come to his aid," he told Fox News conservative opinion host Sean Hannity Friday night. "God bless Susan Collins and Jeff Flake," Graham added.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the lone Republican to announce her opposition to Kavanaugh, voted "present" Saturday to account for an absent Republican Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., who was attending his daughter's wedding. She said Daines would have voted "yes" and she would have voted "no" on Kavanaugh's confirmation. But since neither of their votes would impact the final vote, she was voting present.
In her speech on the Senate floor Friday, Murkowski said that Kavanaugh is "a good man," but added that he's "not the right man for the court."
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on Saturday called the Senate's vote in favor Kavanaugh a "low moment for the country." He also claimed that "Kavanaugh doesn't belong on the bench" because he was supported by some pro-life groups "that want to overturn Roe. v. Wade." Some pro-lifers, however, initially opposed Kavanaugh because they didn't see him as being pro-life enough.
While Planned Parenthood and other Democrat lawmakers have made similar claims in fundraising emails, The Christian Post reported that those claims are unfounded.
Pro-Life Action League Executive Director Eric J. Scheidler told CP that claims made in a recent report from the Center for Reproductive Rights that said 22 states would immediately ban abortion are exaggerated.
"At most, only a couple of states with extremely conservative legislatures might even attempt something like a total ban on abortion," said Scheidler. "[It's] far more likely is that states would seek to further restrict abortion, in line with the view of most Americans, with measures like banning late-term abortion and holding abortion facilities to the highest health and safety standards.
"I'd expect to see the Supreme Court uphold greater restrictions on abortion than we've seen so far, such as the bans on abortion after 20 weeks that have been passed in some states," Scheidler added. "But more immediately, I would expect a court with Brett Kavanaugh on the bench to vigorously uphold the civil rights of pro-life activists, and the religious freedoms of all Americans.
After four days of confirmation hearings last month that saw over 200 protesters arrested, Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., revealed that she had received a letter dated July 30 from Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., that contained allegations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh and had withheld the information from her Republican colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee for six weeks.
In the letter, Christine Ford claimed that at a house party during the 1980s, a 17-year-old Kavanaugh "pushed" her into a bedroom where he attempted to "disrobe" her but was unable to because she was wearing a one-piece bathing suit under her clothes. Ford alleged that when she screamed for help, Kavanaugh covered her mouth with his hand and she "feared he may inadvertently kill me." Another teenager was in the room with them, whom she named as Mark Judge. Ford said she was able to escape the bedroom after the boys toppled off the bed onto the floor, which is when she got up and ran into a bathroom where she locked herself inside.
Both Ford and Kavanaugh gave their testimonies before the Senate Judiciary Committee last Thursday. Ford said she was "100 percent certain" that Kavanaugh had attacked her, and Kavanaugh defended himself from the accusations, which he said were false.
The FBI conducted a supplemental background investigation finding "no corroboration of the allegations made by Ford," as well as allegations of misconduct that came from Deborah Ramirez, who told the New Yorker magazine that Kavanaugh might have been the student who exposed himself to her at a party when they were college students at Yale. No one could corroborate either woman's claims.
Leland Keyser, a lifelong friend of Ford, told the FBI that she felt pressured by friends of Ford, namely Monica McLean, a retired FBI agent, who "urged her to clarify her statement" to say that she believed Ford's accusation even though in her official statement she said that she never knew Kavanaugh and didn't recall ever seeing him at any party she attended, according to WSJ.
On Thursday, senators reviewed the 46-page FBI report along with six previous FBI background investigations of Kavanaugh. The FBI also sent the White House and Senate a package of information that included text messages McLean sent to Keyser.
Although Democrats pushed for the one-week FBI investigation into Kavanaugh, some called its conclusions a "sham" and "horrific cover-up" on Thursday because the bureau hadn't interviewed all relevant witnesses.
The bureau questioned nine witnesses and contacted a tenth to produce the 46-page report. While the FBI spoke with Ramirez, they did not interview Ford.
Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., questioned the legitimacy of the probe in a tweet after being briefed on Thursday.
"I read the FBI report. This whole thing is a sham. This stunted, strangled investigation was designed to provide cover, not to provide the truth," Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., said.
The office of Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, also released its summary of the FBI report and concluded, "There is no corroboration of the allegations" made by Ford or Ramirez.
Three people named by Ford as having been at the party in question were interviewed by the FBI. Along with Ramirez the bureau also interviewed two college friends at Yale that she named as eyewitnesses.
In a letter to Ford's attorney's on Thursday, Grassley said that "in light of recently uncovered information," he was asking for all communications between Ford and Feinstein, and Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, and their staff, along with the people she named as being at the house party, and Ramirez, and Julie Swetnick (client of attorney Michael Avenatti who became famous by representing porn star Stormy Daniels) "or their representative."
"I urge you once again, now for the third time in writing, to turn over the therapy notes, polygraph materials, and communications with The Washington Post that Dr. Ford has relied upon as evidence," he wrote in the Oct. 4 letter to Ford's attorneys Debra Katz, Michael Bromwich, and Lisa Banks.
Ford's legal team did not provide the information requested but instead released a statement detailing what they said were false claims made about their client and said they did not provide the committee with therapy notes because they had "lost confidence in the committee's ability or desire" to keep the material confidential.
Ford and Kavanaugh both reported receiving death threats and in their testimonies before the Senate Judiciary Committee spoke about concerns for their families' safety.
Two GoFundMe accounts, which Ford mentioned in her testimony, have raised over $775,000 to cover her travel, security and living expenses. Similarly, a GoFundMe account set up for Kavanaugh has raised over $600,000.
In 2003, former President George W. Bush nominated Kavanaugh to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Democrats delayed his conformation for three years and he wasn't confirmed until 2006. During those three years, Kavanaugh served as staff secretary in the Bush White House.