Donald Trump apologised to his newest Supreme Court judge “on behalf of our nation” as Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in for the cameras at the White House.
Mr Kavanaugh actually joined the Supreme Court on Saturday. Monday’s ceremony brought to a close one of the most difficult and controversial confirmation processes ever seen in the US.
The judge has been accused of sexually assaulting women three decades ago, accusations that saw the confirmation process deteriorate into a bitter partisan battle.
The 50-48 roll call vote on Saturday came just days after he and one of his accusers, Dr Christine Blasey Ford, were questioned by the Senate judiciary committee.
It also follows days of protests from people on both sides, arrests, and a national debate over the issues raised.
After Judge Kavanaugh had placed his hand on a bible and sworn to perform his duties to the best of his ability, the US president said: “On behalf of our nation I want to apologise to Brett and the entire Kavanaugh family for the terrible pain and suffering you have been forced to endure.”
As the judge’s wife and two young daughters watched, Mr Trump said the sexual assault claims had been a “campaign of political and personal destruction based on lies and deception”.
Turning to Judge Kavanaugh, he added: “You, sir, under historic scrutiny, were proven innocent” – a conclusion that will come as news to many who argued that the investigation was not thorough enough to know either way.
During the confirmation process, Judge Kavanaugh had appeared annoyed as he defended himself against Dr Ford’s accusation, which he denies.
At times he cried, at other times he shouted, leading many to wonder whether – regardless of whether Dr Ford’s claim was true – he lacked the temperament for a lifetime appointment in America’s most powerful court.
Speaking after his swearing in, Judge Kavanaugh agreed that the process had been “contentious and emotional”, adding: “That process is over. My focus now is to be the best justice I can be.
“The Supreme Court is a team of nine and I will always be a team player on the team of nine.”
Judge Kavanaugh’s first day on the bench is Tuesday when he and his colleagues will hear arguments about longer jail terms for repeat offenders.