Less than two weeks after Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement from the nation's highest court, President Trump has announced who he has picked to replace the famed "swing justice." Trump's second Supreme Court nominee is Brett Kavanaugh, the White House announced Monday evening.
"Judge Kavanaugh has impeccable credentials," Trump said, shortly after announcing his pick, per CNBC. "Throughout legal circles, he is considered a true judge's judge."
As the Wall Street Journal reported on July 4, Trump had included Kavanaugh in his three-person short list of Supreme Court justice nominees, along with fellow federal judges Amy Coney Barrett and Raymond Kethledge. Kavanaugh, 53, a federal appellate judge in the DC Circuit Court of Appeals since 2006, has a lengthy record of conservative rulings and experience as a lawyer for conservative causes, according to Vox. Kavanaugh is a graduate of Yale Law School and, as CNBC reported, an ideological conservative who many expect will swing the court to the right on a multitude of issues including business regulation and national security.
Although conservative publication the National Review said that Kavanaugh would be "an excellent Supreme Court justice," making the court "substantially more originalist and rigorous," Kavanaugh could still run into issues in his confirmation hearing.
The New York Times pointed out one issue in particular — as part of independent counsel Kenneth Starr's team during the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, Kavanaugh argued that then-president Clinton could be impeached because he had misled the public and lied to his own staff. Democrats, the Times noted, are thus likely to bring up the topic of impeachment during Kavanaugh's Senate confirmation hearings, even though Kavanaugh made later statements in 2009 somewhat nullifying the Starr report that he contributed to writing. As The New York Times reported, Kavanaugh expressed qualms about the detriment of investigations on presidents. He believed that the investigation into Clinton should not have happened during his term and that Congress should pass laws to protect a president from lawsuits until they are out of office. The indictment of a sitting president “would ill serve the public interest, especially in times of financial or national-security crisis," Kavanaugh had written in a law review article.
Kavanaugh's argument back then could be seen as hurdle; it applied a broad definition of obstruction of justice that would hurt Trump if used toward the Russia investigation. His subsequent qualification of the argument could also be a bump during confirmation hearings; critics argue that Kavanaugh's later misgivings could be interpreted as a free pass if it were to be applied to Trump and the Russia investigation.
If Kavanaugh is confirmed, he would go on to become the second conservative jurist Trump has placed into the Supreme Court; the impact would reverbate through United States policy and laws for decades to come.
Trump's potential to color the country's top court was a deciding factor for many conservatives during the 2016 election. So far, Trump has fulfilled that promise with several federal judges and the appointment of conservative Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. For many women's right advocates, Kavanaugh's past decisions are portentous; he had written against allowing a 17-year-old undocumented immigrant's to get an abortion last year.
Kavanaugh teaches courses on the separation of powers, the Supreme Court, and national security at Harvard Law School and Yale Law School. He also does charitable work at St. Maria’s Meals program at Catholic Charities in Washington, D.C., according to his official biography.
Judge Kavanaugh’s lengthy past of legal opinions and his involvement in some of the most heated partisan battles over the past 20 years will give Democrats more than enough to grill him on in the upcoming Senate confirmation hearings.
Angela Chen contributed to this report.