President Trump announced Monday evening that he is nominating Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court seat being vacated by retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Kavanaugh, who clerked for Kennedy, is a well-known conservative jurist who has served on the D.C. Appeals Court since 2006. A graduate of Yale and then Yale Law, Kavanaugh went to work for independent counsel Ken Starr after his time with Kennedy, and assisted with Starr's investigations into President Bill Clinton. He was also the lead author of the Starr Report, which famously recounted Clinton's extramarital affairs in sometimes lurid detail.
The 53-year-old Kavanaugh's long march through conservative legal circles was not without its setbacks. After leading the investigation into the suicide of Clinton lawyer Vince Foster, Kavanaugh lost his one and only case before the Supreme Court in 1995 in an attempt to get access to notes exchanged between Foster and his attorney.
In 2000, Kavanaugh unsuccessfully attempted to prevent 6-year-old refugee Elian Gonzalez from being returned to Cuba. But later that year, he worked for then-Republican nominee George W. Bush in Bush v. Gore, which ended the Florida recount after the 2000 presidential election.
After several years in the Bush White House, which included a time as White House staff secretary, Kavanaugh was nominated for the D.C. Appeals Court. The fight over his confirmation was contentious, with Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin at one point calling him the "Zelig or Forrest Gump of Republican politics…whether it's Elian Gonzalez or the Starr Report, you are there."
Kavanaugh was finally confirmed in 2006 and has since made his name as a reliably conservative judge, although he does have his detractors on the right who have questioned his rulings involving contraception and Obamacare. But he has a resume and background that would make it hard for anyone to argue that he is unqualified for the Supreme Court.
Kavanaugh's nomination now heads to the U.S. Senate, which is controlled by a narrow, 51-to-49 seat GOP majority. Democrats are likely to take issue with a number of Kavanaugh's decisions, including ones pushing back on the government's ability to regulate commerce. They are also likely to spend time examining his views on abortion, an issue now- Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer questioned him about during his 2006 confirmation hearings.
Another potential hurdle for Kavanaugh may be his opinions on how criminal proceedings should apply with regard to a sitting president.
Despite his involvement in the Starr investigation, Kavanaugh has written that Congress should pass a law protecting a sitting president from being subjected to civil suit. In that same paper, Kavanaugh argued that the "indictment and trial of a sitting president…would cripple the federal government, rendering it unable to function with credibility in either the international or domestic arena" and that "even the lesser burdens of a criminal investigation…are time consuming and distracting."
Given Mr. Trump's current legal challenges, Kavanaugh's opinions on these issues are sure to be intensely scrutinized during his upcoming confirmation hearings.
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Live updates of President Trump's Supreme Court pick appear below:
Trump announces Brett Kavanaugh will be his nominee
"Tonight I speak to you from the East Room of the White House," the president said.
Twelve days ago, Justice Kennedy told the president he was retiring. Thanking Kennedy, the president went on to say that it's the second time he's faced this task. He recalled nominating Neil Gorsuch to replace the late justice, Antonin Scalia.
What matters is whether the judge can do what the Constitution requires.
The president announced Brett Kavanaugh would be his Supreme Court nominee.
Senators decline invitation to SCOTUS announcement
The president will be trying to win the votes of moderates for his nominee, in particular, Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine to support his nominee, as well as the three Democrats who voted yes on Neil Gorsuch, his first nominee, Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and Joe Donnelly of Indiana. He invited the three Democrats and Collins to the White House, CBS News' Ed O'Keefe and Alan He report. The senators all declined.
"While I appreciate the invitation from the White House to attend this evening's announcement, I declined so that I can meet first with the nominee in a setting where we can discuss his or her experience and perspectives," Donnelly said in a statement. "In the coming days, I will be reviewing the record and qualifications of the president's nominee."
Heitkamp said through a spokesperson, "She has made clear - as she said to the president in person two weeks ago - that she considers fully vetting Supreme Court nominees one of the most important jobs of any U.S. senator, and she plans to fulfill that critical duty."
Early opposition to Trump's nominee
Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania released a statement even before Mr. Trump released his pick, announcing that he will oppose the president's Supreme Court nominee -- no matter who it is.
"I will oppose the nomination the President will makes tonight because it represents a corrupt bargain with the far Right, big corporations, and Washington special interests."
The announcement prompted reaction from White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah who tweeted, "Unfortunate (though not surprising) that even before his or her qualifications can be evaluated, Sen. Casey is refusing to even consider the President's #SCOTUS nominee."
Sen. John Kennedy, R-Louisiana, told reporters on Capitol Hill that he wouldn't make any predictions, but he did say that the confirmation fight would "take a lot of oxygen" in the Senate.
"I hope I'm wrong but I suspect this is going to be a rough tough down in the dirt ear pulling nose biting fight," Kennedy said.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, told CBS News' Nancy Cordes that any of the four candidates would be great justices, and he expects the eventual nominee to sail through their confirmation hearing and vote.
"As my friend Lindsey Graham said yesterday, he said it's as if we have four winning lottery tickets, each could be a great Supreme Court justice in their own right. And so I am pretty, pretty excited," said Cornyn.
