The White House isn’t denying reports this morning that Donald Trump and Justice Anthony Kennedy negotiated for months over Kennedy’s replacement and only retired after being reassured it would be Brett Kavanaugh, Kennedy’s onetime clerk.  Kavanaugh was reportedly added to “the list” in November 2017, raising the question of whether there was quid pro quo for Justice Kennedy’s votes, such as his affirmation of the “Muslim ban.”

Meanwhile, critics are already questioning the independence of Kavanaugh from Trump.  From The New York Times:

  • “This issue is particularly important given repeated claims by the president’s attorneys that Mr. Trump is essentially above the law — that he can even refuse a subpoena to testify. Given the looming Mueller investigation, these weighty, knotty constitutional questions may soon come before the court.
  • “When it comes to these questions, Judge Kavanaugh is not a blank slate. He worked for Ken Starr, the independent counsel who aggressively investigated President Bill Clinton. But Judge Kavanaugh later adopted views that are outside the mainstream in their deference to the executive.
  • “In a 2009 law review article, Judge Kavanaugh argued that a sitting president should be able to defer civil suits and criminal prosecutions until after he leaves office and should be excused from having to answer depositions or questions during his term. He went so far as to advocate that Congress “consider a law exempting a president — while in office — from criminal prosecution and investigation, including from questioning by criminal prosecutors or defense counsel.
  • “It is hard to imagine that these extreme views weren’t part of Judge Kavanaugh’s appeal to President Trump, a man who is a defendant in several civil suits and the subject of at least one criminal investigation. “