When the name of Judge Brett Kavanaugh was presented to the nation as President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court Monday night, Trump was in a role he honed during his reality television years.
He was the master of ceremonies making an important announcement.
But don’t kid yourself, the choice of Kavanaugh (right) was not made by Trump. It was made by Leonard Leo, one of the most important inside players in the conservative legal movement and the man to see for those who aspire to sit on the nation’s highest courts.
After Kavanaugh’s nomination, David Savage wrote in the Los Angeles Times:
In choosing Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, President Trump went with a well-credentialed Washington insider who compiled a long record as a reliable conservative and won the respect of White House lawyers and the outside groups that advise them.
They are confident that, if confirmed by the Senate, he will move the high court to the right on abortion, gun rights, affirmative action, religious liberty and environmental protection, among other issues.
Last week, Savage alerted his readers to the fact that the second Trump Supreme Court selection will have reached this legal mountain-top through “Leonard Leo, a vice president of the conservative Federalist Society, [who] will soon have his own grateful bloc of ideological allies on the Supreme Court.
Since the 1990s Leo has been one of the most important inside players in the conservative legal movement and the man to see for those who aspire to sit on the nation’s highest courts.
Leo has been a longtime friend and champion of Justice Clarence Thomas, and he played a crucial role in promoting the two most recent Republican appointees to the high court: Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch.
Judge Brett Kavanaugh, 53, was a law clerk for Kennedy the same year as Gorsuch, has served on the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals since 2006, and his more than 300 opinions have been reliably conservative.
Another top contender, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, has only a brief record on the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. She is 46 and has been a judge since November, but she has won support from conservative and religious groups across the country.
At least one television talking head speculated that President Trump may be saving Justice Barrett as a replacement if a female court member departs.
If he is confirmed, Judge Kavanaugh would be the fourth member of the current court certified as pure conservative by Leonard Leo. And he will be narrowly confirmed by the U.S Senate, unless Democrats, with some help from their friends across the aisle, develop a collective backbone, and block his nomination.
Justice Kavanaugh would join three earlier judges, who were successfully escorted to the court by the Federalist Society: Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and Associate Judge Samuel A. Alito, Jr., both announced by President George Bush, and Associate Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, named by Trump
What drives Leonard Leo, the justice-maker who remains in the shadows, until there arises a conservative president who needs him.
Leonard was a visionary,” said Tom Carter, who served as Leo’s media relations director when he was chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
In an exclusive interview with The Daily Beast. Carter said, “He figured out twenty years ago that conservatives had lost the culture war. Abortion, gay rights, contraception—conservatives didn’t have a chance if public opinion prevailed. So they needed to stack the courts.”
Amazingly, said Carter, Leo has succeeded in this mission with few people taking notice.
The nation will take notice when, or if, overturning Roe v. Wade comes before the Supreme Court.
The picture of Judge Kavanaugh was made by Dennis Cook of the Associated Press.