• Why did Trump choose Brett Kavanaugh for SCOTUS?

    Many people remember lists from the The Heritage Foundation and The Federalist Society playing a role in the ill-advised selection of Kavanaugh for the SCOTUS. In addition, Don McGahn played a key role, and Justice Kennedy probably also wielded undue influence.

    Federalist Society - Leonard Leo

    When President Donald Trump nominates a justice to the Supreme Court on Monday night, he will be carrying out the agenda of a small, secretive network of extremely conservative Catholic activists already responsible for placing three justices (Alito, Roberts, and Gorsuch) on the high court.

    And yet few people know who they are—until now.

    At the center of the network is Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society, the association of legal professionals that has been the pipeline for nearly all of Trump’s judicial nominees. (Leo is on leave from the Federalist Society to personally assist Trump in picking a replacement for Justice Anthony Kennedy.) His formal title is executive vice president, but that role belies Leo’s influence.
    Heritage Foundation - John Malcolm

    When President Donald Trump announced on July 9 the selection of his nominee for a vacancy on the Supreme Court, he chose a jurist who was on a list of eight constitutionalist judges that a Heritage Foundation scholar compiled more than two years earlier.

    Trump tapped Judge Brett Kavanaugh—who has served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit since 2006—to replace Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. Kennedy announced his retirement at the end of the court’s 2017-2018 term in late June.

    Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Kavanaugh’s confirmation begin Sept. 4.

    In early March 2016, following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, Heritage’s John Malcolm published a list of potential Supreme Court justices in a Daily Signal article, “The Next Supreme Court Justice.” The non-exclusive list contained eight names, including Kavanaugh’s.

    After releasing an initial list of 11 names in May 2016, Trump later added to his list to include Kavanaugh. Trump gave credit to The Federalist Society and The Heritage Foundation for helping to inform his thinking in compiling his own list.
    The Next Supreme Court Justice
    John G. Malcolm / @malcolm_john / March 30, 2016
    Brett Kavanaugh (Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit)

    A former clerk for Justice Anthony Kennedy, Kavanaugh worked as a senior associate counsel and assistant to President George W. Bush and as an associate independent counsel. He was nominated to the D.C. Circuit in 2003 but not confirmed until 2006. Former Attorney General William Barr stated that Kavanaugh “quickly established himself as one of the key outside lawyers I went to on some of my toughest legal issues. He has a keen intellect, exceptional analytical skills, and sound judgment. His writing is fluid and precise. I found that he was able to see all sides of an issue and appreciate the strengths and weakness of competing approaches. He was particularly effective in dealing with novel issues which required some original thinking.” Since joining the bench, Kavanaugh has distinguished himself as a thoughtful, apolitical jurist, who is not afraid to stake out bold positions on complex issues.
    Don McGahn

    The Man Behind the Brett Kavanaugh Strategy: Don McGahn
    From the first, the White House has described the Kavanaugh nomination as a campaign with Mr. McGahn in the role of day-to-day manager and chairman.

    Mr. McGahn comes out of conservative legal circles and had admired Judge Kavanaugh’s writings on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, a person familiar with the matter said.

    Speaking last fall to the Federalist Society—a lawyers’ network that grooms conservative judges and others—Mr. McGahn rattled off names of potential Supreme Court nominees. His mention of Judge Kavanaugh sparked zealous applause. “He’s winning on the applause meter,” he quipped.

    Mr. McGahn was sold on Judge Kavanaugh’s performance on the bench even more so than Mr. Trump, people close to the White House said. The day after he offered Judge Kavanaugh the nomination, Mr. Trump was still phoning associates and asking whether he had made the right choice, a person close to the White House said.

    Despite pressure by Washington’s conservative legal establishment to choose one of its own, the president appeared “reluctant to pull the trigger” on nominating Judge Kavanaugh, said a person close to the process. To Mr. Trump, Judge Kavanaugh, who had worked in the George W. Bush White House, may have appeared as “just a Bush guy”—a creature of the Republican dynasty Mr. Trump often disparages, this person said.
    Justice Kennedy asked Trump to put Kavanaugh on Supreme Court list, book says
    Kennedy requested a private moment with President Trump to deliver a message about the next Supreme Court opening, Marcus reports. Kennedy told Trump he should consider another of his former clerks, Brett M. Kavanaugh, who was not on the president’s first two lists of candidates.

    “The justice’s message to the president was as consequential as it was straightforward, and it was a remarkable insertion by a sitting justice into the distinctly presidential act of judge picking,” Marcus writes in “Supreme Ambition: Brett Kavanaugh and the Conservative Takeover.”

    Kennedy announced his retirement 14 months later, after Kavanaugh’s name indeed had been added to Trump’s public list of potential Supreme Court picks.

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