President Trump selected Brett Michael Kavanaugh, a federal appeals court judge in Washington with powerful conservative credentials, on Monday to succeed Justice Anthony M. Kennedy on the Supreme Court.
Judge Kavanaugh was just 38 when he was first nominated to a federal appeals court in Washington. But he had already participated in an extraordinary number of political controversies, attracting powerful patrons and critics along the way.
He served under Kenneth W. Starr, the independent counsel who investigated President Bill Clinton, examining the suicide of Vincent W. Foster Jr., the deputy White House counsel, and drafting parts of the report that led to Mr. Clinton’s impeachment. He worked on the 2000 Florida recount litigations that ended in a Supreme Court decision handing the presidency to George W. Bush. And he served as a White House lawyer and staff secretary to Mr. Bush, working on the selection of federal judges and legal issues arising from the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
He was “the Zelig of young Republican lawyers,” Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, said at Judge Kavanaugh’s first confirmation hearing, in 2004. “If there has been a partisan political fight that needed a good lawyer in the last decade, Brett Kavanaugh was probably there.”
But Judge Kavanaugh, 53, has also formed lifelong friendships with liberals, many of whom praise his intellect and civility. In his professional life, before he became a judge, he was often a moderating force.
Working for Mr. Starr, Judge Kavanaugh concluded that Mr. Foster had in fact killed himself. He opposed the public release of the narrative portions of Mr. Starr’s report detailing Mr. Clinton’s encounters with a White House intern. As staff secretary to Mr. Bush, he said in 2006, he strived to be “an honest broker for the president.”
As a judge, though, he has been a conservative powerhouse, issuing around 300 opinions. His dissents have often led to Supreme Court appeals, and the justices have repeatedly embraced the positions set out in Judge Kavanaugh’s opinions.
He has written countless decisions applauded by conservatives on topics including the Second Amendment, religious freedom, the environment and campaign finance. But they have particularly welcomed his vigorous opinions hostile to administrative agencies, a central concern of the modern conservative legal movement.
So yeah. This guy may be even to the right of Gorsuch.
Again, allowing Trump to pick a justice while under investigation, when the same justice will be the deciding vote on the inevitable Constitutional questions regarding that investigation, is ludicrous. The Dems can choose to make this as excruciating as possible to boot.
They won't, I fully expect Kavanaugh to be confirmed by Labor Day recess with at minimum 54 votes, if not as many as 57. And while it's imaginable that Kavanaugh's first order of business will be to wreck any hope of affirmative action, voting rights, and/or abortion as health care, I honestly think he'll get to weigh in on Trump and the legality of his inevitable attempt to fire Robert Mueller.
We'll see what happens, but this is the part where the massive damage to the classic liberalism of the last 80 years starts in earnest.