While the White House is focused this week on shepherding Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, through the Senate confirmation process, the president and his team are obsessed with the next possible vacancy.
The likeliest candidate is Kennedy, who has sat at the decisive fulcrum of the most important Supreme Court cases for more than a decade. Replacing him with a reliable conservative would tip the court to the right, even if no other seat comes open under Trump — whose team has taken to exploring every imaginable line of communication to keep tabs on the justice and to make him comfortable as he ponders a potential retirement.
One back channel is the fact that Kennedy’s son, Justin, knows Donald Trump, Jr. through New York real estate circles. Another is through Kennedy’s other son, Gregory, and Trump’s Silicon Valley adviser Peter Thiel. They went to Stanford Law School together and served as president of the Federalist Society in back-to-back years, according to school records. More recently, Kennedy’s firm, Disruptive Technology Advisers, has worked with Thiel’s company Palantir Technologies.
And don’t forget this signalling to J. Kennedy back in February via Adam Liptak of the NY Times:
Mr. Trump’s team is already looking down the road, weighing the choices should Justice Anthony M. Kennedy decide to step down. Judge Kethledge would be a leading candidate, an official said, and so would Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh of the Federal Appeals Court in Washington.
Both judges, like Judge Gorsuch, once served as law clerks to Justice Kennedy.