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.


India sends 36 ministers to restive Kashmir on charm offensive

Updated 18 January 2020

India sends 36 ministers to restive Kashmir on charm offensive

  • Ministers are on a five-day outreach mission to connect with people in the valley
  • The ministers’ visit follows a New Delhi-sponsored trip of 15 foreign ambassadors

NEW DELHI: India has dispatched dozens of ministers to its portion of the Kashmir region to promote government projects and development following months of unrest in the area.

Last August New Delhi revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, imposing a security crackdown and a communications blackout. It is India’s only Muslim-majority state and scrapping its semi-independence was the central government’s bid to integrate it fully with India and rein in militancy.

Prepaid mobile and Internet services have been restored although most of the valley remains without the Internet. Landline and post-paid mobile services were restored last month. 

The 36 ministers are on a five-day outreach mission to connect with people in the valley, with media reports saying Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the delegation “to spread the message of development among the people, not only in the urban areas but also in the villages of the valley.”

He was also reported as asking them to tell people about central government schemes that will have grassroot benefits.

The ministers’ visit follows a New Delhi-sponsored trip of 15 foreign ambassadors to the region.

Jammu-based ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Ashwani Kumar Chrungoo said the ministerial trip tied in with New Delhi’s development agenda.

“The ministers will interact with local-level representatives and stakeholders, and discuss the plan for the development of Jammu and Kashmir,” he told Arab News. “Kashmir cannot go back to the old ways. There are no political issues that remain here, all have been sorted out by parliament by abolishing Article 370, division of the state and neutralization of separatist elements.”

But India’s opposition Congress party said the visit was an attempt to “mislead and misguide” the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

“This is a third attempt to mislead and misguide the people of the world, Jammu and Kashmir and India. They are coming here for a third time to tell lies,” Congress leader and the former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir Ghulam, Nabi Azad, said.

Dr. Radha Kumar, from the Delhi Policy Group, said that a development agenda would not work without addressing the political issue.

“With all the unilateral decisions to abrogate the special status of the state, arresting all the mainstream leaders and putting the state in a lockdown, how are the government’s actions so far going to establish credibility and legitimacy in the eyes of the people of Jammu and Kashmir?” Kumar told Arab News. “I think this visit is more for international consumption than anything else.”

Dr. Siddiq Wahid, a Kashmiri intellectual and academic, called the visit a “clear sign” that New Delhi had no idea what to do.

“No matter how many ministers you send to Jammu and Kashmir it’s not going to alter the ground situation, it’s not going to address the issue of alienation,” he told Arab News. “What issues will they talk about with people? The government lost the people’s trust long ago.”

The Himalayan region has experienced turmoil and violence for decades. It is claimed in full by both India and Pakistan, which have gone to war twice over it, and both rule parts of it. India’s portion has been plagued by separatist violence since the late 1980s.

Jammu-based Zafar Choudhary, a senior journalist and editor of The Dispatch newspaper, said Modi’s government was full of surprises. “There have never been so many surprises in Jammu and Kashmir as have come in the last two years,” he told Arab News. “There is no instance in the past when so many central ministers have visited a state in one go.”

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