Trump hosts another crowded White House celebration after superspreader event

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Neither Donald Trump nor Amy Coney Barrett wore a mask, even though both have been infected with the coronavirus.

Exactly one month after it held a crowded gathering in the Rose Garden to introduce Donald Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett, an event that resulted in the transmission of the coronavirus to at least 11 attendees, the White House on Monday evening held a similar event to celebrate her initial swearing-in by Justice Clarence Thomas.

The Judicial Oath, which officially seats Barrett on the court, was to be administered in a private ceremony on Tuesday by Chief Justice John Roberts. The constitutional oath administered by Thomas was the centerpiece of Trump's latest spectacle for television.

By contrast with the ceremony in September, which infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci termed a "superspreader event," guests at the ceremony on Monday were seated at a few feet's distance from one another and were required to wear masks. Neither Trump nor Barrett, who have both been infected with the coronavirus, wore a mask. Neither did Thomas or first lady Melania Trump.

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The nod to guidelines on social distancing issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at the swearing-in event last night notwithstanding, the very fact that it was held is in line with the dismissive attitude of the administration toward measures intended to slow the pandemic, which chief of staff Mark Meadows summed up on Sunday, telling CNN: "We are not going to control the pandemic."

Mike Pence, members of whose staff have received positive coronavirus test results, did not attend the swearing-in. Neither did the other Supreme Court justices.

The ceremony came after a rushed nomination and confirmation process that was ultimately viewed as a victory over liberals as much as a chance to tip the court to a conservative majority. After the confirmation, by a vote of 52 to 48, the official Twitter account of the Senate Judiciary Committee posted: "Amy Coney Barrett, confirmed. Happy birthday, @HillaryClinton!"

On Sunday night, in what could be seen as an acknowledgment that the election next month might not go as he'd wish, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell crowed about the confirmation of Barrett: "We made an important contribution to the future of this country. A lot of what we have done over the last four years will be undone sooner or later by the next election. It won't be able to do much about this for a long time to come."

Democrats took to the Senate floor to decry what they said was a precedent-shattering political power grab.

"This is a party beholden to billionaires and extremists that is desperate to keep its grasp on power and willing to break any rule, any precedent, or any principle to hold onto that power just a little longer," Sen. Elizabeth Warren said.

"You can't spell shameful without sham, and that's what Senate Republicans have turned this Supreme Court nomination process into — a sham," said Sen. Ed Markey.

Taking aim at the judicial philosophy that Barrett has described as the basis for her legal outlook, Markey added:

Originalism is racist. Originalism is sexist. Originalism is homophobic. For originalists like Judge Barrett, LGBT stands for "Let's go back in time." A time when you couldn't marry who you loved, when you couldn't serve in the military if you were trans. A time when rights were not extended to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, or intersex individuals. Originalism is just a fancy word for discrimination.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.