Trump crows over bitter Supreme Court justice victory

US President Donald Trump is greeted by Florida Governor and Republican US Senate candidate Rick Scott as he arrives in Orlando, Florida, October 8, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 08 October 2018

Trump crows over bitter Supreme Court justice victory

  • Kavanaugh’s Saturday confirmation in one of the closest such Senate votes in history showcased Americans’ polarization ahead of November 6 congressional midterm elections
  • Boarding the Marine One helicopter at the White House, he branded the sexual assault allegations that threatened to derail Kavanaugh’s path to the top court a hoax and all made up

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump reveled Monday in arguably the biggest — and hardest fought — victory of his controversy-strewn presidency ahead of a ceremonial swearing-in for new Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Kavanaugh’s Saturday confirmation in one of the closest such Senate votes in history showcased Americans’ polarization ahead of November 6 congressional midterm elections where Democrats hope to end Republican dominance.
But far from using the aftermath to try and heal the nation, Trump piled into even fiercer attacks.
Boarding the Marine One helicopter at the White House, he branded the sexual assault allegations that threatened to derail Kavanaugh’s path to the top court “a hoax” and “all made up, fabricated.”
Democrats, Trump said, “tortured him (Kavanaugh) and his family. I thought it was a disgrace.”
The president — whose Republicans fear losing at least the lower house of Congress in November — angrily predicted that the Kavanaugh row would backfire on Democrats.
“I think a lot of Democrats are going to vote Republican,” he said. “I think you’re going to see a lot of things happening on November 6 that wouldn’t have.”
Democrats fought tooth and nail to stop Kavanaugh’s candidacy, claiming that the accomplished, conservative-minded judge was not suited to the Supreme Court, which will now tilt decisively to a more Republican-friendly panel.
Then, just as his confirmation seemed inevitable, 11th hour allegations emerged that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted a 15-year-old girl while at high school and exposed himself to a female classmate at an alcohol-fueled dorm party at Yale University.
No evidence was produced to back up the searing accusations. Then an extra FBI probe — which media reports say was drastically curtailed by the White House — also found nothing new and Kavanaugh was finally voted in.
Late Monday, Trump will be able to rub salt into opponents’ wounds when he hosts a formal swearing-in ceremony.
Kavanaugh took the oath in a more hurried procedure Saturday, but the White House version will be a chance for the Trump administration to celebrate publicly.
Kavanaugh’s two-vote margin of victory in the Senate made it the closest Supreme Court confirmation vote since 1881 — and by far the most contentious since Clarence Thomas in 1991. Only one Democrat voted for Trump’s nominee.
Kavanaugh’s nomination as a replacement for retiring justice Anthony Kennedy was controversial from the start.
The initial focus of opposition was solely on the conservative views held by the married father of two. Then came bombshell testimony from university research psychologist Christine Blasey Ford that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her at a party when they were in school.
Now that Kavanaugh is confirmed, the nine-justice court, which rules on constitutional questions, is expected to take a more reliably conservative approach.
Trump has repeatedly said that putting conservatives on the court — Kavanaugh is his second appointment — was among the top goals of his presidency. Since justices serve lifetime appointments, the political consequences are likely to last long beyond Trump’s administration.


Afghan president vows to crush Daesh after deadly Kabul wedding strike

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani attends a state ceremony for the Afghan Independence Day in Kabul on Monday. (Reuters)
Updated 24 min 23 sec ago

Afghan president vows to crush Daesh after deadly Kabul wedding strike

  • ‘We have collapsed from the inside,’ says attack survivor

KABUL: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani vowed to wipe out Daesh, after a deadly attack on a wedding party in Kabul killed more than 60 people. The suicide bombing also injured 200 others late on Saturday evening.
Ghani, whose government is facing intense criticism for failing to deter attacks by sympathizers of Daesh and the Taliban, also announced the postponement of 100th anniversary celebrations of the country’s independence from Britain that were due to take place.
“We will eliminate Daesh hideouts all around the country … the fight against Daesh will be intensified,” Ghani said during a brief state ceremony to mark independence, even though formal festivities were put on hold.
The government had allocated millions of dollars and set aside two years for planning the event. “We postponed celebrations to honor the victims, but we will take the revenge of our people,” he added.
Daesh claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attack, which happened while guests and family members of the bride and groom were in segregated halls for men and women.
Most of the victims were Shiite and ethnic Hazaras. Daesh considers them to be heretics and has targeted them in recent years.
“I think many of us are merely alive by appearance and physically. Mentally, we are all dead. We have collapsed from the inside,” Zaman Shah, a 25-year-old survivor who lost three brothers in the attack, told Arab News.
The bomber blew himself up in the men’s hall. The groom was with the bride in the women’s section and survived, but both lost at least 25 family members.
Six children from one family perished. Other families lost loved ones too.
“I lost two of my brothers and four nephews, life has no meaning for me anymore,” Ahmad Fawad told reporters. “Postponing the independence anniversary will not cure our grief, this government is weak and useless and cannot protect people.”
Hasmat Hussien, another survivor, lost eight close members of his family and relatives in the attack. “We do not know why this calamity has befallen us. You cannot understand or comprehend our grief, misery and pain. We have not managed to sleep or eat for nearly two days now,” he said.
Amir Mohammad a 50-year-old man whose son died and had two others wounded in the attack, said: “Life has become meaningless for my family. These people who were targeted were poor, ordinary civilians, not government authorities or generals.”
The suicide bombing took place even as the US and the Taliban near a peace deal that could eventually lead to the complete withdrawal of foreign troops and end decades of conflict.
The Taliban, for its part, has pledged not to allow any group to use Afghanistan for attacks against any country.
“The US is making a peace deal with the Taliban, but we fear Daesh will be the next group that will expand its activities and there will be fighting for an uncertain future,” Kabul shopkeeper Rahim Dad said. “There will be peace with one group, but war with another. That means we won’t have peace, even if America and the Taliban make peace,” he added.
Ghani blamed the Taliban for the attack, saying it had given rise to extremist networks such as Daesh.
The Taliban, whose fighters have battled Daesh in some parts of the country, condemned the attack and showed sympathy with the victims.
US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who has led the US side in peace talks with the Taliban since last year, tweeted Sunday that it was time to step up efforts to end fighting.
But the peace talks have faltered, mostly because the Taliban refuses to engage with Ghani’s government.
“We condemn Daesh (Daesh) and yesterday’s heinous attack on a Kabul wedding hall that killed scores of innocent Afghan families,” Khalilzad tweeted. “We must accelerate the #AfghanPeaceProcess including intra-Afghan negotiations. Success here will put Afghans in a much stronger position to defeat Daesh.”
There was tight security in major cities as thousands of Afghans poured onto the streets to mark the 100th independence anniversary.
But blasts in the eastern city of Jalalabad disrupted the day. Officials said at least 50 people were wounded. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blasts in the city, parts of which have been a Daesh bastion.