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Questions about Kennedy connections abound after President Trump picks Brett Kavanaugh to fill Supreme Court vacancy

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 7/10/2018
Anthony Kennedy wearing a suit and tie © Spencer Platt /

It wasn't a split decision.

President Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh for the nation's highest court may have been months in the making — and an effort to appease retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, according to sources and reports.

Kavanaugh met with Republican lawmakers Tuesday as he prepares for a contentious confirmation battle.

But the conservative jurist's path to replacing the man he once clerked for began well before the President's made-for TV decision.

While Trump did his best over the past two weeks to keep his choice under wraps, there are indications from those close to the President and several reports that the pick was made months ago.

A source close to Trump's inner circle told the Daily News that Kennedy's connections to Trump helped pave the way for Kavanaugh’s nomination.

While there were no direct efforts to force Kennedy to step down, there were vague assertions made that should he retire, his seat would go to someone he knew and trusted.

“There was not a firm understanding, but from what I’ve heard, the understanding was that the President would be more sympathetic to appointing a replacement that would be consistent with his desires and choices,” the source said.

Trump was leaning toward Kavanaugh, but a meeting with Kennedy where the jurist informed him of his retirement at the White House was the deciding factor, Politico reported Tuesday.

Kennedy “left the impression with Trump that Kavanaugh would be a great candidate for the job,” the site reported.

Longstanding relationships between the Trump and Kennedy families have raised eyebrows.

Kennedy's son Justin has close ties to the Trump family and was in charge of the real estate division of Deutsche Bank at a time when the investment firm lent the Trumps more than $1 billion.

“What I’ve heard is that Kennedy and the President never spoke, however their children have had conversations," the source said days before Trump announced his pick.

Some critics questioned Kennedy's motives and pointed to recent Supreme Court decisions concerning Trump administration policies such as upholding the travel ban barring people from select Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.

"If true, this calls into question the Travel Ban decision, among other cases this term. If Kennedy wanted Trump to keep to the deal, could he really rule against him in this case?" tweeted former Obama era White House lawyer Daniel Jacobson.

Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie © AFP Contributor#AFP /

White House spokesman Raj Shah would not comment Tuesday on whether Kennedy had any conversations regarding his replacement with Trump or others in the administration.

"I'm not going to read out private conversations that Justice Kennedy had with either members of the White House or the President," he told CNN. “Justice Kennedy can speak for himself.”

During his prime-time unveiling, Trump heaped praise on Kavanaugh, calling him "one of the finest and sharpest legal minds of our time.”

"Brett Kavanaugh has gotten rave reviews — rave reviews — actually, from both sides," Trump said Tuesday as he left the White House for a weeklong overseas trip. "And I think it's going to be a beautiful thing to watch over the next month."The 53-year-old will have an uphill battle on Capitol Hill as he will likely be regarded as a much more conservative judge than Kennedy, who was often a swing vote on the panel.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer vowed Tuesday to fight Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

“The ramifications of this battle will last a generation or more. I’m going to fight this nomination with everything I’ve got,” Schumer said on the steps of the Supreme Court, surrounded by the 10 Democrats who sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee.


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