President Trump has confirmed that his nominee to succeed Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court will be 53-year-old appeals court judge Brett Kavanaugh, the long-reputed frontrunner. The White House managed to keep Trump's pick a secret until roughly 8 minutes before the President's planned announcement, when NBC News confirmed that Kavanaugh had clinched the nomination.
As Trump pointed out, a dozen of Kavanaugh's 300 DC Circuit opinions have been adopted by the Supreme Court. "There is no one in America more qualified for this position or more deserving." During his remarks, Kavanaugh said his judicial philosophy is straighforward. A judge must interpret the law, not make the law, and interpret the constitution as written. Kavanaugh went to Yale and Yale Law and clerked for Kennedy on the Supreme Court, where he reportedly first met Neil Gorsuch, Trump's first SCOTUS nominee.
As Bloomberg points out, expect a lot of focus on Kavanaugh's 2009 paper arguing that a president shouldn't have to face the distractions of criminal prosecutions and lawsuits while president. Kavanaugh could cast the deciding vote on whether Trump must cooperate with a grand jury subpoena from Robert Mueller. Already, Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal is telling reporters that he would ask Kavanaugh to recuse himself from cases related to the Mueller probe.
By choosing Kavanaugh, President Trump has satisfied online bookmakers and Washington insiders alike by selecting Brett Kavanaugh, long rumored to be the front-runner, as his pick to succeed Justice Anthony Kennedy. While he reportedly faced opposition from some social conservatives over his ties to former President George W Bush, Kavanaugh benefited from a lengthy history of conservative rulings (he’s served in his current role as circuit judge for the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia since 2006) and the support of White House counsel Don McGahn III, who was tasked with leading the search. Though his rulings on some issues - notably Obamacare - have been seen as controversial by some.
If confirmed, Kavanaugh could trigger a historic shift in the balance of power, creating one of the most conservative courts in generations. This could in turn shift to the right the Court's position on issues including abortion, gay rights, affirmative action, the death penalty and federal regulatory power, according to Bloomberg. He faced stiff opposition from Democrats when he was nominated by Bush in 2006 for the appeals court. His pro-business bona fides including being the only dissenting voice when health insurer Anthem appealed a lower court's rejection of its attempted merger with Cigna.
Democrats said Kavanaugh was too partisan to become a judge. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, now the Democratic leader, called Kavanaugh a "very bright legal foot soldier." He was eventually confirmed in 2006.
On the appeals court, Kavanaugh has largely been a foe of government regulation, voting to strike down rules issued by the Environmental Protection Agency under President Barack Obama. He expressed doubt about Obama’s Clean Power Plan, though the appeals court never ruled on the issue.
Kavanaugh also said he would have thrown out the Obama-era net neutrality rule, which barred internet service providers from slowing or blocking rivals’ content. He voted to give the president the power to fire the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for any reason.
Kavanaugh voted to throw out a constitutional challenge to Obamacare in 2011 but left open the possibility the law could be overturned later. He said his colleagues’ decision to uphold the law, and its requirement to either buy insurance or pay a penalty, offered "no real limiting principle" and would have "extraordinary ramifications."
Although he hasn’t ruled directly on abortion rights, he sided with the Trump administration in a fight with an undocumented teenager seeking to end her pregnancy while in federal custody.
In a dissenting opinion, Kavanaugh said he would have blocked the girl, who was 15 weeks pregnant, from having an abortion for at least another week. The government said it was trying to find a sponsor for the girl so that officials wouldn’t have to "facilitate" her trip to an abortion clinic. The girl later had the procedure.
According to one measure cited by Axios, Kavanaugh would be the second-most conservative justice on the court.
Kavanaugh is also widely known for the fact that he drafted much of the Starr Report, which led to Bill Clinton's impeachment, and also included graphic details about sexual acts with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Trump’s nomination has set in motion what could be a weekslong confirmation process as Republicans struggle with an precariously flimsy majority of one (thanks to Sen. John McCain’s expected absence due to illness). As the Wall Street Journal points out, both pro- and anti-choice groups are planning millions of dollars in ad buys targeting the states of potential swing voters on both sides of the aisle. According to Marc Short, the Whtie House legislative director, Kavanaugh is expected to be confirmed by Oct. 1. Though given the high stakes and the number of opinions Kavanaugh has authored, Democrats could try to stretch it out until after the mid-terms.
