As President Trump’s announcement about his nominee to fill the soon-to-be-vacated seat on the Supreme Court draws near, people everywhere are talking about what may be his thought process in reaching this decision. Politico reports that a Republican from inside the White House, who is familiar with the president’s deliberation on the matter, has indicated that many of the things he is considering have nothing to do with the role itself.
“Beyond the qualifications,” they say, “what really matters is, does this nominee fit a central casting image for a Supreme Court nominee, as well as his or her spouse. That’s a big deal. Do they fit the role?”
An example of how this might affect the president’s choice is a photo of Brett Kavanaugh that has been making the rounds at the White House. Kavanaugh is believed to be one of the three possible nominees Trump is evaluating. In the photo, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy is swearing in Kavanaugh as judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. His wife, Ashley Kavanaugh, is shown in a pink skirt suit holding the Bible upon which her husband is resting his left hand. One of Politico‘s sources described it as “all-American.”
The photo, however, also highlights a problem President Trump may have with Kavanaugh. Standing to his right is President Bush. Ashley Kavanaugh moved from Bush’s governor’s office in Texas to his Oval Office in D.C., working as his personal secretary for years. Because of all those years with him, she has a personal relationship with the Bush family, something that is likely to be a strike against her husband as a Supreme Court nominee in the eyes of Trump given his unfavorable opinion of the Bush family and what he feels they represent.
Another person believed to be in president’s final three is a female, Amy Coney Barrett. She may have one strike against her because of where she attended college. Rhodes College and Notre Dame Law School are top universities, but they aren’t Harvard or Yale, the universities Trump has said he would like his nominee to have attended. It’s also rumored that she didn’t do very well in her interview with the president, and it’s believed that his personal chemistry with those he considers working with is a major factor in this and other decisions.
Brian Fallon, the Executive Director of Demand Justice, a recently created nonprofit organization trying to influence the Senate on judicial nominees, says the president considers “the nonlegal, superficial and shallow” when trying to choose a Supreme Court nominee.
“He cares about not being a Bush person, an Ivy League background, someone who looks the part and someone who everyone is going to say good things about.”
It’s a description White House spokesman Raj Shah says is incorrect.
“The president’s nominee to replace Justice Kennedy will have tremendous intellect, judicial temperament and impeccable qualifications. He or she above all will have a duty to uphold the law and the Constitution,” Shah says.
Others say that Trump is able to consider things Fallon considers “superficial” because everyone in the pool of candidates he is considering is a qualified conservative who has already been fully vetted by the Federalist Society. This gives him the freedom to use whatever yardstick he wants in choosing his nominee.