25 August 2020

Vanity Fair: “Donald Trump made Justice Kennedy an Offer He Couldn’t Refuse”

Inside the White House, however, news of Kennedy’s retirement didn’t come as a shock. In fact, as The New York Times reports, the 81-year-old’s announcement was the culmination of a carefully orchestrated 17-month campaign by the Trump administration to remake the Supreme Court before the 2018 midterms, when there is an outside chance that Republicans could lose their majority. For conservatives, Kennedy’s seat was seen as one of the keys to rolling back abortion rights—on the campaign trail, Trump pledged to appoint a justice who would overturn Roe v. Wade. But first, Trump had to demonstrate to Kennedy that he could be trusted to nominate quality jurists to the Supreme Court. The campaign was multifaceted: over the course of several months, Trump systematically nominated three of Kennedy’s former clerks for plum judicial posts. While he criticized other, more conservative members of the court, he lavished praise on Kennedy—despite the fact that the justice has been pilloried by the right for his votes on social issues. And he cultivated a relationship with Justice Kennedy’s son, Justin, who worked closely with the Trump Organization in his role at Deutsche Bank as the global head of real-estate capital markets, according to the Times.

Abigail Tracy

Among the almost continuous scandals surrounding the Trump administration, this one in particular stuck in my mind, not because of Donald Trump – I think he is fully capable of anything so long as it advances his short term interests – but because it implies a staggering level of corruption in the high levels of government and reveals the fragility of US institutions and their theoretical separation of powers.

Donald Trump with Justice Anthony Kennedy and Judge Neil Gorsuch
Donald Trump with Justice Anthony Kennedy and Judge Neil Gorsuch at the swearing in ceremony of Gorsuch as U.S. Supreme Court associate justice in the Rose Garden, April 10, 2017. By T.J. Kirkpatrick/Bloomberg/Getty Images

There are no solid proofs for this theory, and I doubt anyone could even make a legal case against the US President and the Supreme Court simultaneously, but it goes something like this: Justice Kennedy’s son, Justin, worked for more than a decade at Deutsche Bank. He eventually became the bank’s global head of real estate capital markets, and worked closely with Donald Trump when he was a real estate developer, possibly securing him billions of dollars in loans:

During Mr. Kennedy’s tenure, Deutsche Bank became Mr. Trump’s most important lender, dispensing well over $1 billion in loans to him for the renovation and construction of skyscrapers in New York and Chicago at a time other mainstream banks were wary of doing business with him because of his troubled business history.

Adam Liptak & Maggie Haberman

At the beginning of 2017, Deutsche Bank was fined for their involvement in a $10 billion Russian money-laundering scheme, and their records were later reportedly subpoenaed by special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections. In his high-ranking position, Justin Kennedy could have been aware or involved in the money-laundering and could end up being investigated himself, so his father retired from the Supreme Court to allow Donald Trump to nominate a new judge who presumably would rule in favor of Justin Kennedy if the case ever reaches the Supreme Court (or simply because Trump promised to pardon his son as he did with many of his accomplices). And who knows how many ties and hidden interests Donald Trump could have in this affair.

Kennedy sided with conservatives in close votes this term
Justice Anthony Kennedy reversed a recent trend this term, voting for conservative opinions in most 5-to-4 or 6-to-3 decisions in which he was in the majority. In fact, he agreed with Trump appointee Neil M. Gorsuch more than any other justice.

Other journalists have noted that since the election of Donald Trump Justice Kennedy regularly sided with the court’s four conservatives justices, breaking his recent trend of liberal decisions. It is nothing more than circumstantial evidence, but the suspicion of backroom deals remains and hurts the credibility of the entire US system of governance. A thorough reform of the Supreme Court is entirely necessary and overdue, and should start by decoupling the selection of judges from the hyperpartisan US two party system.

Post a Comment