President Donald Trump held a socially distanced swearing-in ceremony for Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett Monday night with most guests wearing face masks – a stark contrast to her nomination celebration, which turned into a COVID super-spreader event.
Folding chairs on the South Lawn were spaced a few feet apart – on par with social distancing guidelines – for the scaled back event last Monday evening, taking place a few hours after the Senate confirmed Coney Barrett.
The event took place on a cool, crisp, Washington D.C. evening in the dark with White House aides and Republican members of the House and Senate in attendance.
But just as notable as those present – in their face masks – were those who were not there.
That included Vice President Mike Pence, who has continued to campaign for Trump despite five of his aides, testing positive for COVID, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has not been to the White House since August because his concern it is unsafe.
Seven out of the eight Supreme Court justices also did not attend.
Guests like White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham and Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz wore face masks – Cruz’s had the Texas flag on it.
There were a few excepts to the face mask wearing: notably President Trump, first lady Melania Trump, Coney Barrett, her husband Jesse Barrett, and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who swore Barrett in, did not wear them.
The White House held a socially-distanced swearing-in ceremony for Judge Amy Coney Barrett where most of the guests wore masks
Guests at Monday night’s ceremony in face masks: Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Mike Braun and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows
First lady Melania Trump and Jesse Barrett, the husband of Amy Comey Barrett, did not wear face masks
Moment of history: Amy Coney Barrett, her hand on a Bible held by her husband Jesse, is sworn in as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court by Clarence Thomas, its longest-serving justice
Guests at Monday night’s swearing-in ceremony for Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the setting was in stark contrast to her nomination announcement
Monday evening’s setting on the South Lawn was in stark contrast to Trump’s announcement that Barrett was his nominee to fill the seat of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
At a crowd ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, there was no social distancing and few face masks. At least 13 people – including President Trump, first lady Melania Trump, and several senators – tested positive for the coronavirus after the September 26 event.
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was one of the guests who tested positive for COVID after the celebration. He later conceded he should have worn a mask for it.
‘I mistook the bubble of security around the president for a viral safe zone. I was wrong. There is no safe zone from this virus,’ he wrote in the Wall Street Journal after he recovered.
Ahead of Monday night’s swearing-in ceremony, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said he hoped President Trump had learned a lesson when it comes to holding big events.
‘I just hope he is willing to learn a lesson, and there will be significant social distancing. I don’t blame him for celebrating. There are a lot of things he can be doing without massive crowds,’ Biden said at a campaign stop in Chester, Pa., on Monday afternoon.
Biden pointed out that Trump’s announcement of Coney Barrett became a super-spreader event.
‘When the president of the United States puts on these super-spreader events, you saw what happened when she was announced, all the people, including his family – thank god they seem to be okay – all the people came down with COVID,’ he said.
When President Donald Trump announced Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his nominee, guests crowded together in the Rose Garden on September 26 and few wore masks
On Monday night on the South Lawn, Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff (standing), was seen in a mask as the White House enforced social distancing and urged mask wearing for the swearing in of Amy Coney Barrett
Biden offered a series of suggestions on how to make the event safer.
‘People should be tested first before they even show up, number one. Number two, they should be wearing masks. Number three, they should be socially distancing. Number four, it shouldn’t be a huge crowd whether it’s outside or not,’ he said.
Coney Barrett was confirmed to the Supreme Court by a 52-48 vote Monday evening – with Republican Susan Collins crossing the aisle to vote against her. Her confirmation immediately makes the court solidly conservative with a 6-3 majority.
At the swearing-in ceremony, Trump praised Coney Barrett’s ‘towering intellect,’ and ‘impeccable credentials,’ as he spoke with the new justice on his right and Thomas on his left.
After Thomas swore her in, Coney Barrett thanked the senators who voted for her and said: ‘I pledge to you and to the American people that I will discharge my duties to the best of my ability.’
And in an acknowledgement of her highly-controversial confirmation process and the focus on her conservative Catholic beliefs and open espousal of pro-life beliefs while she was an academic.
‘I will do my job my without any fear or favor and that I will do so independently of both the political branches and my personal preferences.’
Lit up in celebration: The White House was draped in giant flags for the swearing-in of Amy Coney Barrett (left) by Clarence Thomas (right)
First words as a Justice: Amy Coney Barrett takes the oath of office as Donald Trump savors the confirmation of the third justice of his presidency
Families together – and unmasked: Donald and Melania Trump posed with Amy Coney Barrett and Jesse Barrett on the Blue Room balcony of the White House after she was sworn in as the ninth Supreme Court justice
The key participants in the swearing-in forsake social distancing and stood closely together.
Trump patted Thomas on the back after the swearing-in.
The president’s third nominee to the Supreme Court was not in the chamber to watch the roll call vote, which allows her to join the eight justices on Tuesday morning, and potentially to decide on cases about voting before the November 3 election.
Senate president pro tempore Chuck Grassley declared her confirmation at 8.06 pm to applause from fellow Republicans; outside the Supreme Court conservatives chanted Coney Barrett’s name as soon as she was confirmed.
