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Comments by former clerks may backfire on Trump’s high court pick Brett Kavanaugh

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When it became clear that President Donald Trump was seriously considering nominating Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, the conservative judge’s former law clerks swung into action as among his most energetic public cheerleaders.

But in making the case for him in the media on issues including his stance toward abortion, healthcare and an expansive view of religious liberty, they may have opened up lines of attack on Kavanaugh by Democrats and liberal advocacy groups seeking to derail his nomination in the U.S. Senate.

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Trump named Kavanaugh, 53, on July 9 to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. Before he can assume the lifetime job on the nine-member court, the Senate must vote to confirm him. No date has yet been set for the customary Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings.

Kavanaugh has served for 12 years on an influential federal appeals court in Washington. Several of the 48 lawyers who served as his clerks – a year-long job working for a judge, usually straight out of law school – appeared on cable TV shows, wrote opinion articles and spoke to reporters, often trying to shore up support among conservatives.

Their comments may have helped Kavanaugh’s cause before Trump nominated him by pushing back on complaints by some conservatives that the judge would not lean far enough to the right on social issues like abortion as well as on a conservative legal challenge to the Obamacare healthcare law.

But the chief threat to Trump’s nominee now is the Democratic campaign to block Kavanaugh’s confirmation in a Senate in which the president’s fellow Republicans hold a slim 51-49 majority.

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Of the 48 clerks, 34 signed a letter calling for the Senate to confirm his appointment. Many secured prestigious Supreme Court clerkships after working for Kavanaugh and subsequently landed jobs at law firms, law schools and in government.

‘ROCK SOLID RECORD’
One clerk, Sarah Pitlyk, wrote a piece for the conservative National Review a week before the nomination was announced in which she touted Kavanaugh’s “clear, consistent and rock solid record on the issues that matter most to social conservatives.”

Pitlyk, who could not be reached for comment, said that “no court of appeals judge in the nation has a stronger more consistent record” than Kavanaugh on “protecting religious liberty and enforcing restrictions on abortion.”

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Democrats have raised the possibility that the Supreme Court, with Trump’s appointment of a second justice in Kavanaugh, could overturn the landmark 1973 ruling legalizing abortion nationwide. Conservatives had advocated a broad view of religious liberty and free speech, arguing for example that certain types of businesses can refuse to serve gay couples if they have a religious objection to same-sex marriage.

Another clerk, Justin Walker, wrote an article in another conservative publication, The Federalist, defending Kavanaugh against criticism from the right about a 2011 opinion he wrote concerning Democratic former President Barack Obama’s 2010 healthcare law.

Walker talked up Kavanaugh’s conservative credentials on Fox News ahead of the nomination. “He is a warrior with a backbone of iron,” Walker told Fox, also calling Kavanaugh “a fighter for conservative legal principles” who would not “go wobbly” if appointed to the Supreme Court.

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“I felt like his record was being misrepresented,” Walker said in an interview, adding that he was speaking only about Kavanaugh’s approach to the law, not his politics.

Christopher Kang, who worked in the Obama White House and helped with the nominations of liberal Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, said he was surprised by some of the comments by Kavanaugh’s clerks.

“I think that is really striking. We would not have used clerks to talk about a judge’s political philosophy,” said Kang, who now works for Demand Justice, a liberal group that opposes Kavanaugh’s nomination.

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Supreme Court nominees routinely try to avoid being pinned down during confirmation hearings on how they would rule on given issues, especially controversial ones like abortion. But some of the comments made by clerks, Kang said, will “make it harder” for Kavanaugh to fend off questions about whether he will rule conservatively on social issues.

Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Additional reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Will Dunham


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
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‘Stand with Hong Kong’ shirts fill the stands at Nets game as NBA is protested for China subservience

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The National Basketball Association was protested on Friday for bowing to pressure from China.

The NBA has been harshly criticized for standing by the oppressive regime instead of standing in solidarity with the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

"Producer and activist Andrew Duncan bought 300 tickets to tonight's Nets vs Raptors game and is hosting hundreds of Chinese pro-Democracy activists to protest the NBA," New York magazine correspondent Yashar Ali reported Friday. "They're all wearing 'Stand With Hong Kong' T-shirts."

Photos from the protest:

1. Producer and activist Andrew Duncan bought 300 tickets to tonight's Nets vs Raptors game and is hosting hundreds of Chinese pro-Democracy activists to protest the NBA.

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Trump polling close friends over whether he should fire Mulvaney: report

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President Donald Trump is considering firing Mick Mulvaney, his acting White House chief of staff and director of the Office of Management and Budget, The Atlantic reported Friday.

"Mick Mulvaney's job was in danger even before his disastrous press conference yesterday, and his equally disastrous attempt to walk that performance back," The Atlantic reported. "The fumble could not have been more poorly timed: According to multiple current and former White House officials, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to relay private conversations, Trump has been steadily souring on Mulvaney for weeks."

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Michael Moore predicts Mick Mulvaney will get into Heaven after confessing Trump’s quid pro quo

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Academy Award-winning filmmaker Michael Moore predicted acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney will ascend to Heaven in the afterlife during a Friday interview on MSNBC's "The Beat" with Ari Melber.

The host played a clip of Mulvaney admitting Trump's quid pro quo while seeking foreign election assistance from Ukraine.

"This man obviously is going to be admitted into Heaven," Moore said. "You know, he told the truth."

"If there was a movie version of this, somebody stuck him with a needle just before he walked out onto the stage there, a truth serum needle, and he just went on and on saying, 'Yeah, that’s what we do. Yeah, of course.' Essentially admitting there is a quid pro quo. In fact, there are many quid pro quos."

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