Trump gives Republican insider Brett Kavanaugh US supreme court position

Move likely to secure conservative majority on the court for decades to come

Judge Brett Kavanaugh   shakes hands with President Donald Trump after being nominated to the US supreme court in the East Room of the White House on Monday. Photograph:  Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Judge Brett Kavanaugh shakes hands with President Donald Trump after being nominated to the US supreme court in the East Room of the White House on Monday. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

 

Federal appeals court judge Brett Kavanaugh has been nominated by US president Donald Trump to replace Anthony Kennedy on the US supreme court, in a move that is likely to secure the conservative majority on the court for decades to come.  

The appointment of Mr Kavanaugh (53), who has served as an appeals court judge in Washington DC since 2006, requires Senate confirmation. With Republicans holding a majority in the 100-member house, he is expected to be confirmed, even though he is likely to face a tough questioning.

Announcing the nomination in a ceremony at the East Room of the White House which was televised live on Monday evening, Mr Trump said that there was “no one in America more qualified for this position, and no one more deserving”. Highlighting Mr Kavanaugh’s strong academic background, he hailed the judge’s “impeccable credentials, unsurpassed qualifications, and commitment to equal justice under the law”.

Mr Kavanaugh’s nomination was a closely-guarded secret right up to the announcement. The US president had whittled the possible nominees down to four over the weekend, and made his announcement on the eve of his departure for Europe, where he attends the Nato summit in Brussels on Wednesday.

Investigation

As well as his experience as a judge, Mr Kavanaugh has previously worked in the political sphere and is viewed as a Republican insider. He worked with special counsel Kenneth Starr during his investigation into Bill Clinton, which uncovered details of the then president’s relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.  

Having represented George W Bush in the Bush versus Al Gore recount dispute in Florida after the presidential election of 2000, he then worked for the Bush White House. He had previously served in the solicitor general’s office during the George HW Bush administration.

Since his nomination to the DC circuit court, he has authored about 300 opinions and currently teaches at Harvard, Yale and Georgetown.

Accepting the nomination in the White House alongside his wife, Ashley, and two young daughters, a smiling Mr Kavanaugh thanked the president and promised independence. He said his judicial philosophy was simple – that “a judge must be independent – interpret the law, not make the law”.

He said that a judge must interpret the US constitution “as written”, adding: “I revere the constitution.” He also pledged to “keep an open mind in every case”.

Mr Kavanaugh, a practising Catholic, described his upbringing as an only child. He thanked his parents, who were present at the White House, and described the influence of his mother who taught in public schools in African-American districts of Washington before training as a judge.

Mr Kavanaugh was greeted by senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and vice president Mike Pence as he arrived on Capitol Hill on Tuesday to hold private meetings with senators.

Pressure

While the bulk of Republican senators are likely to endorse him, senators Susan Collins from Maine and Lisa Murkowski from Alaska have warned that they may not support someone who opposes Roe v Wade, the landmark supreme court judgment on abortion. However, some Democratic senators in traditional Republican states may choose to endorse the nominee, reducing pressure on Republicans to secure a vote on party lines.

A vote on Mr Kavanaugh’s nomination is expected to take place in September or early October, before November’s midterm elections.

Speaking on the senate floor on Tuesday, Mr McConnell endorsed Mr Kavanaugh, saying that the federal appeals court judge was “perfectly qualified” with a “top-notch” resumé.

But in a sign of the battles ahead, the top senate democrat, Chuck Schumer, vowed to oppose the nomination, saying “we cannot let it happen”.

“I will oppose judge Kavanaugh’s nomination with everything I have, and I hope a bipartisan majority will do the same. The stakes are simply too high for anything less,” he said in a statement following the announcement.