Illustration for article titled What Exactly Happened Between Anthony Kennedy and Donald Trump?
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Now that President Donald Trump has nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, questions have begun to mount about just how much Kennedy was involved in picking the successor to his own seat.


According to a Politico report on Monday night, Kennedy and Trump had a private meeting in which Trump “emerged...focused on one candidate to name as his successor: Judge Brett Kavanaugh.” Politico also wrote that “Kennedy, in leaving the impression with Trump that Kavanaugh would be a great candidate for the job, helped the president make up his mind.” Hmmm.

NBC’s Leigh Ann Caldwell went further on Tuesday morning, claiming that Kennedy only committed to retiring from the court after he’d gotten assurances from Trump that Kavanaugh would be the nominee, and that the two had been “in negotiations” with one another for months.


Extremely fishy, no? Oh, and all those other monsters whose names the White House had floated as possible choices? Smoke and mirrors.

Ummm, okay? (Caldwell went on to caution that this information came from a single source.)


Adding to the WTF-ness of the situation was the conspicuous refusal of White House spokesman and Kavanaugh nomination handler Raj Shah to confirm or deny any of this when CNN’s John Berman asked him on Tuesday morning whether there had been any sort of backroom deal-making going on between Trump and Kennedy.


So...did the White House collude with outgoing Justice Kennedy to skew the court toward the hard right for a generation to come? Whatever happened, the administration owes it to the public to be transparent about the nature of its discussions with Kennedy.

I have reached out to both the White House and the Supreme Court for comment and will update this post if I hear back. I’m not gonna hold my breath, though.


Kavanaugh, meanwhile, now faces a seemingly tough—but likely superficial—Senate battle before his very probable confirmation as the next Supreme Court justice—something Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has assured his colleagues will happen before the midterm elections in November.

Update, 12:40 p.m.: Caldwell has since clarified her initial tweets:


Senior writer. When in doubt he'll have the soup.

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