Meanwhile, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, said that based off the president's list, it's "near impossible" to selected a nominee who isn't hostile to the Affordable Care Act and women's reproductive rights.
"Whoever the president selects tonight, if that is from the pre-approved list, everyone ought to understand what it means for the freedom of women to make their own health care decisions and for the protection of Americans with pre existing conditions, those rights will be gravely threatened," said Schumer.
Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who is a member and former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, would be "happy with any of the four" likely Supreme Court finalists, but says "there's a part of me that would like to see a woman appointed to the court, especially a conservative woman like Amy Coney Barrett because she's just excellent."
He also spoke highly of Hardiman and Kavanaugh, describing Kavanaugh as "politically very astute, honest, decent, good looking -- he's got it all!"
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took to the Senate floor to slam far-left criticism of Mr. Trump's picks, saying no matter who is selected, the nominee will face "unfair tactics" in the confirmation process.
"Expect to hear how they'll destroy equal rights or demolish American health care or ruin our country in some other fictional way," said McConnell, objecting to some liberals' "blanket opposition" to anyone the president may name.
"Destruction of the Constitution? Please, give the American people some credit. This far-left rhetoric comes out every single time, but the apocalypse never comes. Americans see beyond this far-left fear mongering. This kind of fear mongering they've tried over and over again for 40 years. Senators should do the same, we should evaluate this president's nominee fairly, based on his or her qualifications and treat the process with respect and dignity that it deserves," he added.
Leonard Leo on Trump pick
Leonard leo, executive vice president of the Federalist Society, who helped craft the list of potential supreme court candidates for Mr. Trump, told CBS This Morning on Monday that the president wants to get his pick "right" like he did with Neil Gorsuch.
"He spent a pretty significant amount of time over the weekend asking questions, talking to people, thinking about this further," Leo said. "This is a really big decision for him. As you may remember, he spent a good part of his campaign talking about this issue; this was a big reason why people voted for him."
Leo told CBS that Mr. Trump is focusing on a candidate that is "extraordinarily well-qualified" as well as "someone who's going to be courageous, independent and fair."
Who is top contender?
CBS News' Jan Crawford tells CBSN that while there may not be one clear "slam dunk" nominee, Judges Kethledge and Hardiman might be easier to be confirmed more quickly than the other candidates Mr. Trump is considering to fill the vacant seat.
Crawford says that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, however, had reiterated to the White House that the president is still in the Republican party which controls both the House and Senate and that now is the time to "go bold" with his pick.
As for who might be a front runner, Judge Kavanaugh continues to check off all the boxes for Mr. Trump with his elite qualifications but that his confirmation process could potentially take longer. Crawford says that Kavanaugh is seen as a "real intellectual force as a conservative legal thinker on the court" making him the ideal pick to go head to head with someone like Justice Elena Kagan on the bench.
Hardiman and Barrett, meanwhile, would be the only nominees outside the Ivy League, bringing some diversity on the court.
The nuclear option
When President Trump announces his replacement for retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy on Friday night, his nominee will only need 51 votes in the U.S. Senate to be confirmed.
But for the vast majority of American history, nominees for nation's highest court effectively needed at least 60 votes, which often required some bipartisan support for the president's pick. Otherwise, a filibuster could hold up a nomination indefinitely.
Even though Mr. Trump's new nominee won't have to get 60 votes because of the nuclear option, getting to 51 might still be a struggle. Most -- though not all -- Democrats appear dead set against confirming anyone Mr. Trump nominates, and Republicans only have 51 votes there to begin with.
This means that Republicans will likely have to stay united in supporting Mr. Trump's pick, which could get complicated if moderate GOP Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins feel the nominee is too conservative, particularly on abortion rights.
Trump zeroing in on final decision
Mr. Trump still appears to be closing in on his final decision after telling reporters on Sunday that he would have a final decision "sometime by 12:00" on Monday.
"I'm getting very close to making a final decision and I believe this person will do a great job," Mr. Trump told reporters after leaving New Jersey this past weekend. As of Monday afternoon, he's given no indication which way he's leaning, tweeting that "the most important decision a U.S. President can make is the selection of a Supreme Court Justice - Will be announced tonight at 9:00 P.M."
I have long heard that the most important decision a U.S. President can make is the selection of a Supreme Court Justice - Will be announced tonight at 9:00 P.M.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 9, 2018
CBS News' Jan Crawford reports that the president has likely made his decision by now but that the final name will likely not leak out, similar to his last pick in Neil Gorsuch.
On the president's schedule ahead of his primetime pick: lunch with the vice president before announcing his final decision for associate justice in the East Room.
Jon Kyl named Supreme Court "sherpa"
White House spokesman Raj Shah said in a statement that former Sen. Jon Kyl "has agreed to serve as the Sherpa for the President's nominee to the Supreme Court." Kyl was Senator for Arizona for 18 years from 1995 to 2013. He served on the Senate Judiciary Committee during the confirmations of 4 of the last 5 justices who have joined the Supreme Court
Sherpas to the nominee will act as a guide during the confirmation process -- helping to set up meetings with lawmakers on Capitol Hill and preparing for the eventual confirmation hearing.