During his remarks Trump went out of his way to praise McConnell, who not only delivered on his vow to hold a vote before the election, but who designed the strategy to stall Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland for more than eight months in 2016, allowing Trump to name another justice, Neil Gorsuch. Along with Barrett and Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Trump has now put three conservatives on the court.
‘Our country owes a great debt of thanks to Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. We appreciate it very much, Mitch, thank you,’ Trump said. Trump also thanked Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham, and singled out Republican senators who were in the audience – including embattled Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona.
Trump also called attention to Barrett’s children, saying they have become ‘very, very popular in this nation.’
‘People have been watching them and loving them,’ he said.
‘The Barrett family has captured America’s heart,’ Trump gushed.
Trump said she was the ‘very first mother of school-aged children to become a Supreme Court Justice. (There have been fathers of school children on the court). But he noted that they were at home in Indiana – having flown with their parents to the announcement of her nomination that turned out to be a superspreader event.
Her confirmation comes after fierce opposition from Democrats. Biden has resisted pressure to promise to pack the court if he wins – but says he will order a commission on reforming the high court.
She is the first justice confirmed to the court without a single vote from the minority party since 1869.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who had no formal role in the confirmation process, blasted the confirmation in a statement – setting the tone for how Democrats may respond if they keep the House and take over the Senate.
‘Eight days from Election Day, after 60 million Americans have already cast their ballots, President Trump and the GOP Senate have committed an act of supreme desperation by jamming through a Supreme Court justice – all so that they can achieve their years-long campaign to destroy Americans’ health care,’ she said.
‘Now, Americans must continue to make their voices heard in the election. Congress will have to reverse the damage of a radical Republican court and defend pre-existing condition protections together with every other benefit and protection of the Affordable Care Act.’
Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen, a soft-spoken but influential member of the Democratic minority, blasted the move. ‘Today is a bleak day for the United States Senate and the country. This day will long be remembered as the moment when Republicans tore up their own rules to ignore the will of the American people and pack the Supreme Court with right-wing ideologues who will compromise Americans’ rights and civil liberties,’ he said.
Trump spoke in sedate tones and read from a teleprompter, complimenting Barrett on her ‘sterling character.’
He said she would rule ‘based solely upon a faithful reading of the law and the Constitution as-written not legislate from the bench.’
‘Your sacred rights can never ever be taken away,’ Trump said.
His remarks made no mention of the bitter battle with Democrats to install her on the court just days before the election, although he did offer words praising the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
‘The American people put their trust in you, and their faith in you as you take up the task of defending our laws,’ he said.
Like Trump, Coney Barrett thanked McConnell and Graham, and did not mention Democrats who opposed her.
But she did say it was a ‘rigorous’ confirmation process. ‘It is the job of a senator to pursue her policy preferences,’ Barrett said.
‘It is the job of a judge to resist her policy preferences,’ she continued. ‘It would be a dereliction of duty for her to give into them.’
‘I will do my job without any fear or favor and I will do so independently of both the political branches and of my own preferences,’ she pledged.
I did it: Mitch McConnell leaves the Senate with a thumbs up for succeeding in putting Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court
Three for three: Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, has now shepherded Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett on to the high court – each one in controversial circumstances
Objection: Democratic minority leader Chuck Schumer said that Republicans have tarnished themselves with the rush to put Barrett on the seat instead of letting voters decide the next president and allowing them to nominate a replacement of Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Controversial: Supporters and opponents of Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation gathered outside the Supreme Court as the Senate voted to put her on the high court
Democratic leader Chuck Schumer scorned the process which saw Coney Barrett confirmed on the eve of an election when McConnell had stopped even a hearing for Merrick Garland, Barack Obama’s nominee, in 2016.
‘You may win this vote. And Amy Coney Barrett may become the next Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. But you will never, ever, get your credibility back,’ he said to Republicans on the Senate floor.
He said it would ‘go down as one of the darkest days in the 231-year history of the United States Senate.’
Democrats had made the nomination before an election the center of their case against her, and highlighted her conservative rulings while a federal appeals court judge.
They had also warned that she may vote down Obamacare, move to overturn Roe v. Wade, which enshrines women’s right to choose, and imperil restrictions on gun ownership, but could not stop McConnell’s express train to fill the seat before the election.
The 48-year-old becomes the youngest member of the court, and almost certainly one of its most conservative.
MEET ACB, A CONSERVATIVE PIN-UP FOR HER DEEP FAITH AND BRILLIANT CAREER – AND A LIGHTNING ROD FOR LIBERALS
Amy Coney Barrett is 48, a mother of seven and a brilliant legal mind – and now she is the most divisive Supreme Court Justice in at least a generation and perhaps far longer.
She brings to the Supreme Court a short judicial career, a longer academic one and the hopes of a conservative legal movement that they have a secure 6-3 majority in the high court for now, and a stalwart vote on it for many decades to come.
Coney Barrett’s life story makes her the sixth Catholic on the court, keeps the six-three male-female make-up of the bench, and for the first time ever puts on the court someone who openly identifies with the charismatic wing of modern Christianity.
She is also the only one who did not receive an education at Harvard or Yale, and the only mid-western and southern justice, having been born and brought up in Louisiana and spent the rest of her life in Indiana.