Unsurprisingly, the RNC cheered Kavanaugh's nomination, calling him a "champion of the rule of law."
NEW: "Judge Kavanaugh is the best choice to succeed Justice Anthony Kennedy and Senate Democrats must put partisan politics aside and vote to confirm him to the Supreme Court," the RNC says in a statement https://t.co/MGNpLeb2xk pic.twitter.com/EBWdjsoGz9— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) July 10, 2018
The NRA also hailed him as "a fantastic pick." But at least one swing-vote Republican refused to outright endorse him: Susan Collins said only that Kavanaugh had "impressive credentials."
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is also out with a statement:
"Trump has put reproductive rights and freedoms and health care protections for millions of Americans on the judicial chopping block," Schumer said. "His own writings make clear that he would rule against reproductive rights and freedoms, and that he would welcome challenges to the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act."
"If he were to be confirmed, women’s reproductive rights would be in the hands of five men on the Supreme Court."
"I will oppose Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination with everything I have, and I hope a bipartisan majority will do the same. The stakes are simply too high for anything less."
Given Kavanaugh's history of siding with business over workers, the AFL-CIO also released a statement slamming his nomination.
Kavanaugh "routinely rules against working families, regularly rejects employees’ right to receive employer-provided health care, too often sides with employers in denying employees relief from discrimination in the workplace and promotes overturning well-established U.S. Supreme Court precedent."
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President Trump is set to announce his nominee to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy at 9 pm ET Monday. After successfully nominating Justice Neil Gorsuch last April, the nominee will be Trump's second SCOTUS pick during his roughly 18 months in office.
Watch the announcement live below:
According to CBS, Politico and several other US media outlets, Trump has narrowed his pick to four candidates, all of whom are federal judges. The frontrunner is Brett Kavanaugh, a judge on the US Court of Appeals for Washington DC. But Kavanaugh's ties to George W Bush have angered some social conservatives, who have mounted a last-minute campaign to persuade Trump to go with another candidate. The other candidates are Amy Coney Barrett, a circuit judge with the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, Raymond Kethledge, a circuit judge on the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and reputed dark horse Thomas Hardiman, the US circuit judge on the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Hardiman, who lost out to Gorsuch last year, was rumored to have fallen out of the running. But on Sunday rumors surfaced that he was back in the running.
Following an NBC report that Barrett was spotted at her home in Indiana, the "smart money" has effectively put her out of the running. The odds now heavily favor Kavanaugh, who has been consistently ranked as the frontrunner:
Some bettors are still placing long-shot bets on former Obama nominee Merrick Garland. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer reportedly pressed Trump to choose Garland during a phone call last week.
Read more about the candidates below:
Mr Kavanaugh, 53, is a Yale Law School graduate who previously served as a law clerk to Mr Kennedy. He currently serves on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, where he has authored more than 280 opinions – most of which have a distinctly conservative bent. Last year, Mr Kavanugh ruled to prevent a teenager in immigrant detention from getting an abortion. When the ruling was later overturned by the full court, he claimed the decision would give immigrant minors to a right to "immediate abortion on demand". The judge has also frequently ruled against Obama-era environmental regulations, and said he would like to strike down Washington DC’s ban on certain semi-automatic long guns. Despite his record of conservative opinions, some at the White House are wary of Mr Kavanaugh's ties to former President George W Bush, with whom Mr Trump maintains a contentious relationship. Mr Kavanagh was involved in the Florida vote recount that won Mr Bush the 2000 election, and later served as his counsel and staff secretary. Mr Kavanaugh also has a history with another past US president: Bill Clinton. In 1998, the future judge co-wrote an impeachment report on Mr Clinton with special counsel Kenneth Starr. In the report, he argues for a broad definition of obstruction of justice – a crime for which special counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly investigating Mr Trump.
