President Trump on Monday nominated federal judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, elevating a conservative stalwart with deep ties to the Republican establishment to succeed retiring Justice Anthony M. Kennedy and triggering a partisan war over the court’s future.
Kavanaugh, 53, who lives in the Maryland suburbs, serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and worked in George W. Bush’s White House before moving to the federal bench. He served as a clerk to Kennedy in the early 1990s alongside Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, whom Trump nominated for the Supreme Court last year.
“In keeping with President Reagan’s legacy, I do not ask about a nominee’s personal opinions,” Trump said in an announcement in the East Room of the White House. “What matters is not a judge’s political views but whether they can set aside those views to do what the law and the Constitution require. I am pleased to say that I have found, without doubt, such a person.”
Kavanaugh — who was joined by his wife, two daughters and parents — told Trump he has “witnessed firsthand your appreciation for the vital role of the American judiciary.”
“No president has ever consulted more widely or talked with more people from more backgrounds to seek input about a Supreme Court nomination,” Kavanaugh said. “Mr. President, I am grateful to you, and I am humbled by your confidence in me.”
He described his judicial philosophy as “straightforward.”
“A judge must be independent and must interpret the law, not make the law,” Kavanaugh said. “A judge must interpret statutes as written. And a judge must interpret the Constitution as written, informed by history and tradition and precedent.”
Kavanaugh’s remarks, which included a bevy of stories about his background and family, appeared designed to cast him as an ally of women in advance of a nomination battle expected to center in part on his views on abortion and contraception.
He spoke at length about his two “spirited” daughters, whose basketball teams he has coached for the past seven years. He credited his wife, Ashley, whom he met when they both worked for Bush, for being a source of strength in the White House after the Sept. 11 attacks. He noted a majority of his law clerks were women.
Kavanaugh said he was first exposed to law by his mother, who practiced her closing arguments at the dinner table as a prosecutor before becoming a trial judge.
“Her trademark line was, ‘Use your common sense. What rings true? What rings false?’ ” Kavanaugh recounted. “That’s good advice for a juror and for a son.”
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