In an interview with CNN host John Berman, White House spokesperson Raj Shah refused to address a report that President Donald Trump and the White House convinced Supreme Court Justice Anthony to retire by promising to replace him with protege Brett Kavanaugh.
Early Tuesday morning, NBC reported that Kennedy had been in negotiations “for months” with the outgoing justice stating, “Once Kennedy received assurances that it would be Kavanaugh (his former law clerk) Kennedy felt comfortable retiring.”
Confronted with the accusation by Berman, Shah repeatedly side-stepped the question, instead giving a boilerplate explanation about Kavanaugh’s qualifications.
“In the selection process, did President Trump speak to outgoing Justice Anthony Kennedy at all about Judge Kavanaugh prior to the nomination?” Berman asked.
“The president did speak with Justice Kennedy yesterday to inform him of his choice,” Shah attempted.
“Prior to that,” Berman pressed.
“Let me answer,” Shah shot back. “He met with Justice Kennedy at the White House on the Wednesday of the week before last when Justice Kennedy made his announcement so, yes, the president talked to Justice Kennedy but this was the president’s choice. Understand that Judge Kavanaugh was on his publicly disclosed list as far back as last November and he has a judicial record with over 300 opinions, a dozen which have been affirmed by the supreme court and many others that have been cited by appeals court judges and lower courts throughout the country. This is an influential judge –.”
“I understand,” exclaimed Berman, cutting him off. “But what I’m asking: did Justice Kennedy express his support to Justice Kavanaugh prior to the nomination.”
“Well, obviously Judge Kavanaugh clerked for him. but Judge Kavanaugh’s record, his writings, his appreciation for the appropriate role for the judiciary speaks for itself,” Shah parried.
“There are reports this morning that as far back as months ago that Brett Kavanaugh was used — that Justice Kennedy basically made clear he would like to see Judge Kavanaugh as his replacement,” Berman attempted again. “Did anyone inside the White House or connected to the White House speak to Anthony Kennedy about Judge Kavanaugh dating back months?”
Shah replied, “I won’t read out private conversations that Justice Kennedy had with either members of the White House or the president,” before reciting talking points about Kavanaugh’s qualifications again.
Berman then rephrased the question, only to receive the exact same answer from Shah, before giving up.
You can watch the video below via CNN:
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