Trump picks staunch conservative for Supreme Court

President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that his pick to be the next US Supreme Court judge, Brett Kavanaugh, has gotten "rave reviews", as the nominee began meeting with senators on Capitol Hill.
President Donald Trump congratulating Mr Brett Kavanaugh on his nomination to the US Supreme Court on Monday. The conservative judge was at the White House ceremony with his wife Ashley Estes Kavanaugh and daughters Margaret (in pink) and Liza.
President Donald Trump congratulating Mr Brett Kavanaugh on his nomination to the US Supreme Court on Monday. The conservative judge was at the White House ceremony with his wife Ashley Estes Kavanaugh and daughters Margaret (in pink) and Liza.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

WASHINGTON • President Donald Trump has nominated Mr Brett Kavanaugh for the US Supreme Court as he aims to entrench its conservative control for years to come, but the federal appeals court judge faces a tough confirmation fight in the bitterly divided Senate.

While some Democrats have promised a stern effort to block Mr Kavanaugh, Mr Trump's fellow Republicans control the Senate by a narrow margin and can ensure confirmation if they avoid defections from their ranks.

If confirmed, Mr Kavanaugh, 53, would replace long-serving conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy, who announced his retirement on June 27 at age 81.

"Throughout legal circles he's considered a judge's judge, a true thought leader among his peers," Mr Trump said of Mr Kavanaugh.

The appointment will not change the ideological breakdown of a court that already has a 5-4 conservative majority, but could move it to the right. Mr Kennedy sometimes joined the liberal justices on key rulings on divisive social issues such as abortion and gay rights.

Mr Kavanaugh has amassed a solidly conservative judicial record since 2006 on the influential US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Like the 50-year-old conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch, also named by Mr Trump, Mr Kavanaugh potentially could serve on the high court for decades.

"My judicial philosophy is straightforward. A judge must be independent and must interpret the law, not make the law," Mr Kavanaugh said at a White House ceremony. "A judge must interpret statutes as written. And a judge must interpret the Constitution as written, informed by history, and tradition and precedent," he said.

Mr Kavanaugh has been involved in some of the biggest controversies of the past two decades. He helped investigate Democratic former president Bill Clinton in the 1990s while working for independent counsel Kenneth Starr. He was on Republican George W. Bush's team in the contentious Florida recount fight in the 2000 presidential polls, then served as a senior official in Mr Bush's White House.

Mr Bush appointed him in 2003 to the US Court of Appeals in Washington, where he was finally confirmed by the Senate in 2006.

Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer said Mr Trump had put the reproductive rights, freedoms and healthcare protections of Americans "on the judicial chopping block". But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called Mr Kavanaugh "a superb choice".

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 11, 2018, with the headline 'Trump picks staunch conservative for Supreme Court'. Print Edition | Subscribe