White House holds swearing-in ceremony for Amy Coney Barrett
By Maegan Vazquez, CNN
(CNN) -- Amy Coney Barrett was sworn in to the Supreme Court at a White House ceremony Monday evening, shortly after her nomination was confirmed by the Senate.
"As you take your oath tonight the legacy of our ancestors falls to you," President Donald Trump told Barrett during the ceremony. "The American people put their trust in you and their faith in you as you take up the task of defending our laws, our Constitution and this country we all love."
"Justice Barrett made clear she will issue rulings based solely upon a faithful reading of the law and the Constitution as written, not legislate from the bench," Trump said.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas swore in Barrett under a constitutional oath at the White House event. Chief Justice John Roberts will administer Barrett's judicial oath swearing-in ceremony on Tuesday.
Barrett called it "a privilege to be asked to serve my country(.)" She also highlighted the "separation of duty from political preference."
"My fellow Americans, even though we judges don't face elections, we still work for you. It is your Constitution that establishes the rule of law and the judicial independence that is so central to it," Barrett said. "The oath that I have solemnly taken tonight means at its core that I will do my job without any fear or favor, and that I will do so independently of both the political branches and of my own preferences."
The ceremony comes a week before Election Day and a month after a White House Rose Garden event to announce Barrett's nomination -- which has been labeled by public health experts as a coronavirus superspreader event.
At least a dozen people who were at the announcement in September confirmed they had contracted the coronavirus shortly after their attendance.
But unlike the Rose Garden event, when many attendees went maskless and social distancing went largely unobserved, the audience at Monday's swearing-in was socially distanced and masks were required. The event marked one of the first times the White House has implemented social distancing protocols.
Trump, who contracted and recovered from the coronavirus in the weeks after the Barrett nomination announcement event, downplayed the size of Monday night's event. Asked whether the White House would be holding a large event at the White House for Barrett's swearing-in, Trump said: "No, not a large event. Just a nice event."
But some 200 socially distanced chairs were spread out across the White House south lawn for the event. Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah, James Lankford of Oklahoma and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin were spotted in the audience.
Like at most events at the White House, a White House official said individuals near Trump would be tested for coronavirus beforehand.
Earlier Monday, some Republican senators were on the fence about attending the ceremony.
Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, whose state has recently seen the highest transmission rate in the country, said he would be attending the event and anticipated that there will be adequate protective measures.
"It sounds like it's an outdoor event. I mean, that would certainly help that. Obviously, a lot more room, as well as the clean air, so I'm not, I'm not overly concerned. I'm certainly not concerned for myself. I'll do my part," Cramer said.
Sen. Todd Young of Indiana, who had confirmed but said he was reconsidering whether to attend, was ultimately seen on the South Lawn for the ceremony.
Florida Sen. Rick Scott and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott were among those who said they were undecided.
Sens. Deb Fischer of Nebraska and Richard Shelby of Alabama plan to go home after the confirmation vote. North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also did not attend the event, citing other obligations.
While the White House has maintained that the US is rounding the corner of the coronavirus pandemic, it's still spreading among key staffers. Over the weekend, at least five aides to Vice President Mike Pence tested positive for Covid-19. Pence has flouted public health guidelines by continuing to campaign, but is taking precautions on the road.
The vice president was not expected to attend the swearing-in ceremony.
Barrett's confirmation solidifies a 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court -- a major victory for Republicans that is expected to have dramatic implications on decisions made by the high court for decades.
Barrett joins the court as the justices are ready to take action on a number of important petitions, including several related to next week's election.
Action on cases related to the President's taxes and abortion also await her in her first week on the bench.
This story has been updated with additional developments Monday.