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Trump announces Brett Kavanaugh as Supreme Court nominee

President Donald Trump on Monday evening announced Brett Kavanaugh as his nominee to succeed Justice Anthony Kennedy on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Trump introduced Kavanaugh as "a judge's judge" and cited his "proven commitment to equal justice under the law." The president added that Kavanaugh has "impeccable credentials and unsurpassed qualifications."

Kavanaugh, 53, is a longtime fixture of the Republican legal establishment. He's a Yale-educated appellate court judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals District of Columbia Circuit and clerked for retiring Justice Kennedy. He is probably best known for his ties to President George W. Bush.

On Monday evening, Kavanaugh said he was "humbled" to have been selected by Trump.

Kavanaugh told the president as he took the microphone to accept his nomination that he was "grateful to you" and "humbled by your confidence in me." He also says he is "deeply honored" to be nominated to fill the seat of Kennedy, for whom he clerked.

Kavanaugh said that if he's confirmed, he "will keep an open mind in every case" and "always strive to preserve the Constitution of the United States and the American rule of law."

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He also thanked his parents and talked about his young daughters, whose basketball teams he coaches. He says his daughters' teammates call him "Coach K."

Kavanaugh is Trump's second high court pick after Justice Neil Gorsuch. Kavanaugh and Gorsuch served as law clerks to Kennedy at the same time early in their legal careers.

Kavanaugh has attracted the most attention for his view that presidents shouldn't be bothered with legal inquiries. In a 2009 article in The Minnesota Law Review, Kavanaugh wrote that presidents are under such extraordinary pressure they "should be excused from some of the burdens of ordinary citizenship while serving in office."

Congress, he wrote, should pass a law that would temporarily protect the president from both civil suits and criminal prosecution. Clinton, for example, "could have focused on Osama bin Laden without being distracted by the Paula Jones sexual harassment case and its criminal investigation offshoots," Kavanaugh wrote.

"If the President does something dastardly, the impeachment process is available," Kavanaugh wrote.

That kind of thinking could prove helpful to Trump, who has been dogged by accusations of sexual harassment, as well as possible obstruction of justice in the Russia probe now being led by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Also of note: Kavanaugh was key member of independent counsel Kenneth Starr's team that produced the report that served as the basis for President Bill Clinton's impeachment.

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Kavanaugh's biography includes his times in two Boston Marathons, his coaching experience for his two daughters' basketball teams and his regular participation in services at a Catholic church in Washington.

Kennedy, 81, announced his retirement, effective July 31, last month. A Ronald Reagan nominee, Kennedy joined the high court in February 1988.

Reaction in Congress

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Kavanaugh is a "superb" Supreme Court pick and that senators should "put partisanship aside" in considering him.

Democrats are already lining up against Kavanaugh as too conservative. And the Senate's top Democrat said the nomination puts abortion rights and health care protections for women "on the judicial chopping block."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said that by picking Kavanaugh, Trump is delivering on his pledge to "punish" women for their choices. He says he will fight the nomination "with everything I have," and warns that if Kavanaugh is confirmed, "women's reproductive rights would be in the hands of five men on the Supreme Court."

But McConnell said Monday that senators should give Kavanaugh "the fairness, respect, and seriousness that a Supreme Court nomination ought to command." McConnell said Kavanaugh believes judges should ignore their personal and political views and simply "interpret our laws as they are written."

The Kentucky Republican faces a challenge in winning Kavanaugh's confirmation.

Republicans hold a mere 50-49 Senate majority, with the prolonged absence of the ailing Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain. The defection of one Republican would kill the nomination unless at least one Democrat votes yes.

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