Barrett was brought up in Metairie, Louisiana, as a member of charismatic, conservative, Catholic group People of Praise and one of seven children.
Her father, Mike Coney, a former oil company lawyer, has been a leading member for decades. Her attorney-husband, Jesse, 46, whom she met while both were students at Notre Dame University, was also raised in the group.
She had studied for her undergraduate degree at Rhodes College in Memphis, TN, and contemplated further study in English literature but instead decided to study law, going to Notre Dame whose law school has built a reputation as predominantly conservative.
Family photo of Amy Coney Barrett, her husband Jesse Barrett, and their seven children Emma; Vivian; Tess; John Peter; Liam; Juliet; and Benjamin. Her large family has been part of her appeal for conservatives. Vivian and John Peter are adopted from Haiti and their youngest son Benjamin has Down Syndrome
Judge Amy Coney Barrett introduced her family at her confirmation hearing including her children (from left, first row) Liam, Vivian, Tess, Juliet, Emma, J.P. and husband Jesse and then siblings (from left, second row) Vivian, Eileen, Michael, Megan and Amanda. Sister Carrie was seated across the aisle
Amy Coney Barrett is seen in a family photo with siblings and parents. In 2018, Barrett’s father Mike Coney wrote an online biography of himself on his church’s website, saying he joined People of Praise because he and his wife Linda ‘felt a call to live life in a close knit Christian community…one that would help form our children into good Christians and strengthen our marriage and family’
Family photo of Amy Coney Barrett, husband Jesse Barrett, and their seven children. She and her husband Jesse
Described by one professor as the best student he had ever had, she went on to be a clerk for Antonin Scalia, the justice who championed originalism as a judicial philosophy.
She had a brief career in private practice but became a law professor at Notre Dame, and married and had seven children.
The visible manifestation of her conservative Catholic beliefs was part of her appeal to political conservatives.
But it has also focused attention on the tiny group, which has just over 2,000 members and which does not represent mainstream Catholicism.
People of Praise is headquartered in Notre Dame’s hometown, South Bend, Indiana, and many of its leading members have ties to the university. According to its website, the group has branches in 14 states as well as one in Canada and two in the Caribbean. It runs three Grades 7-through-12 Trinity Schools and one elementary school.
Both— who lives in South Bend — and People of Praise seem to have gone to extraordinary lengths to hide her affiliation. Articles mentioning her were removed from the group’s website shortly before she was to be considered for a seat on the Federal Appeals Court in 2017.
Barrett’s ties to People of Praise only became public when the New York Times broke the story three weeks after her confirmation hearing as an appeals court judge, but before the committee had voted. The committee eventually split along party lines to confirm her. Three Democrats voted with the Republican majority in the vote in the full Senate.
People of Praise is strongly anti-abortion. It also rejects homosexuality. ‘Both are seen as being accepted by human law, but rejected by divine law,’ the former member explained.
‘Homosexual relationships are taboo, and any LGBTQ inclinations are seen as temptations that must be overcome through prayer. If that fails, the member must lead a life of chastity.’
Even dating is a no-no until a member has ‘prayed through their state in life’ and decided they are ready to ‘marry for the Lord.’ If they have not committed themselves to marriage, they must not date.
Barrett got her law degree at Notre Dame, graduating first in her class in 1997. She’s pictured speaking at Notre Dame’s Law School commencement in 2018
Barrett and her husband Jesse are members of People of Praise, a small group that teaches that wives have to obey their husbands in everything
The group is probably best known for its doctrine that women must obey their husbands in everything, and its system where all men and single women must report to their mentor — called a ‘head’. Husbands act as the ‘head’ for their wives.
The ‘heads’ have such influence they give direction on who a member should date or even marry, how to raise children, whether to take a new job and where to live.
Until recently the female leader was known as a ‘handmaid.’ But that title was dropped after the success of the dystopian TV show The Handmaid’s Tale and the negative connotations it brought to the title.
Author Margaret Atwood, who wrote the original novel, said it was based on a group that has similar views to People of Praise.
The conservative Catholic beliefs have bled into her public life: she is a former member of the Notre Dame’s ‘Faculty for Life’ and in 2015 signed a letter to the Catholic Church affirming the ‘teachings of the Church as truth.’
Among those teachings were the ‘value of human life from conception to natural death’ and marriage-family values ‘founded on the indissoluble commitment of a man and a woman’.
She has previously written that Supreme Court precedents are not sacrosanct. Liberals have taken these comments as a threat to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationwide.
Barrett wrote that she agrees ‘with those who say that a justice’s duty is to the Constitution and that it is thus more legitimate for her to enforce her best understanding of the Constitution rather than a precedent she thinks clearly in conflict with it’.
What she said is the distillation of originalism and raises the possibility that she could tear up precedent if she sees it as out of line with the original constiution.
That puts her in sync with Scalia and the Republican senators who voted for her and expect her to rule in line with that for decades to come; it puts her violently at odds with those who do not agree, and puts her on track to be a justice whose presence on the bench is going to divide opinion as long as she remains on it.
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