While the White House was successful for the most part in keeping President Donald Trump’s SCOTUS pick under wraps for the past two weeks, Trump was essentially decided on his nominee after Justice Anthony Kennedy told him he would retire in a meeting, Politico reported.
According to aides close to the White House who spoke to Politico, in that meeting Kennedy recommended Trump pick Brett Kavanaugh, who had served as a former law clerk to Kennedy. While Trump was reportedly already interested in Kavanaugh before that discussion with Kennedy, the retiring jurist’s recommendation helped seal the deal.
Administration officials told Politico that Trump spent the most time with Kavanaugh out of the other three candidates — he was interviewed at least twice — and was impressed with Kavanaugh’s credentials and “fidelity to the Constitution,” in Politico’s words. Trump was decided on Kavanaugh by Friday, but waited until Sunday to inform the nominee.
NBC News reported that the Trump team was in talks with Kennedy about his replacement for months and he only felt comfortable retiring after he “received assurance that it would be Kavanaugh,” per NBC reporter Geoff Bennett.
Source familiar tells NBC that Justice Kennedy had been in negotiations with the Trump team for months over Kennedy’s replacement. Once Kennedy received assurances that it would be Kavanaugh (his former law clerk) Kennedy felt comfortable retiring – @LACaldwellDC & @frankthorp
— Geoff Bennett (@GeoffRBennett) July 10, 2018
In rare form, Trump reportedly was so invested in building the suspense around the decision that he didn’t tell aides or close associates about his decision and the White House kept the circle of people informed on the selection process thin.
Trump even kept his decision from lawmakers until just before his 9 p.m. announcement Monday, informing senators of his decision during a reception in the State Dining Room before his prime time address.
Read Politico’s full report here.