Trump Picks Brett Kavanaugh for Supreme Court (UPDATED)
President Donald Trump has picked judge Brett M. Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court — a nomination virtually assured to go through, no matter what the political fireworks or length of the confirmation hearings.
President Trump on Monday selected Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, a politically connected member of Washington’s conservative legal establishment, to fill Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s seat on the Supreme Court, setting up an epic confirmation battle and potentially cementing the court’s rightward tilt for a generation.
The nomination of Judge Kavanaugh, 53, a federal appeals court judge, former aide to President George W. Bush and onetime investigator of President Bill Clinton, was not a huge surprise, given his conservative record, elite credentials and deep ties among the Republican legal groups that have advanced conservatives for the federal bench.
But it will galvanize Democrats and Republicans in the months before the midterm elections. Justice Kennedy, who is retiring, held the swing vote in many closely divided cases on issues like abortion, affirmative action, gay rights and the death penalty. Replacing him with a committed conservative, who could potentially serve for decades, will fundamentally alter the balance of the court and put dozens of precedents at risk.
Judge Kavanaugh’s long history of legal opinions, as well as his role in some of the fiercest partisan battles of the last two decades, will give Democrats plenty of ammunition for tough questions. Nearly 20 years ago, working for the independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr, he laid out broad grounds to impeach Mr. Clinton — words that Democrats can now seize on to apply to Mr. Trump and the Russia investigation. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who leads the barest of Republican majorities, had also expressed misgivings about his path to confirmation.
In choosing Judge Kavanaugh, the president opted for a battle-scarred veteran of Republican politics but also someone with close ties to the Bush family — a history that aides to Mr. Trump said he viewed as a strike against him and had to overcome.
Kavanaugh serves on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which often rules on major challenges to federal laws and policies. If confirmed, he would make the Supreme Court solidly conservative, joining Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch — providing a five-vote majority.
He would be sure to join the conservatives more often than Kennedy, who sometimes voted with the court’s liberals in cases raising hot-button social issues.
In his remarks, Kavanaugh discussed his guiding principles as a jurist.
“My judicial philosophy is straightforward. A judge must be independent and must interpret the law, not make the law,” he said. “A judge must interpret statutes as written. And a judge must interpret the Constitution as written, informed by history and tradition and precedent.”
“I will tell each senator that I revere the Constitution,” he added, referring to one-on-one meetings that will take place as part of the confirmation process. “I believe that an independent judiciary is the crown jewel of our republic. If confirmed by the Senate, I will keep an open mind in every case and will always try to preserve the Constitution of the United States and the American rule of law.”
Kavanaugh was nominated to the appeals court by President George W. Bush and confirmed in 2006 by a vote of 57-36. Four Supreme Court justices have come from the D.C. Circuit in recent years — John Roberts, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia.
Reaction from Capitol Hill was swift, with many Democrats — including potential 2020 contenders Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Cory Booker, D-N.J. — announcing their intention to vote against Kavanaugh within minutes of Trump’s announcement.
“Judge Brett Kavanaugh represents a direct and fundamental threat to that promise of equality and so I will oppose his nomination to the Supreme Court,” Harris said.
Booker, citing the integrity of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 race, as well as abortion rights, added, “With all that’s at stake, I will fight to stop this nomination every step of the way.”
Meanwhile, top Republicans — including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa — lauded Kavanaugh as a great pick by Trump, using words like “excellent” and “impressive.”
A small group of senators from both parties whose votes on the nomination will be closely watched, however, played their cards close to the vest.
(Which probably means in the end they will vote for Kavanaugh.)
President Donald Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. If confirmed, the 53-year-old federal judge could tilt the balance of the court in a solidly conservative direction for decades to come, likely affecting decisions on abortion, gerrymandering, affirmative action, gay rights and capital punishment.
Kavanaugh’s position on strong executive power and his role in partisan political battles, including independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s investigations into President Bill Clinton and the high court’s decision on the 2000 presidential election recount, are set to dominate what’s shaping up to be an extraordinarily contentious confirmation hearing.
The Huffington Post gives a list of things to know about the prospective Supreme Court nominee. Here’s one of them:
Vocal Supporter Of Expansive Presidential Power
Kavanaugh has emerged as an outspoken champion of unitary executive theory: the justification of what is effectively unchecked presidential power over the executive branch.
