WASHINGTON _ President Donald Trump apologized to Brett Kavanaugh for the bitter battle over his confirmation to the Supreme Court and declared him "innocent" of the sexual assault allegations that nearly derailed his nomination.
"I want to apologize to Brett and the entire Kavanaugh family for the incredible pain you have been forced to endure," Trump said Monday during a ceremonial swearing-in at the White House. "You sir, under historic scrutiny, were proven innocent."
Kavanaugh, acknowledging the "contentious and emotional" fight over his confirmation, said he had "no bitterness" and promised to "always be a team player on the team of nine."
Retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, whom Kavanaugh once clerked for and whose place he has taken on the court, then administered the oath of office with Trump standing by them.
Kavanaugh's installation cements the strongest Supreme Court conservative majority since the New Deal, delivering on a decadeslong ambition of the American right. It comes just in time to motivate evangelicals and social conservatives to turn out to vote in November elections that will determine control of Congress.
Trump has spent the past few days relishing Kavanaugh's confirmation, which appeared in doubt as recently as a week ago after three women made sexual assault allegations against him. At a speech in Florida earlier Monday, Trump denounced the accusations against his nominee as "a hoax" perpetrated "by people that are evil."
All eight of the Supreme Court's other justices attended the White House ceremony, a show of collegiality by members of an ideologically divided court. Kavanaugh was joined at the ceremony by his wife and two daughters.
Kavanaugh will take the bench on the Supreme Court for the first time Tuesday. The court will be hearing arguments in two previously little-noticed cases involving the Armed Career Criminal Act, a federal law that imposes heightened penalties on people who repeatedly commit serious crimes.
The White House event was purely ceremonial. Kavanaugh took the two required oaths privately at the court on Saturday, letting him begin work right away. He has already hired four law clerks, all women, and is expected to be on the bench Tuesday when the court hears arguments in two cases.
President Barack Obama's two Supreme Court appointees, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, didn't participate in oath ceremonies at the White House. They took their oaths at the court in ceremonies that were televised live.
In 2009 when Sotomayor was sworn in, administration officials said Obama wanted to forgo a White House oath as a sign of the new justice's independence. The president later hosted a reception at the White House for Sotomayor, as he did a year later with Kagan.
Trump's first Supreme Court appointee, Neil Gorsuch, also took part in a White House oath ceremony.