Brett Kavanaugh Picked By Trump for Supreme Court: Here's 5 Facts About the SCOTUS Nominee

President Donald Trump named Judge Brett Kavanaugh his nominee to succeed Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court Monday evening, setting Republicans up for a confirmation battle prior to the fall's midterm elections.

"Tonight, it is my honor and privilege to announce that I will nominate Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court," Trump said in the East Room of the White House to a national television audience.

Kavanaugh beat out three other contenders and federal judges for the nomination, including Amy Coney Barrett, Thomas Hardiman and Raymond Kethledge, to secure Trump's second nomination to the country's highest court.

"There is no one in America who is more qualified for this position and no one who is more deserving," Trump said of his nominee."

The 53-year-old Cavanaugh is currently a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and previously served under President George W. Bush's administration as staff secretary to the office of the president.

Kennedy announced his retirement two weeks ago, citing a desire to spend more time with his family. But his decision and status as the court's swing vote on a number of social issues left liberals worried the court would soon become more conservative under Trump's watch.

Kavanaugh is viewed as a more conservative-leaning judge, but still must go through a gauntlet of confirmation hearings as Democrats hope to stave off the confirmation until after the midterms.

Here are five facts about Kavanaugh.

Back in the 90s

Kavanaugh not only had ties to the Bush administration but he also served under special prosecutor Kenneth Starr during the investigation into former President Bill Clinton in the 1990s. Kavanaugh actually co-authored Starr's report, which eventually led to Clinton's impeachment, according to The New York Times. Furthermore, Kavanaugh held strict views on just what a president could be impeached for, including lying to his staff.

From Pupil to Peer

After attending both Yale University and Yale Law School, the Maryland native Kavanaugh went on to clerk for Justice Kennedy, the very man whose seat he now hopes to fill. Kavanaugh also taught at Harvard Law School, having been hired by current Supreme Court Justice, and Barack Obama nominee, Elena Kagan. Kavanaugh said Monday that he remained "grateful" to his prospective new colleague.

GOP Infighting?

Trump has often clashed with Republican leadership, even publicly, and his decision to nominate Kavanaugh could stir up problems between him and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The longtime Kentucky lawmaker reportedly preferred Kethledge and Hardiman over Kavanaugh, believing the former two would be easier to pass through an already tight count in the Senate, according to The Times on Saturday.

McConnell reportedly spoke often to Trump and White House general counsel Don McGahn throughout the selection process and was worried about the vast number of documents Kavanaugh had amassed during his 12 years on the D.C. appeals court could prove problematic.

What Could Complicate Kavanaugh's Nomination?

In October of last year, Kavanaugh was part of the D.C. Court of appeals that ultimately ruled on an immigrant girl's right to have an abortion while she was in U.S. custody. Critics believe Kavanaugh didn't push back enough in the case, Garza v. Hargan, while supporters say it illustrates his instinct towards compromise while standing firm on conservative values.

"He made a statement that really gives one some pause about what he'd do when he's on the Supreme Court as opposed to an appellate court," former Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli told Politico last week. "His view there was just quite troubling."

After being announced as the nominee by Trump Monday, Kavanaugh said he would "keep an open mind in every case and I will always strive to preserve the Constitution of the United States and the American rule of law."

Trump, meanwhile, said that he does not ask about a nominee's "personal opinions."

Obamacare Savior?

Trump ran firmly against Obamacare and has since tried to tear it down. But Kavanaugh, while on the D.C. federal bench, is accused of helping to keep Barack Obama's signature achievement alive in a 2011 case based on the law's individual mandate.

In his dissent for Seven-Sky v. Holder, Kavanaugh detailed how he views the role federal courts should play, one that includes no oversight over Congress's taxation powers.

"For judges, there is a natural and understandable inclination to decide these weighty and historic constitutional questions," Kavanaugh wrote. "But in my respectful judgment, deciding the constitutional issues in this case at this time would contravene an important and long-standing federal statute, the Anti-Injunction Act, which carefully limits the jurisdiction of federal courts over tax-related matters."

Then-District of Columbia Circut Court of Appeals nominee Brett Kavanaugh attends a news conference with Senate GOP leadership in the Capitol May 22, 2006 in Washington, DC. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) said that Kavanaugh deserves a straight up-or-down vote in the Senate. Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla

Editor's pick

Newsweek cover
  • Newsweek magazine delivered to your door
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts
Newsweek cover
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts