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Hear Kavanaugh's first remarks after nomination

President Donald Trump announces his Supreme Court pick, Brett Kavanaugh, to fill the seat created by Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement.

Posted: Jul 10, 2018 5:33 PM
Updated: Jul 10, 2018 5:58 PM

For all his bluster and choreographed suspense, President Donald Trump's blockbuster Supreme Court pick Brett Kavanaugh was all but locked in from the start.

Of course, the President put on a show for the cameras, materializing before a national TV audience Monday night at the White House to end a selection process he had spooled out for nearly two weeks.

He was there, as promised, to entrust his presidential legacy and the hopes of conservatives everywhere to a nominee who would emerge from obscurity to inherit the considerable power to redraw the ideological balance of the Supreme Court for a generation.

But two people close to the selection process said that Kavanaugh, a political operative turned DC Appeals Court judge had been one of the favorites in Trump's mind even before Anthony Kennedy announced he would vacate the nation's top bench last month.

White House principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah, speaking to reporters Tuesday, denied the White House made any assurances to Kennedy that his replacement would be Kavanaugh.

And the President walked away from a private chat with the retiring justice convinced that Kavanaugh -- who once clerked for Kennedy -- was the top choice, the sources said.

Trump did go through the process. He interviewed several other candidates and spoke to scores of aides and friends as he mulled his decision -- and even after he made his choice.

Sources said Trump did want to see how trial balloons about Kavanaugh went down in the conservative media echo chamber, and was heartened to see key conservatives like Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham and writers for Breitbart rally behind him in recent days.

"He wanted to see how it was playing out and who was coming to his defense," a source said.

A senior White House official said that the President finalized his decision on Sunday night, and called Kavanaugh to let him know. He also spoke to Vice President Mike Pence and White House Counsel Don McGahn -- who had subtly pushed Kavanaugh's candidacy.

Still, with his eye, as ever on ratings, Trump did not let it be known until mid-afternoon on Monday that he had made up his mind.

Monday night, striding into the East Room, a cockpit of presidential lore where John F. Kennedy's body lay in repose and Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, Trump lifted his chin, narrowed his eyes and savored his moment in history.

"I have often heard that other than matters of war and peace, this is the most important decision a President will make," Trump said, for once not exaggerating the size of the stakes.

An empty seat below the presidential podium bore a piece of paper reserving it for the unidentified spouse of the nominee so as not to tip off nosy reporters and spoil the big reveal.

In an expectant crowd were the president's lawyer Rudy Giuliani, another key character in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and long list of Republican senators, conservative grandees and White House staff.

The White House had invited red state Democratic senators to the party -- twisting the knife since Trump's selection of the mild-mannered Kavanaugh may prove tough to oppose for those up for re-election in states where Trump won big in 2016. None of them showed up.

Outsider picks the DC insider

The most leaky White House in modern history managed to keep Trump's secret, though sightings of other shortlisted alternative picks Amy Coney Barrett and Raymond Kethledge at their homes in Indiana and Michigan, respectively, earlier in the evening had stolen some of the suspense.

And pity poor Judge Thomas Hardiman, who just missed out on being the President's first Supreme Court pick, and was the unlucky bridesmaid again.

If anything, Trump's made-for-television announcement lacked a little drama -- not a criticism that can often be leveled against this spotlight-craving disrupter of a commander-in-chief.

The President behaved with decorum and grace, as he unveiled an utterly conventional pick that any Republican president could have made.

"President Trump has made an outstanding decision," former President George W. Bush said, while his brother, dubbed "low energy" Jeb by Trump during the 2016 campaign, also praised the pick on Twitter.

After all, Kavanaugh worked for both Presidents Bush. His wife Ashley, who appeared with him on stage once Trump revealed his name, along with daughters Margaret and Elizabeth, once worked as a personal secretary for George W. Bush.

In a stunning turn of events, Trump, the ultimate political outsider had managed to settle on a consummate political insider as the most consequential Supreme Court pick in decades.

By now the White House Supreme Court pick rollout machine is well oiled.

Everything went off without a hitch on the night for Kavanaugh as his debut joined that of Trump's first Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch in January 2017 as the most well run moments in an otherwise chaotic White House.

Heading into Monday night, Washington girded for a fierce battle of perception over Trump's selection, given that Democrats probably lack the numbers in the Senate to thwart the nomination.

Mid-afternoon, Senate Democratic Minority leader Chuck Schumer was on his feet in the chamber, warning of the dire impact of whomever Trump picked on two issues vital to the mid-term election hopes of Democrats, Obamacare and a woman's right to choose.

Later in the evening protestors outside the Supreme Court chanted "Hey, hey, no no, Brett Kavanaugh must go."

Political savvy

But Kavanaugh's low key manner and Washington insider status may make him a tough man to demonize. On the flip side, he may enthuse conservatives needed to save the GOP in November less than some other potential Supreme Court picks.

