The White House refused to answer on Tuesday a very important legal question about last night’s big announcement by Donald Trump that Brett Kavanaugh would be his pick to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.
After talk began circulating early Tuesday morning that Kennedy and Trump himself had been in discussions about the potential replacement, the discussion turned quickly to the legality of such an arrangement, and the possible ramifications if it were true:
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
This, of course, would be unprecedented. No sitting Justice has ever arranged for their own replacement, and the implications of having asked it of the President while he had legal proceedings the President was invested in before him on the docket are staggering. If Kennedy had a pending special request of Donald Trump, how might that have affected his decisions on the landmark anti-union case, the enormous partisan gerrymandering case, and the racist travel ban case? In all of those cases, Kennedy decided in favor of the President’s position.
To top it off, it would be seemingly easy to knock this rumor down, or at least issue a strong denial of it having happened — but that’s not what the White House is doing.
Appearing on CNN, White House spokesman Raj Shah was asked directly by host John Berman no fewer than six times whether or not there were discussions between Trump and Kennedy regarding the SCOTUS pick, and each of the six times, Shah deflected the question and refused to answer.
Even when Berman literally said, “I just want to be clear … You’re not ruling out that those conversations did take place,” Shah responded once again with White House boilerplate:
“What I’m saying is that Justice Kennedy can speak for himself. The President spoke last night with clarity about why he chose Judge Kavanaugh.”
Watch the exchange here:
Featured image via screen capture