by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Even beyond his days as the U.S. Supreme Court’s perennial swing vote, now-retired Justice Anthony Kennedy continues to exercise influence on the nation’s highest court. Kevin Daley of the Daily Caller explains how.
Lawyers associated with the Trump campaign consulted retired Justice Anthony Kennedy while compiling a list of prospective Supreme Court nominees during the 2016 presidential campaign, portions of a new book obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation reveal.
Kennedy, who was then serving on the Supreme Court, served as a reference for several candidates the campaign vetted for its list, authors Mollie Hemingway and Carrie Severino report in the book, “Justice on Trial.”
“The team talked to judges for whom candidates had clerked and to those who had clerked with them. McGahn was particularly interested in what candidates had been like in their mid-twenties, the stage of life when he believed most people’s views solidified,” the authors wrote. “Justice Kennedy was eager to help, offering the names of at least six former clerks who were in his ‘top five.’ Kavanaugh was one of them.”
“While Kennedy called his other clerks good or excellent, he tended to describe Kavanaugh as brilliant,” the authors add.
Hemingway and Severino elsewhere report that Kennedy shared his retirement plans with the White House via an intermediary in the Department of Justice. In cloak-and-dagger style, the justice slipped away from a tour of the National Gallery of Art to meet at a nearby cafe with Assistant Attorney General Steve Engel, who clerked for Kennedy during the high court’s 2001-2002 term. Engel relayed Kennedy’s intentions to the White House counsel’s office, which set a private meeting between Kennedy and President Donald Trump for June 27, 2018.