President Trump visited the Supreme Court on Thursday for the first time as president while the justices prepare to answer Trump's request that they review the travel ban controversy.
Trump visited the high court for the formal investiture ceremony of Justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump's pick to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Gorsuch was sworn in at the Supreme Court in April and has already participated in the high court's deliberations. He issued his first opinion this week.
Thursday's investiture ceremonies are different from the oath ceremonies held in April at the White House and high court. At a formal investiture ceremony, the chief justice generally administers the Constitutional Oath privately to the new justice in the justices' conference room, according to the Supreme Court curator, and the commission is then read aloud in the courtroom, where the chief justice administers the Judicial Oath.
The formal investiture ceremony began as a regular practice in 1970 under Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, who held the first ceremony for Justice Harry A. Blackmun, per the Supreme Court's curator. Burger also created the tradition of having the new justice sit in the John Marshall Bench Chair, which was used by Chief Justice John Marshall from 1819 to 1835 after the high court's previous furniture was destroyed when the British burned the U.S. Capitol in 1814. New justices sit in the chair in the courtroom prior to taking the Judicial Oath.
After moving from the chair to his seat on the bench, Gorsuch received a "warm welcome" from Chief Justice John Roberts, a handshake from each of the justices, and applause throughout the courtroom.
"I want to thank all of my colleagues" and all who serve this honorable court, Gorsuch said.
Among those applauding the Colorodan's addition to the high court were his wife, Louise, family and several of his law clerks.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell attended the investiture alongside several Republican Senate Judiciary Committee members, including Texas senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch and North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis. Colorado senators Cory Gardner, a Republican, and Michael Bennet, a Democrat, witnessed the ceremony too — but Bennet was seated several rows back from his GOP colleagues and one row behind California Rep. Darrell Issa.
From the Trump administration, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, acting solicitor general Jeffrey B. Wall, solicitor general nominee Noel Francisco, and White House counsel Don McGahn attended. Several former attorneys general visited the court as well, including former attorneys general Alberto Gonzales, John Ashcroft and Ed Meese.
Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens also watched the ceremony on Tuesday and was seated on the same side of the courtroom as Trump and first lady Melania Trump.
Trump, who the Washington Post reported is under investigation for potentially obstructing justice in an FBI investigation, made his visit just before a Supreme Court filing deadline for the Justice Department in the ongoing travel ban litigation. The Justice Department submitted briefs to the high cour Wednesday ahead of the deadline.
At issue in the Justice Department's petition to the Supreme Court is the president's revised executive order aimed at implementing the travel ban. The order intends to prevent nationals from six Muslim-majority countries — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — from entering the U.S. for 90 days. The 9th and 4th Circuit Courts of Appeals have kept the blockade of the ban in place, much to the Trump administration's consternation.
The Supreme Court's travel ban briefing schedule is expected to allow the high court to be fully briefed before the end of its term at the end of the month. While scheduled oral arguments have already concluded, the Supreme Court is expected to decide whether to take the case and how to address the blockades of Trump's travel ban by the end of June.