How did we get here? Justice Kennedy resignation
Mr. Trump is filling the vacant seat left by Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy who announced he would retire from the highest court on the final day of Supreme Court decisions for this year's term.
In a letter, he told Mr. Trump that effective July 31, he would end "regular active status as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, while continuing to serve in a senior status."
Kennedy called it the "highest of honors to serve on this Court," and he expressed his "profound gratitude for having had the privilege to seek in each case how best to know, interpret, and defend the Constitution and the laws that must always conform to its mandates and promises."
President Trump's potential Supreme Court nominees
Kethledge, a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, is a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Michigan. Like Kavanaugh, 51-year-old Kethledge clerked for Kennedy.
As Mr. Trump often touts the need to protect the Second Amendment, Kethledge is known for his defense of that amendment. In 2016 in Tyler v. Hillsdale County Sheriff's Department, for instance, Kethledge joined a concurring opinion holding that a federal statute permanently prohibiting a person who had been involuntarily committed nearly three decades before from owning a gun was unconstitutional.
Kethledge's job has given him an opportunity to issue opinions on a number of immigration cases, in a time when Mr. Trump's approach to immigration could very well land more cases in the highest court in the land.
Kavanaugh is still young at 53, but has extensive experience on the bench. The Yale Law School graduate has served as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit since 2006. Through the years, he has issued scores of opinions, dissents and concurrences. He clerked for Kennedy, the man he would be replacing. And he gained attention from his time working for former independent counsel Ken Starr during the investigation into then-President Bill Clinton. He is the only one of the top three with a law degree from an Ivy League school.
Kavanaugh has a track record of siding with religious organizations over governments and other groups that challenge them, a particularly attractive trait to conservatives. In Priests for Life v. HHS, Kavanaugh declared the Obamacare contraceptive mandate violated constitutional rights to religious liberty.
On the issue of abortion -- key for many conservatives -- Kavanaugh dissented from a recent ruling requiring an undocumented immigrant minor who wanted an abortion to be granted access to one. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the decision by a three-judge panel of the same court that included Kavanaugh.
Amy Coney Barrett
At 46, Barrett is the youngest of the president's top picks -- an advantage for conservatives who want a Trump appointee to serve as long as possible on the land's highest court. If selected and confirmed, Barrett would be the only conservative female justice. The current female justices on the court have been nominated by Democratic presidents and are considered liberal.
Potentially working against Barrett is her relatively short tenure in federal court. The Notre Dame Law School graduate has only served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit since fall 2017. Because she has served on the bench for such a short period of time, she has few opinions to dissect that could offer insight into her judicial philosophy and predict potential future positions.
Before serving on the Seventh Circuit, Barrett, a mother of seven, was a professor at Notre Dame Law School.
Barrett, a Catholic, is considered reliably socially conservative, and conservatives consider her as someone who will faithfully uphold principles of religious liberty from the bench.
Hardiman has an appealing life story -- the first person in his family to go to college, he attended the University of Notre Dame as an undergraduate and then later financed his law degree at the Georgetown University by driving a taxi. If confirmed, Hardiman would be the only justice on the court who did not attend Harvard or Yale Law School.
He became a federal district judge at 37 years of age and was appointed to the 3rd Circuit in 2007. And Hardiman just celebrated his 53rd birthday on July 8.
Hardiman has sided with jails seeking to strip-search inmates arrested for even minor offenses, and he has also supported gun rights. He dissented in a 2013 case that upheld a New Jersey law to strengthen requirements for carrying a handgun in public.
Justice Kennedy's key swing votes
For three decades on a divided Supreme Court, Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy was often the swing vote who determined the fate of monumental cases.
Here are some of the key cases he decided:
Gay marriage: Obergefell v. Hodges, 2015
Kennedy was in the 5-4 majority that decided in June 2015 the Constitution that guarantees the right to same-sex marriage. The decision invalidated all existing bans on same-sex marriage across the country and solidified the rights of individuals in all 50 states to wed. It was Kennedy who authored the majority opinion.
Abortion: Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 1992
In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the court was poised to overturn the essence of Roe v. Wade -- but Kennedy sided with the plurality who deemed the state is generally banned from prohibiting most abortions. He decided to affirm the "essential holding," aka the basic principle, of Roe v. Wade.
Corporate spending in elections: Citizens United v. FEC, 2010
Kennedy sided with the court's conservatives to rule that the government cannot limit corporate spending in elections under the First Amendment. The ruling, which both conservative and liberal groups have taken advantage of in election cycles since, has certainly made a lasting impact in politics. Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in that 5-4 decision.
Affirmative action: Fisher v. University of Texas, 2016
For the first time in his career, Kennedy sided in favor of affirmative action in a 2016 case in which the Court rejected a challenge to a race-conscious admissions program at the University of Texas at Austin. The 4-3 decision, in which Kennedy sided with the majority, determined that such a program is legal under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. The country's highest court upheld the decision of Fifth Circuit court.