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National Govt & Politics
Brett Kavanaugh no stranger to D.C. legal, political circles
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Brett Kavanaugh no stranger to D.C. legal, political circles

Brett Kavanaugh no stranger to D.C. legal, political circles
Photo Credit: Jamie Dupree

Brett Kavanaugh no stranger to D.C. legal, political circles

As President Donald Trump on Monday night selected federal appeals court judge Brett Kavanaugh for a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court, Mr. Trump not only tapped a judge considered to have a strong conservative credentials, but also one whose roots run deep in Washington, D.C., in both the political and legal arena.

"Judge Kavanaugh has impeccable credentials, unsurpassed qualifications and a proven commitment to equal justice under law," the President said in the East Room of the White House.

A native of Bethesda, Maryland, Kavanaugh attended Mater Dei and Georgetown Prep private schools in the immediate suburbs of Washington, then went on to graduate from Yale University in 1987, and from Yale Law School in 1990.

Returning to D.C., Kavanaugh in 1993 clerked for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, later working for Ken Starr during the Whitewater investigation of President Bill Clinton, spending some of that time probing the suicide of Clinton aide Vince Foster, and then helping to author what was known as the "Starr Report."

After the Starr investigation, Kavanaugh worked at a private Washington law firm, was involved in the GOP legal fight over the 2000 election recount in Florida, and then landed a job at the White House under President George W. Bush, ultimately serving as the President's Staff Secretary.

In his speeches, Kavanaugh does not try to hide his past political side, talking about traveling on the 2004 campaign with Mr. Bush, and praising what he said is President Bush's optimism about life in general.

"I worked for him for five and half years - love the guy," Kavanaugh said in a recent graduation speech at the Catholic University Law School, as the judge noted how the President shrugged off anti-Bush signs on the campaign trail.

"I think they're still undecided," Kavanaugh said the President joked.

"I chose Brett because of the force of his mind, his breadth of experience, and the strength of his character," President Bush said in June 2006, after Kavanaugh had been confirmed to the D.C. federal appeals court circuit.

In a speech last year - where Kavanaugh spoke about how he sees judges as "umpires," in much the same vein as the Senate confirmation testimony of Chief Justice John Roberts - Kavanaugh said once the black robe goes on, politics and personal beliefs are out the door.

"At its core, to be an umpire as a judge, means to follow the law, and not to make the law," Kavanaugh said.

"You don't make it up as you go along," Kavanaugh added, saying another important part of the job of a judge is 'don't be a jerk.'

Kavanaugh's every word will now be given the once-over by Democrats; they're sure to focus on his argument for the impeachment of President Clinton in 1998, and then an article he wrote in 2009 in the Minnesota Law Review, which took a somewhat different approach.

"Congress might consider a law exempting a President — while in office — from criminal prosecution and investigation, including from questioning by criminal prosecutors or defense counsel," Kavanaugh wrote in article titled, "Separation of Powers During the Forty-Fourth Presidency and Beyond."

Jamie Dupree
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Jamie Dupree

"The indictment and trial of a sitting President, moreover, would cripple the federal government," Kavanaugh wrote. "And a President who is concerned about an ongoing criminal investigation is almost inevitably going to do a worse job as President."

Kavanaugh is sure to hear about that - and much more from his rulings on the federal appeals court for the D.C. Circuit.

Back in 2006 when Kavanaugh was nominated to the federal appeals court, four Democrats voted for his nomination - but only one of them is still in the Senate, Tom Carper of Delaware.

Even before Kavanaugh's name was announced, Democrats were marshaling their resources for a pitched battle over Mr. Trump's Supreme Court nominee.

"This is a fight for the soul of our democracy," said Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR).

"President Trump should pick someone who will uphold years of precedent on the U.S. Supreme Court," said Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), as Democrats openly fretted about the future of the Roe versus Wade decision on abortion.

"We already know that President Trump's nominee will be prepared to overturn the precedents of Roe v. Wade," said Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer.

"He said overturning Roe vs Wade “will happen automatically” during his Presidency," said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of Mr. Trump and his Supreme Court pick. "We can’t let that happen."

"Any new Supreme Court justice must stand up for the rights of ALL Americans, not just serve corporate special interests and the powerful few," said Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH).

"All of Trump's short listers would overturn Roe and gut the Affordable Care Act," the group Demand Justice told supporters.

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