Trump’s surprisingly conventional Supreme Court pick

In a day filled with suspense, intrigue, and sharp debate over the direction of the judiciary, the nation’s most unconventional president showed a decidedly conventional approach to the Supreme Court. Almost two weeks after Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement and changed the midterm election cycle, President Trump picked one of Kennedy’s former clerks to replace him. Brett Kavanaugh, who has served for 12 years on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, got the prime-time reveal at the White House.

Kavanaugh has been at the top of the conservative wish list for years. So the big surprise from Trump in this case is that there wasn’t much surprise in the choice at all. To some extent, that’s by design. Trump had to convince movement conservatives to turn out for him in 2016, but some argued that the famously mercurial Republican frontrunner couldn’t be trusted to take the issue seriously nor to stick to his pledge to nominate conservatives to the federal bench. His campaign worked with conservative groups, notably the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation, to develop a list of more than two dozen potential Supreme Court candidates. The list was impressive enough to win over many conservatives, especially given the alternative of having Hillary Clinton make these same appointments.

Trump has treated that list as a playbook ever since. When he took office, he immediately chose Neil Gorsuch from the list to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Trump also selected some on the list for appellate court appointments, such as Don Willett from the Texas Supreme Court and Notre Dame law professor Amy Coney Barrett. It came as no shock that Trump went right back to the same resource to look for his second appointment to the Supreme Court.

What is a little surprising, however, is that Trump chose a candidate who identifies strongly with the establishment Trump campaigned against two years ago. As a jurist, Kavanaugh has long been seen as a conservative’s conservative, but he’s worked as long in the political sphere as in the judiciary. As The Associated Press pointed out, “Kavanaugh was even born inside the Beltway and has lived there virtually his entire life.” After clerking for Kennedy at the Supreme Court, Kavanaugh went to work on Ken Starr’s independent counsel probe of former President Bill Clinton and Whitewater, which resulted in Clinton’s impeachment. He joined George W. Bush’s campaign and worked on the legal challenges surrounding the 2000 election, then served five years in the Bush White House before moving to the D.C. Circuit in 2006.

One would think Trump would have balked at Kavanaugh’s closeness to the political and legal establishment. Tapping Barrett, on the other hand, would have given him an opportunity to fire up his political base and to dare opponents to stop her. Raymond Kethledge, another name on the list, has a decade on the 6th Circuit, and hails from Michigan, a state Trump will need to hold in 2020. Pennsylvania native Thomas Hardiman, a runner-up to Gorsuch in …read more

Source:: The Week – Politics


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