Ms Barrett, 46, is the only woman among Mr Trump’s top picks, and the only contender not to have clerked for Mr Kennedy. Instead, the Notre Dame law school graduate clerked for the late Justice Antonin Scalia before serving as an associate at an international law firm. Ms Barrett has spent most of her career as a law professor at Notre Dame, where she worked for 15 years before Mr Trump appointed her to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017. Detractors are reportedly concerned about Ms Barrett's lack of experience on the bench, but conservative supporters are backing her as the only truly conservative pick. Ms Barrett, a devout Catholic, has previously expressed her personal belief that life begins at conception, and was a member of pro-life groups while teaching at Notre Dame. She has also suggested that the Court should be more “flexible” in overturning past decisions – something opponents fear means she is open to overturning Roe v Wade, the Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal across the country.
Mr Kethledge, 51, also has ties to former President George W Bush: The president nominated him to his current role on the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2006. From there, Mr Kethledge handed down a series of decisions that earned him the ire of many pro-choice and social justice groups. In 2014, the University of Michigan Law School law school graduate argued that employers should be allowed to run credit card checks on job applicants – something the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission argued was racial discrimination. In a 2017 discrimination case against the US Border Patrol, Mr Kethledge accepted agents’ claims that they used slurs like "wets" and "tonks" to refer specifically to undocumented immigrants, not to Hispanics in general. In a 2011 rape case, he argued that the victim's sexual history with the defendant should have been allowed in court.
Hardiman (courtesy of Politico):
Judge Thomas Hardiman, 53, is one of President Donald Trump’s finalists to fill the Supreme Court seat being vacated by retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. A judge on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, Hardiman emerged late as a contender for the seat, joining judges Brett Kavanugh, Amy Coney Barrett and Raymond Kethledge. Hardiman was appointed to the 3rd Circuit by President George W. Bush in 2007, after serving nearly four years on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. Hardiman — who was the runner-up to Justice Neil Gorsuch during Trump's first Supreme Court search — has served alongside Trump’s sister, Judge Maryanne Trump Barry, on the 3rd Circuit. A native of Massachusetts, Hardiman worked as taxi driver as a student and was the first in his family to graduate from college – giving him a type of up-by-the-bootstraps tale that appeals to the anti-establishment Trump. Hardiman graduated from the University of Notre Dame and Georgetown University Law Center. He worked in private practice in Washington and Pittsburgh from his graduation from law school in 1990 until joining the bench in 2003.
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Whatever Trump decides, the White House announced Monday that former Republican Sen. Jon Kyl has agreed to serve as the sherpa for the president’s nominee to the Supreme Court. Kyl, who left the Senate in 2013 and was previously the No. 2 Republican, was previously a member of the Judiciary Committee, where he participated in four of the last five confirmation battles.
While lawmakers are bracing for a bruising nomination battle, the battle of the interest groups has already begun, with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer blasting President Trump for consulting with conservative groups like the Federalist Society and its leader, Leonard Leo, and ignoring Democrats in Congress.
"Mr. Leonard Leo is the man who assembled Trump's list of potential Supreme Court nominees and no one, no one, has been more dedicated to overturning Roe v. Wade than Leonard Leo," Schumer said.
"Now normally in the Senate, we have a process of advising consent on the Supreme Court," Schumer said,
"In the old days, the president would consult with Republicans and Democrats in the Senate on a qualified judge and then after careful deliberation nominate a jurist to get bipartisan support.
What we have here is the exact opposite...the president has gone to two hard right groups, the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society, and asked them, not the Senate, to advise and consent on a Supreme Court nomination."
And liberal pro-choice groups like NARAL Pro-Choice America have already launched a campaign to pressure red-state Democrats and moderate Republicans to oppose Trump's pick. Four red-state Democratic senators - West Virginia's Joe Manchin, North Dakota's Heidi Heitkamp, Indiana's Joe Donnelly and Alabama's Doug Jones - were invited to the White House for Trump's announcement, but all four declined the invitation.