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Meeting With Kennedy Helped Trump Make His Pick

President favored Brett Kavanaugh from the very start
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 10, 2018 11:45 AM CDT
Trump Liked Kavanaugh From the Get-Go
President Trump listens as Brett Kavanaugh, his Supreme Court nominee, speaks in the East Room of the White House.   (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

(Newser) – The White House had floated a list of four finalists, but multiple stories Tuesday suggest that President Trump's pick of Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court was a no-brainer. "Locked in from the start," is how CNN puts it, adding that Trump liked the 53-year-old for the top court even before Anthony Kennedy announced he was leaving. Both CNN and Politico report that Trump's one-on-one meeting with Kennedy cemented the choice, though NBC News went further in its reporting and is now taking flak for going public with—and then retracting—a one-source allegation of a deal between Kennedy and the White House. Details:

  • Meeting helped: CNN and Politico have a similar take: Trump "walked away from a private chat with the retiring justice convinced that Kavanaugh—who once clerked for Kennedy—was the top choice," per CNN. And from Politico: "Administration officials said Trump was taken with Kavanaugh even before his conversation with Kennedy. But Kennedy, in leaving the impression with Trump that Kavanaugh would be a great candidate for the job, helped the president make up his mind."

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  • NBC controversy: In a since-deleted tweet, reporter Leigh Ann Caldwell wrote: "Kennedy and Trump/WH had been in negotiations for months over Kennedy's replacement. Once Kennedy received assurances that it would be Kavanaugh, his former law clerk, Kennedy felt comfortable retiring, according to a source who was told of the discussions." Later, she added that the other names were "cover," asserting "the decision has been baked for a while."
  • Denial: The allegation quickly began making the rounds, enough so that White House principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah denied to reporters that the White House had any such deal. NBC's Caldwell initially backtracked a bit, tweeting: "To be clear: This is from one source and dont have any info on whether potus talked to kennedy about a possible replacement."
  • Backlash: That NBC reporting is a good example of why people dislike the press, writes Charles CW Cooke at the National Review. A bombshell allegation of a deal based on one flimsy source? "At best, this is extraordinarily irresponsible. At worse, it is malicious." Cooke doesn't necessarily dismiss that some kind of a deal took place, and "it's certainly possible" more related details will emerge. "The point is that this isn't journalism."
  • Tweet deleted: Caldwell yanked the offending tweet altogether late Tuesday morning: "I've deleted this tweet because it incorrectly implies a transactional nature in Kennedy's replacement," she writes. "I am told by a source who was not directly part of the talks that Kennedy provided Pres. Trump/ WH a list of acceptable replacements."
  • Moving on: Aaron Blake of the Washington Post, meanwhile, looks at four key questions about Kavanaugh, including what he might do if Roe v. Wade comes up. The upshot? It's not clear. Kavanaugh has ruled against abortion rights, but at his 2006 confirmation hearing, he said, "If confirmed to the DC Circuit, I would follow Roe v. Wade faithfully and fully. That would be binding precedent of the court. It's been decided by the Supreme Court." He also added: "It's been reaffirmed many times."
(Read more Brett Kavanaugh stories.)

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