Supreme court justices felt tricked by Trump at Kavanaugh swearing-in – book | Books

Sitting justices of the US supreme court felt “tricked” and used by Donald Trump when the then president assured them a White House celebration of the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh would not be overtly political, then used the event to harangue those who questioned Kavanaugh’s fitness to sit on the court.

“Most of the justices sat stone faced” as Trump spoke at the ceremonial swearing-in, the CNN correspondent Joan Biskupic writes in a new book, Nine Black Robes: Inside the Supreme Court’s Drive to the Right and Its Historic Consequences.

“Some justices told me later that they were sorry they had gone.”

Biskupic, senior supreme court analyst for CNN, adds: “To varying degrees, the justices felt tricked, made to participate in a political exercise at a time when they were trying to prove themselves impartial guardians of justice, rather than tools of Republican interests.”

Nine Black Robes will be published in the US on Tuesday. The Guardian obtained a copy.

Published excerpts have covered key issues on the court including the controversial treatment of staff for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the liberal justice who died in September 2020 and was swiftly replaced by Amy Coney Barrett, an arch-conservative; rulings on gay rights; and the 2022 Dobbs vs Jackson decision that removed the federal right to abortion.

The appointment of Coney Barrett – jammed through before the election by the same Republican Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, who previously held open a seat for a year and through an election in order to fill it with a conservative – tilted the court 6-3 to the right.

Joe Biden has made the historic appointment of Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman on the court, but he has not altered that 6-3 balance.

Kavanaugh was Trump’s second appointment, replacing the retiring Anthony Kennedy, a conservative for a conservative.

Accused of drunken behaviour and sexual assault while a high school student, Kavanaugh, a former George W Bush administration aide, was narrowly confirmed in an atmosphere of deeply partisan rancour.

On 8 October 2018, Trump staged his celebration.

Saying “what happened to the Kavanaugh family violates every notion of fairness, decency and due process”, Trump falsely claimed Kavanaugh had been “proven innocent” of the claims against him.

As Biskupic writes: “There had been no trial, not even much of an investigation of [Professor Christine Blasey] Ford’s accusations. But as with so many of Trump’s assertions, the truth did not matter to him or … his supporters.”

Biskupic notes that among the “stone faced” justices at the White House, Clarence Thomas, the senior conservative, was “conspicuously enthusiastic, alone applaud[ing] heartily after Kavanaugh spoke”.

She adds: “A Department of Justice spokeswoman, Kerri Kupec, later described Thomas as ‘the life of the party’ at the event.”

Thomas is the subject of controversy centering on the activities of his wife, the far-right activist Ginni Thomas.

Ginni Thomas has been shown to have lobbied state lawmakers as part of Trump’s attempt to overturn his 2020 defeat and to have attended an event in Washington on January 6, prior to the deadly attack on Congress by Trump supporters.

In January 2022, Clarence Thomas was the only supreme court justice to say Trump should not have to give records to the House January 6 committee. Such records turned out to include texts between Ginni Thomas and Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff.

In congressional testimony released last December, Ginni Thomas said she was “certain [she] never spoke with” her husband “about any of the challenges to the 2020 election”.

She also claimed Clarence Thomas was “uninterested in politics”.

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