After Justice Anthony Kennedy told President Donald Trump he would relinquish his seat on the Supreme Court, the president emerged from his private meeting with the retiring jurist focused on one candidate to name as his successor: Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Kennedy’s former law clerk.
Trump, according to confidants and aides close to the White House, has become increasingly convinced that “the judges,” as he puts it, or his administration’s remaking of the federal judiciary in its conservative image, is central to his legacy as president. And he credits Kennedy, who spent more than a decade at the center of power on the court, for helping give him the opportunity.
So even as Trump dispatched his top lawyers to comb though Kavanaugh’s rulings and quizzed allies about whether he was too close to the Bush family, potentially a fatal flaw, the president was always leaning toward accepting Kennedy’s partiality for Kavanaugh while preserving the secret until his formal announcement, sources with knowledge of his thinking told POLITICO.
Source familiar tells NBC that Justice Kennedy had been in negotiations with the Trump team for months over Kennedy’s replacement. Once Kennedy received assurances that it would be Kavanaugh (his former law clerk) Kennedy felt comfortable retiring – @LACaldwellDC & @frankthorp
— Geoff Bennett (@GeoffRBennett) July 10, 2018
“That is garbage…no way that is possible. That is insulting to Justice Kennedy.” Leonard Leo to me just now on resorts Justice Kennedy struck a deal for Judge Kavanaugh.
— Hugh Hewitt (@hughhewitt) July 10, 2018
— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) July 9, 2018
Leonard Leo runs Fed. Soc’s social conservative wing. His agenda is first about reversing Roe v. Wade, and then about reversing same sex marriage and any other case offending ultraconservative religions. Sen. Judiciary must find out more.https://t.co/Z6SUVD6vKd via @HuffPostPol
— Richard W. Painter (@RWPUSA) July 5, 2018