The nominee's political savvy -- in one famous photo, he is seen arm in arm with Bush-era Machiavel Karl Rove -- shone through his own speech.

He spoke movingly of his family, joked how his daughters' basketball teams knew him as "Coach K" and recalled that the day after his first date with his wife, on September 10, 2001, they fled the White House after being told a hijacked plane was incoming.

He came across as a decent, humble family man, in a way that may complicate efforts of liberals to use him as the poster boy for what many see as a new front on the war on women they believe a conservative majority on the court will declare.

Kavanaugh also had a clear, if subtle message for conservatives who put their faith in Trump to change the balance of the Supreme Court and became a vital plank of his 2016 coalition.

"My judicial philosophy is straightforward. 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."

It was that faith in conservative jurisprudence that helped him get over the line.

"Unlike some folks in the mix, he had the longest and deepest record on constitutional and precedent setting legal cases and he showed a consistency on interpreting the text of the law as it was written and intended," said the senior White House official

"You know what you're going to get with this guy," the official said, perhaps reflecting on previous court nominations that have pleased conservatives in the moment -- but disappointed them over the long term -- not unlike Kennedy himself.

It also didn't hurt that Kavanaugh emerged from his years in the White House with an expansive view on executive power and a belief that presidents should not be distracted by lawsuits or investigations while in office.

That will be a red flag for Democrats in Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing given that Trump's attempts to test the boundaries of his office often end up in the courts, and that a decision on whether he must testify to Mueller may ultimately end up before the nine Supreme Court justices.

But the White House is convinced it has a winner.

"Judge Kavanaugh has impeccable credentials, unsurpassed qualifications and a proven commitment to equal justice under the law," Trump said Monday.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 307519

Reported Deaths: 7096
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto20784248
Hinds19894408
Harrison17493302
Rankin13316275
Jackson13099243
Madison9896210
Lee9859169
Jones8293160
Forrest7523146
Lauderdale7189237
Lowndes6265144
Lamar610784
Lafayette6028117
Washington5280132
Bolivar4770129
Oktibbeha455297
Panola4442103
Pearl River4420139
Warren4281118
Marshall4273100
Pontotoc416472
Monroe4057132
Union403775
Neshoba3988176
Lincoln3871108
Hancock372185
Leflore3468124
Sunflower329389
Tate322781
Pike3181104
Scott310572
Yazoo304368
Alcorn297764
Itawamba296876
Copiah293065
Coahoma289677
Simpson287484
Tippah284868
Prentiss275659
Marion265979
Wayne261341
Leake261173
Grenada254982
Covington254580
Adams245982
Newton244859
George237847
Winston225981
Tishomingo222067
Jasper219748
Attala213373
Chickasaw204857
Holmes186471
Clay182454
Stone179131
Clarke176876
Tallahatchie175540
Calhoun163230
Yalobusha158836
Smith158634
Walthall130543
Greene129433
Lawrence126323
Noxubee125933
Montgomery125542
Perry125138
Carroll120826
Amite120141
Webster113432
Jefferson Davis105432
Tunica102525
Claiborne101330
Benton97225
Kemper95226
Humphreys94332
Franklin81923
Quitman78916
Choctaw72817
Jefferson64828
Wilkinson64727
Sharkey49617
Issaquena1686
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 519071

Reported Deaths: 10712
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson754131487
Mobile37774798
Madison33868494
Tuscaloosa25283443
Montgomery23969565
Shelby23112238
Baldwin20638300
Lee15524165
Calhoun14286311
Morgan14140268
Etowah13664345
Marshall11957219
Houston10383278
Elmore9994200
Limestone9814147
Cullman9475188
St. Clair9429234
Lauderdale9218227
DeKalb8747181
Talladega8060171
Walker7092275
Jackson6755110
Autauga6727103
Blount6488135
Colbert6205130
Coffee5401112
Dale4768110
Russell428938
Franklin419982
Chilton4083109
Covington4053114
Tallapoosa3893146
Escambia388074
Dallas3527149
Chambers3500122
Clarke346360
Marion3066100
Pike305875
Lawrence295395
Winston272372
Bibb256458
Marengo248661
Geneva245875
Pickens232959
Barbour224955
Hale218775
Butler212366
Fayette208960
Henry187844
Cherokee182044
Randolph176941
Monroe171540
Washington164038
Macon154848
Clay149454
Crenshaw149357
Cleburne146041
Lamar139334
Lowndes136453
Wilcox124327
Bullock121340
Conecuh109028
Perry107926
Sumter102932
Coosa99328
Greene90734
Choctaw58724
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Clouds increase a bit more on Tuesday, though there will still be plenty of sunshine at times. Temperatures will remain very warm. An isolated sprinkle or shower is possible later in the day, though rain chances are much more likely into Wednesday as a cold front passes.
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