WASHINGTON — “There is no one in America more qualified for this position and no one more deserving.”
In the East Room of the White House, President Donald Trump nominated Federal Appeals Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill the seat of retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.
“He is a brilliant jurist, with a clear and effective writing style, universally regarded as one of the finest and sharpest legal minds of our time,” Trump said in his prime-time televised White House announcement Monday. He added: “There is no one in America more qualified for this position, and no one more deserving.”
With his wife and two daughters by his side, the 53-year-old said he was deeply honored to have been selected by President Trump.
“If confirmed by the Senate, I will keep an open mind in every case and I will always strive to preserve the Constitution of the United States and the American rule of law,” said Kavanaugh.
“My judicial philosophy is straight forward. A judge must be independent, and must interpret the law, not make the law.”
Kavanaugh, 53, is a former law clerk for retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. Like Trump’s first nominee last year, Justice Neil Gorsuch, Kavanaugh would be a young addition who could help remake the court for decades to come with rulings that could restrict abortion, expand gun rights and roll back key parts of Obamacare.
Kavanaugh is likely to be more conservative than Justice Kennedy on a range of social issues. At the top of that list is abortion. A more conservative majority could be more willing to uphold state restrictions on abortion, if not overturn the 45-year-old landmark Roe v. Wade decision that established a woman’s constitutional right.
Kennedy’s replacement also could be more willing to allow states to carry out executions and could support undoing earlier court holdings in the areas of racial discrimination in housing and the workplace. Kennedy provided a decisive vote in 2015 on an important fair housing case.
Kavanaugh has written roughly 300 opinions as a judge on the Washington, D.C. circuit. He supported conservative issues like gun rights, and sided against net neutrality and many Obama-era EPA regulations.
Kavanaugh worked as an assistant to independent counsel Kenneth Starr during President Bill Clinton’s impeachment probe. In 2009 he wrote a law review article saying Presidents should be free from facing “criminal prosecutions,” adding an “indictment and trial would cripple the federal government.”
A senior White House official said Trump made his final decision on the nomination Sunday evening, then phoned Kavanaugh to inform him. The official said Trump decided on Kavanaugh because of his large body of jurisprudence cited by other courts, describing him as a judge that other judges read.
On Monday, Trump phoned retiring Justice Kennedy to inform him that his former law clerk would be nominated to fill his seat. Trump signed Kavanaugh’s nomination papers Monday evening in the White House residence.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called Kavanaugh “a superb choice” and said senators would start meeting with him this week.
Some Republican senators had favored other options. Rand Paul of Kentucky had expressed concerns but tweeted that he looked forward to meeting with Kavanaugh “with an open mind.”
At a rally outside the Supreme Court, Democrats slammed the President’s choice.
“I can tell you this is the most political of possible appointments. This is a nominee who wants to pave the path to tyranny,” said Senator Jeff Merkley.
Democrats have turned their attention to pressuring two Republicans, Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, to oppose any nominee who threatens Roe v. Wade. The two have supported access to abortion services.
Kavanaugh starts meeting with Senators today.