Last night, after Donald Trump announced Brett Kavanaugh as his Supreme Court nominee, Palmer Report began listing off the numerous ways in which this was going to go wrong for him: maybe Kavanaugh would get confirmed and maybe he wouldn’t, but either way, the fallout would land squarely on Trump’s head. That was before his nomination became a scandal plagued mess today – and Trump is already showing signs that he knows it’s in trouble.
Earlier today, NBC News reported that Anthony Kennedy had been secretly negotiating with Donald Trump for months about his potential resignation. Kennedy specifically wanted Trump to nominate Brett Kavanaugh to succeed him, so he gave Trump a list of five judges: Kavanaugh, along with four moderates whom he knew Trump would never pick. This means that Kennedy was working on a deal with Trump that would benefit him personally (getting to name his own successor) even as Kennedy was casting pro-Trump votes on major issues such as the Muslim Ban, which were out of character with his record.
In other words, Donald Trump’s nomination of Anthony Kennedy’s replacement was unethically scandalous even before Trump picked Brett Kavanaugh. Then came the backlash today against Kavanaugh – from the right. Pro Trump propaganda site Daily Caller lashed out at Kavanaugh, calling him uninspiring and worse. It’s now clear that Trump only picked Kavanaugh because Kennedy wanted him to, and because Kavanaugh had previously suggested that a sitting President can’t be indicted. So Trump has managed to make a pick that’s enraged the left and frustrated the right, while handing the Democrats in the Senate an ideal argument for how this nomination is corrupt at its core.
Then came the giveaway that Donald Trump realized his Brett Kavanaugh nomination was in trouble. Trump did what he periodically does whenever he feels the need to fire up this own base: he pardoned some far-right criminals. This time he pardoned the domestic terrorists who set federal lands on fire in the ramp-up to the Cliven Bundy / Ammon Bundy standoff. These traitors are heroes to the anti-government factions of Trump’s base.
Will this be enough for Trump’s base to get over their dislike for Trump’s Supreme Court pick? It doesn’t matter. Trump’s base won’t decide whether this nomination sinks or swims. The American mainstream will make that decision, based on how ferociously and smartly it protests Trump’s nomination of Kavanaugh. Now we know that even Trump is worried about the nomination. We’re only twenty-four hours in, and there’s already trouble on the horizon. This nomination will be seen as far more scandalous by the end of the week.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report