Judiciary

Bonus Quote of the Day

“No president has ever consulted more widely or talked to more people from more backgrounds to seek input for a Supreme Court nomination.”

— Judge Brett Kavanaugh, quoted by Axios, after being nominated to be a Supreme Court Justice by President Trump.

Trump Picks Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court

President Trump nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement, NBC News reports.

“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.”

New York Times: “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.”

Kavanaugh Picked Up by Security Detail

“As Washington searched for clues to Mr. Trump’s selection for the Supreme Court, one of his top candidates, Judge Kavanaugh, was spotted leaving his office on Monday afternoon in a black sedan followed by a series of black sports utility vehicles containing security personnel,” the New York Times reports.

“The entourage accompanying Judge Kavanaugh, who sits on the United States Circuit Court for the District of Columbia, was unusual and attracted the attention of people working at the courthouse in Washington, according to a person informed about the activity who asked not to be identified. It was not immediately clear where Judge Kavanaugh was being taken.”

Allies of Hardiman Told to Prepare for Rollout

President Trump “has settled on a nominee for Supreme Court hours before a scheduled announcement, as some advocates prepared for the rollout of Judge Thomas Hardiman of Pennsylvania,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Allies of Judge Hardiman said they had been told to be ready to start touting the one-time taxi driver’s blue-collar roots, in hopes this would resonate with Mr. Trump’s supporters, according to a person familiar with the matter. They also said they’d been told the judge was in Washington, D.C., for a conference.”

Trump Narrows Supreme Court Field

“Signaling he has not yet settled on his pick for the Supreme Court, President Trump on Monday morning worked the phones primarily seeking input about two judges who are apparently the finalists, Brett Kavanaugh and Thomas Hardiman,” the New York Times reports.

“Mr. Trump appeared to be going back and forth between Judge Kavanaugh, the favorite of the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, and Judge Hardiman, whom the president’s sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, a former colleague of Judge Hardiman’s, has pressed him to choose.”

For members: Two Paths for Trump on the Supreme Court

White House Readies for Court Battle

“In a sparsely decorated ‘war room’ next to the West Wing on the White House grounds, Trump administration officials have been preparing for the president’s Supreme Court pick with an anything-can-happen approach to the historic task. With the knowledge that President Donald Trump could change his mind at the last minute — and with the president’s obsession to keep his final decision tightly held — Trump aides and Republicans familiar with the planning told Politico they initially were prepping for two possible nominees.”

“But as the president continued to talk through his decision over the long weekend at his Bedminster golf club in New Jersey, officials in Washington were poring over research and crafting media-ready soundbites for at least four potential picks. Ahead of the announcement officials will begin circulating talking points and biographies of a ‘universe of people’ for the court to Capitol Hill and outside allies.”

Mike Allen: “Within seconds of President Trump’s announcement of his Supreme Court pick at 9 tonight, the conservative Judicial Crisis Network will begin running digital ads targeted at Democrats in red states who might vote for confirmation. On the left, Demand Justice — a group launched in May to prepare progressives for a Court fight — plans to spend at least $5 million to oppose Trump’s nominee, with a pincer plan that pressures both Republican and Democratic senators in key states.”

Trump Gives Fresh Look to Thomas Hardiman

“President Trump is expressing fresh interest in Judge Thomas M. Hardiman, the runner-up for last year’s Supreme Court vacancy, as he pushes his decision on a replacement for Justice Anthony M. Kennedy into the final hours before his self-imposed deadline of Monday night,” the New York Times reports.

“All cautioned that Mr. Trump could go a different way before he reveals his choice in a prime-time address on Monday. He has said positive things to associates about Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a staunch social conservative… and he has not ruled out Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, a former staff secretary to George W. Bush.”

Kethledge Seen as Top Supreme Court Choice

Time: “As of Saturday evening, advisers say, the president had narrowed his list down to four candidates. Raymond Kethledge was the leading contender, although officials stress that Trump has not yet settled on a choice. Trump has been describing Kethledge to aides as “Gorsuch 2.0,” a reference to his 2017 successful nominee, Neil Gorsuch. Trump sees that nomination as one of the high points of his presidency.”

“Even so, White House officials are preparing rollout plans for all four contenders, which also include Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh and Thomas Hardiman, officials say. Hardiman, however, remains in distant last place.”

McConnell Nudges Trump Towards Two Judges

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told President Trump this past week that Judges Raymond Kethledge and Thomas Hardiman presented the fewest obvious obstacles to being confirmed to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court, the New York Times reports.

“While careful not to directly make the case for any would-be justice, Mr. McConnell made clear in multiple phone calls with Mr. Trump and the White House counsel, Donald McGahn, that the lengthy paper trail of another top contender, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, would pose difficulties for his confirmation.”

Red State Democrats Face an Agonizing Choice

“Democratic senators running for re-election in Trump Country face an agonizing choice over President Trump’s coming Supreme Court nominee: Vote to confirm the pick and risk demoralizing Democratic voters ahead of the midterm elections, or stick with the party and possibly sacrifice their own seats — and any chance at a Democratic majority in 2019,” the New York Times reports.

“The actions of a handful of Senate Democrats struggling to hold their seats in red states where Mr. Trump remains popular — notably Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Joe Manchin III of West Virginia — will have broad implications for the party at a critical political juncture.”

An Unorthodox Path to Supreme Court Short List

Washington Post: “Brett Kavanaugh’s career had traveled a most unusual path through Washington’s scandals. He had overseen an investigation into whether President Clinton’s deputy counsel, Vincent Foster, had been murdered or committed suicide. He had laid out the grounds for impeaching Clinton in the wake of the Monica Lewinsky affair.”

“After working on the recount that put George W. Bush in the White House, Kavanaugh played a central role in Bush’s administration and was rewarded when his boss nominated him to a federal circuit court. But Democrats held up his nomination, concerned he was too partisan, and his meteoric rise stalled.”

“As Kavanaugh’s nomination languished for a second year, Bush came to him with a question: What type of person should be nominated to the Supreme Court? Kavanaugh said the ‘tiebreaker’ should be someone who is ‘capable of convincing his colleagues through persuasion and strategic thinking,’ Bush wrote in his memoir. Based partly on that advice, Bush picked John G. Roberts Jr., who today is Chief Justice. A year later, Kavanaugh garnered enough votes to become a federal judge.”

The New Swing Justice Isn’t Very Swingy

FiveThirtyEight: “John Roberts is likely about to occupy a dual position that no one else has in the modern history of the United States: He will be both the court’s chief justice and, with the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, its median voter — the person in charge of the court, and the justice most likely to swing a decision one way or the other. This combination of institutional power and ideological centrality will give Roberts remarkable sway over the business and decisions of the court, and by extension the law of the land, possibly for decades to come.”

“But liberals cannot reasonably hold out much hope that Roberts will sway votes for some of their favored causes the way Kennedy did. While the statistical metrics show Roberts taking a relatively moderate position, he has very rarely voted with the liberals when it mattered.”