WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump named federal appellate judge Brett Kavanaugh Monday as his nominee to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court.
“Judge Kavanaugh has impeccable credentials, unsurpassed qualifications and a proven commitment to equal justice under the law,” Trump said in a ceremony in the White House’s East Room. “He’s a brilliant jurist with a clear and effective writing style, universally regarded as one of the finest and sharpest legal minds of our time.”
Kavanaugh, 53, is currently a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
Earlier in his career, he served as a member of Special Counsel Kenneth Starr’s team during the investigation into then-President Bill Clinton and then followed by serving as White House Staff Secretary under President George W. Bush.
More recently, Kavanaugh garnered attention last year for authoring a dissent over a decision to grant a detained, 17-year-old undocumented immigrant access to an abortion, something he argued was “as novel as it is wrong: a new right for unlawful immigrant minors in U.S. government detention to obtain immediate abortion on demand.”
Trump selected Kavanaugh from a list of 25 people compiled by two conservative groups, the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation, during the 2016 campaign and his first year in office.
He whittled it down to four names as of Sunday night, ultimately passing over judges Thomas Hardiman, Raymond Kethledge and Amy Coney Barrett.
Kavanaugh was not formally revealed as the nominee until Trump announced his name from the dais.
He was met with a lengthy round of applause from those in the room, which included lawmakers as well as Trump’s private attorney Rudy Giuliani, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who was himself among the contenders.
As he left, Lee praised Kavanaugh as a “terrific” choice.
In brief remarks, Kavanaugh said he “will always strive to preserve the constitution of the United States and the American rule of law” if he is confirmed.
“A judge must be independent and must interpret the law, not make the law,” Kavanaugh said. “A judge must interpret statutes as written. And a judge must interpret the Constitution as written, informed by history and tradition and precedent.”
The nominee also offered thanks to his family, who stood alongside him during the announcement.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has promised that the Senate will begin the confirmation process this fall, before November’s midterm elections.
White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short predicted after the ceremony that the final vote will come before Oct. 1.
While the president’s allies are optimistic, the choice will face tough opposition from Senate Democrats, whose leadership has opposed any confirmation vote prior to Americans taking to the polls, arguing that it is a standard McConnell himself set when he opposed former President Barack Obama advancing a Supreme Court nominee in the waning days of his presidency.