Kavanaugh has argued that a president shouldn’t be burdened by lawsuits, investigations and indictments, a position that may be of great interest to the White House as special counsel Robert Mueller continues his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
“Whether the Constitution allows indictment of a sitting President is debatable,” Kavanaugh wrote in a 1998 article that argued that impeachment, not criminal prosecution, is the appropriate mechanism to hold a president accountable for criminal acts. About a decade later, Kavanaugh wrote in a Minnesota Law Review article that he believed a president “should be excused from some of the burdens of ordinary citizenship while serving in office.” He also argued that an indictment of a president would “cripple the federal government,” rendering it “unable to function with credibility” domestically and internationally. Such an outcome, Kavanaugh said, “would ill serve the public interest, especially in times of financial or national security crisis.”
The Daily Beast’s Matt Lewis writes that conservatives didn’t get the nominee they wanted:
The libs, it turns out, were not owned.
In fact, if President Trump trolled anyone this week, it was conservatives. Judge Brett Kavanaugh might well turn out to be a terrific U.S. Supreme Court justice. But in terms of energy and excitement, it’s hard to see this nomination as anything other than a letdown.
Two years ago, if you told most conservatives that Republicans would be nominating a 53-year-old Supreme Court justice named Brett Kavanaugh, they would have been ecstatic. Today, it’s a buzzkill.
If you’re thinking logically, the important thing for conservatives should be that Trump stuck to the list that was created for him by the Federalist Society. As Ross Douthat observed, “cultivating serious judges is one of the few things conservatism does well, the president has a host of qualified nominees to choose from…”
But the heart wants what the heart wants. And it is human nature to want more, especially when the idea has had time to take root. And, for the last week, or so, that’s exactly what happened.
The dirty little secret of column-writing is that, for big events such as this one, we tend to pre-write our columns. In this case, there were two general “takes” I had ready to roll: The Amy Coney Barrett column and the Everybody Else column. That tells you all you need to know about which narrative might have been exciting.
In a way, this rollout was unfair to Kavanaugh, who, again, could turn out to be a fine pick. Trump likes drama and suspense, but on this occasion, he was too cute by half. He might have been better off without the teasing, only to settle on a fine, if perfunctory, pick.
SOME REACTION ON TWITTER:
Kavanaugh’s opinion on executive power is very expansive – a view that has evolved dramatically from his days on the Starr commission. But he is very personally well regarded by colleagues from the Bush administration.
— John Avlon (@JohnAvlon) July 10, 2018
Brett Kavanaugh is a nice guy. So is Merrick Garland, the chief judge on Kavanaugh’s court.
— Preet Bharara (@PreetBharara) July 10, 2018
We have NEVER had a justice nominated by a president in this position criminally—and with the power to sit in judgment over his patron's personal fate. If that's not a conflict, I don't know what is. What then? Extrarordinary circumstances call for extraordinary measures.
— Norm Eisen (@NormEisen) July 10, 2018
He’s a GWB conservative. DC circuit and Yale law grad. Probably not conservative enough for Trumpistan. There’s going to be some angry tea party loons.
— Andrew C Laufer, Esq (@lauferlaw) July 10, 2018
McConnell’s worry is two-fold: that the sheer volume of Kavanaugh paperwork will make it easier for Dems to stall and that his Bushie ties will dredge up old controversies that will stir folks on left and right https://t.co/MT0SrT4pAS
— Jonathan Martin (@jmartNYT) July 10, 2018
Manchin, Donnelly, Heitkamp, and maybe McCaskill will vote for Kavanaugh. Collins and Murkowski too. No Republicans will vote against him. This goose is cooked.
— Mark Joseph Stern (@mjs_DC) July 10, 2018
Barrett was the right pick if Trump's top priority was smoothing the politics of overturning Roe. Kavanaugh was the right pick if Trump's top priority was protecting himself from criminal investigation.
— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) July 10, 2018
It's going to be quite a visual when five men overturn Roe. https://t.co/inbITwHYy8
— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) July 10, 2018
Judge Kavanaugh's 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. #WhatsAtStake #StopKavanaugh #ScotusPick pic.twitter.com/j94kPUXSoM
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) July 10, 2018
Brett Kavanaugh is a true Second Amendment radical. He believes assault weapon bans are unconstitutional, a position way out of the judicial mainstream, far to the right of even late Justice Scalia.
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) July 10, 2018