Trump celebrates at White House as Supreme Court nominee confirmed

Brendan Smialowski / AFP

US President Donald Trump revelled in a White House ceremony to celebrate US Senate confirmation of his third Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, eight days before the election.

The made-for-TV prime-time event on the White House lawn mirrored one a month ago, when Barrett's nomination was announced, which preceded a coronavirus outbreak among top Republicans including Trump himself.

It came little more than an hour after the Republican-controlled Senate confirmed Barrett to the lifetime appointment on a 52-48 vote, with Democrats unified in opposition.

Her confirmation as a successor to liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last month, creates a 6-3 conservative majority on the high court. One Republican, Susan Collins, voted against the confirmation.

Trump, who has been touting the appointment at campaign rallies to the cheers of his supporters, had pressed the Senate to confirm Barrett, 48, before the November 3 election in which he trails Democrat Joe Biden in national opinion polls. No Supreme Court justice had ever been confirmed so close to a presidential election.

"The Barrett family has captured America's heart. It is highly fitting that Justice Barrett fills the seat of a true pioneer for women, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg," Trump said with a smiling Barrett at his side.

In contrast to the White House event last month, more people wore masks and seats were spread out to ensure social distancing. Several of the Republican senators who voted to confirm Barrett were in attendance, although not Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has not been to the White House since August due to COVID-19 concerns.

Conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, wearing his judicial black robes, administered one of the two oaths of office that justices have to take.

In brief remarks, Barrett declared her independence from Trump and the political process even as the president stood behind her.

"The oath that I have solemnly taken tonight means at its core I will do the job without fear or favor and do it independently of the political branches and of my own preferences," she said.

After the ceremony, Trump and Barrett waved to applauding guests from the White House balcony.

Chief Justice John Roberts will administer the separate judicial oath at the court on Tuesday, the court said in a statement.

Trump's other Supreme Court appointees are conservatives Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

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