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What Exactly Went Down Between Anthony Kennedy and Donald Trump?

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We already knew Trump had a shady relationship with retiring Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy’s son—who may have saved Trump’s bacon by lending him more than $1 billion during the recession in his capacity as head of real estate capital markets at Deutsche Bank—and that the administration essentially nudged the elder Kennedy off the court to ensure they’d get to pick his replacement. But things got even more interesting this morning with this tweet by NBC reporter Leigh Ann Caldwell:

The tweet has since been deleted, and Caldwell followed up with these clarifications:

I’ve deleted this tweet because it incorrectly implies a transactional nature in Kennedy’s replacement. I am told by a source who was not directly part of the talks that Kennedy provided Pres. Trump/ WH a list of acceptable replacements. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/ptxJmrbH9S— Leigh Ann Caldwell (@LACaldwellDC) July 10, 2018
Kavanaugh was the only one who was thought conservative enough to consider, I'm told. They added Kavanaugh – and 4 other names – to the public Federalist list that Trump would choose from in November. We are continuing to report this story. (2/2)— Leigh Ann Caldwell (@LACaldwellDC) July 10, 2018
Caldwell says she deleted the old tweet because it “incorrectly implies a transactional nature,” but the two tweets she put up instead…also imply a transaction between Kennedy and Trump.

For what it's worth, that would make sense—if you want to boot a guy off the court, it makes sense that he might want something in return. Like, say, his former law clerk getting his spot. Moreover, this:

Furthermore, the five names Trump added to his list of Federalist Approved judges last November was to get Kavanaugh on that list. The other four names were considered cover, per source.

In other words: the decision has been baked for a while:
W/ @frankthorp— Leigh Ann Caldwell (@LACaldwellDC) July 10, 2018
Again, transactional—Kennedy wanted to have a solid idea of who would replace him, he gave Trump five names, Trump only liked one, and he added that one to the Federalist list. Seems pretty clear, right?

It seems like Caldwell got bullied out of her first tweet, and of course we have no idea who her source was, but if there’s one thing we know about this administration, it’s that the truth is going to come out in slow trickles.

Politico has a much tamer story on the matter, and are basically only saying that Kennedy was sort of nudging Trump in a certain direction:

So even as Trump dispatched his top lawyers to comb though Kavanaugh’s rulings and quizzed allies about whether he was too close to the Bush family, potentially a fatal flaw, the president was always leaning toward accepting Kennedy’s partiality for Kavanaugh while preserving the secret until his formal announcement, sources with knowledge of his thinking told POLITICO….

Administration officials said Trump was taken with Kavanaugh even before his conversation with Kennedy. But Kennedy, in leaving the impression with Trump that Kavanaugh would be a great candidate for the job, helped the president make up his mind.

Again, there’s the implication of transaction. Implication is not truth, so we’ll have to wait to see what comes next, but where there’s smoke with this administration, there has been an implication of fire.

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