Dispatches: On Trump's Decision to Tap Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court

News and notes from Pacific Standard staff and contributors.
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Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

President Donald Trump selected his successor for soon-to-be-retired Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy this past week. Heading into the moment he made his selection public—which felt, like so many other things during this administration, not unlike a reality show finale—the three favorites were Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh, and Raymond Kethledge, each of which, according to experts Pacific Standard spoke to, had their own varied stances on hot-button issues such as abortion, gay marriage, and voting rights. However, as Adam Liptak, who covers the Supreme Court for the New York Times, noted on The Daily, no matter who was chosen, each would achieve the goal of replacing a swing-vote with a reliably conservative one, thus changing the balance of the Court.

The Choice

In the end, Trump went with Kavanaugh, and, despite some wishful thinking from the left that moderate Republican senators might reject the nominee, pushing the vote for another candidate until after the upcoming mid-term elections, that seems unlikely. Vox has created a tracker that illustrates the slim probability of a no-vote—especially considering there needs to be just a simple majority from the GOP-controlled Senate for Kavanaugh's confirmation. As contributing writers Jared Keller and Seth Masket have each noted in pieces on PSmag.com over the past week, when the majority of the Court's members have been appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote, and then confirmed by a party that does not represent the majority of the population, a legitimacy crisis may not be too far behind.

Kavanaugh's Record

Supposing Kavanaugh's appointment is confirmed, how should we expect him to vote once he's seated? Associate editor Rebecca Worby polled constitutional law and civil rights experts about their views on the nominee's potential voting patterns. Perhaps the most notable issue in Kavanaugh's past is his role in the creation of the Starr Report, the investigation led by independent counsel Kenneth Starr that led to the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton.

Kavanaugh has since argued against the use of independent counsels, such as the one currently being led by Robert Mueller, based on cost and the adversarial relationship they create between investigators and the president. Moreover, Kavanaugh has also stated that sitting presidents shouldn't be subject to criminal investigations while in office. Politico outlines these stances in further detail here. These positions are sure to make interesting fodder for confirmation hearings, and, potentially, for the political fights of the near-future.

This dispatch originally appeared in The Lede, the weekly Pacific Standard email newsletter for premium members. The Lede gives premium members greater access to Pacific Standard stories, staff, and contributors in their inbox every week. While helping to support journalism in the public interest, members also receive a print magazine subscription, early access to feature stories, and access to an ad-free version of PSmag.com.

President Donald Trump selected his successor for soon-to-be-retired Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy this past week. Heading into the moment he made his selection public—which felt, like so many other things during this administration, not unlike a reality show finale—the three favorites were Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh, and Raymond Kethledge, each of which, according to experts Pacific Standard spoke to, had their own varied stances on hot-button issues such as abortion, gay marriage, and voting rights. However, as Adam Liptak, who covers the Supreme Court for the New York Times, noted on The Daily, no matter who was chosen, each would achieve the goal of replacing a swing-vote with a reliably conservative one, thus changing the balance of the Court.

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