The swearing-in or “making” ceremony installing Brett M. Kavanaugh as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States was held in private. Nevertheless, some details have emerged. One person present may have had their iPhone on record.
As often noted, this was the first time a sitting Justice (Justice Kennedy) was to swear in an attorney who had previously clerked for him. Of greater significance is the new language inserted into the ceremony by Donald Trump.
What follows is a rough transcript reconstructed from the unverified recording and from personal recollections. It appears the private ceremony differed markedly from the second, public ceremony held later for the cameras.
Present and participating were Judge Kavanaugh, Justice Kennedy, and President Trump.
Judge Kavanaugh’s wife and children were also present, but were bound and gagged and wearing red pyjamas, in keeping with tradition.
Selected guests were also present, but were camouflaged as eggplants and led in through a secret passageway.
Trump [to Kavanaugh]: You’ve passed through many trials and tribulations, my friend. And while your breasts are not particularly large, your intellect is massive. I’m attracted to you as a jurist. That’s why I ultimately appointed you to the Supreme Court. I have faith that you will reach fair decisions, reciprocal decisions.
Kavanaugh: Thank you, Mr. President. I couldn’t ask for a higher honor.
Trump: You know that, right? You know I could have appointed others — those who I call my captains, those who share my blood. The Rooster wanted me to choose someone with a shorter paper trail — but I said: “You’ve tried the rest, now try the best.”
Kavanaugh: A profound sentiment, sir. I am greatly indebted to you.
Trump: You are indebted to me. I’m the Master of this Show, the Brander-In-Chief. I took one look at you and said, “This is something we can sell.”
Kavanaugh: I appreciate your confidence in me, sir.
Trump: And sell we did, and found a lot of buyers among Senators. Tremendous Senators.
Kavanaugh: Some of them were quite tremendous, yes, Mr. President.
Trump: I personally made Susan Collins an offer she couldn’t refuse.
Mrs. Kavanaugh: Argle. Mmph.
Kavanaugh: What’s that?
Mrs. Kavanaugh: Argle. Mmph. Ahbah. Rzzzzle…
Kavanaugh: You’ll tell me later, dear.
Trump: As I was saying, you’re my brand of Supreme Court justice, the kind I can work with, the kind who remembers who his friends are. The kind who knows that 90% of success is having a rap and being provocative.
Kennedy [interrupting]: Mr. President, if I may quote a line from It’s A Wonderful Life: Why don’t you kiss her instead of talking her to death?
Trump: You have a point. Fat Tony wants us to get on with the ceremony, and he has a point.
[Trump adjusts the lighting so that the room is suffused in a soft orange glow. Kennedy walks over to Kavanaugh and addresses him pointedly.]
Kennedy: Raise your right hand. Do you swear, promise and pledge debenture, declenture, accenture to blambify the rheostat in oleosis cum ultimatum? Say “what.”
Trump: Now Brett, if you have any doubts or reservations, this is the time to say so. No one’ll think any less of you. Because once you enter this Supreme Court family, there’s no getting out. This family comes before everything else. Everything. Before your wife and your children and your mother and your father. It’s a thing of honor. Then, God forbid if you get lawyer’s block and can’t write opinions, we’ll take care of you, ’cause that’s part of it. If you got a problem, you just gotta let somebody know.
[Kavanaugh nods silently.]
Kennedy: This man right here, he’s like your father, except he’s orange. You got a problem with somebody here or on the outside, you bring it to him, he’ll solve it. You stay within the family.
[Kavanaugh once again nods his assent. Trump produces a sewing needle from his jacket and proceeds to heat it over a candle flame. He pricks himself, then turns to Kavanaugh.]
Trump: Alright, give me your hand.
[Trump pricks Kavanaugh’s finger and presses it against his own. The two are bonded in blood.]
Trump: Okay. It’s done.
[Trump next produces a card which he holds by the edges and sets ablaze.]
Trump: This is Saint Peter, my family saint. Now, as that card burns, so may your soul burn in hell if you betray your President.
[He passes the card to Kavanaugh.]
Trump: Now rub your hands together like this and repeat after me. May I burn in hell…
Kavanaugh: May I burn in hell…
Trump: If I betray my President.
Kavanaugh: If I betray my President.
Kennedy: Congratulations! Welcome to the family.
Trump: And on it goes, this thing of ours…
Mrs. Kavanaugh: Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.” Ark!
* * *
Acknowledgements: Some portions of the dialogue were adapted from The Sopranos, Season 3, Episode 3, “Fortunate Son,” written by Todd A. Kessler.