President Donald Trump July 9 evening bypassed Indian American jurist Amul Thapar — whom he had interviewed a week earlier to fill the Supreme Court seat vacated by retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy — and instead chose federal judge Brett Kavanaugh, whose nomination was immediately opposed by several civil rights organizations.
The president July 2 had interviewed Thapar — who currently serves on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals — along with a handful of other potentials. But by midweek, Thapar had fallen off Trump’s shortlist, without explanation (see earlier India-West story here).
"I think I have it down to four people and I think of the four people, I have it down to three or two," Trump told members of the White House press corps traveling with him to Montana July 5. "I think they're all outstanding. Honestly I could pick any of the 25 and they would be terrific. Those are very terrific people. The whole list is extraordinary."
Trump was referring to a list of 25 potential Supreme Court nominees he had announced shortly after the November 2016 general election, which brought him to the White House.
Kavanaugh’s nomination was immediately opposed by several civil rights organizations, and two Indian American members of Congress. The jurist currently serves on the DC Court of Appeals, and first came into the limelight in the 1990s, when he worked with Kenneth Starr to investigate former President Bill Clinton, an investigation which ultimately led to Clinton’s impeachment by the House.
In 2000, Kavanaugh participated in the controversial Florida recount after the 2000 general election, which placed George W. Bush in the White House, despite Democrat Al Gore’s win of more than half a million more votes than his Republican challenger.
More recently, Kavanaugh in 2015 argued that the Obamacare mandate for contraception coverage infringes upon the rights of religious groups. He also argued against the individual mandate, which requires all Americans to have health care coverage. He has been criticized for being too partisan.
“Brett Kavanaugh represents a fundamental threat to the promise of justice and equality, which is why I am announcing that I will oppose his nomination to the Supreme Court,” said Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California, in a press statement announcing her petition to challenge the nomination.
“He is too extreme and will shift the balance of the court for a generation,” said Harris, who is Indian American and African American.
Indian American Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Illinois, also issued a statement opposing the nomination of Kavanaugh. “President Trump’s nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court is a moment of great concern for millions of Americans. The next justice to join the court will be in a position to uphold or overturn key rulings preserving reproductive rights, access to affordable health care for all Americans, and legal protections preventing discrimination against our LGBTQ friends, relatives, and neighbors.”
“In light of Judge Kavanaugh’s record on the bench and in legal scholarship, I find his nomination deeply disturbing,” said Krishnamoorthi, adding: “Millions of Americans have depended on the Supreme Court to uphold their rights and protect them from discrimination. The Senate must ensure that Judge Kavanaugh will commit to preserving, protecting, and upholding those hard-won Constitutional rights and reject his nomination if he would turn his back on them.”
Indian American Rep. Pramila Jayapal said in a press statement: “To no one’s surprise, Donald Trump nominated a conservative justice who will endanger Roe v. Wade, threaten to gut the Affordable Care Act and infringe on our voting rights. Since his campaign, Trump’s motives have been clear: he’s taking swipes at vulnerable communities and hardworking families with every chance he gets.”
“Brett Kavanaugh comes from a roster of extremists approved by right-wing organizations that are committed to pushing a regressive agenda. This appointment is the most momentous in a generation and it will affect historic decisions made for the next half century – we can’t let that time be defined by partisan rulings that hurt our communities and strip away our rights,” said the congresswoman, adding: “I wholly oppose this nomination.”
“Far-right extremist Brett Kavanaugh is Trump’s new nominee for a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court,” said Rep. Ami Bera, D-California, in an e-mailed fundraising appeal. “This is a dangerous choice. Kavanaugh is notorious for being anti-choice and depriving women of their rights to make decisions over their bodies.”
“Roe v. Wade is on the line,” wrote the Indian American congressman.
Several Asian American civil rights organizations also opposed Kavanaugh’s nomination.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations called on the Senate to question Kavanaugh about his views on civil rights, religious freedom, the rights of immigrants, and limitations on presidential powers.
"Because of Donald Trump's openly Islamophobic, white supremacist and racist views and policies targeting minority and immigrant communities, it is incumbent upon the Senate to question Mr. Kavanaugh about his opinions on the protection of civil rights, religious freedom and the rights of immigrants.”
"And because of President Trump's personal involvement in cases that may soon come before the Supreme Court, the nominee must also be questioned about his views on the limitations of presidential powers,” said the organization in a statement.
“Brett Kavanaugh is a direct threat to our civil and human rights and is unfit to serve on our nation’s highest court,” said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference, during a press conference with several civil rights leaders held immediately after Trump announced the nomination.
“Trump promised that, if confirmed, his nominee would overturn Roe v. Wade, and undermine the Affordable Care Act, which would have a devastating impact on those with pre-existing conditions, people of color, women, people with disabilities, and millions of others for decades to come,” said Gupta.
“Access to health care is a civil and human rights issue of profound importance. Our civil and human rights hang in the balance with this Supreme Court nomination. Senators must put country over party to protect their constituents, the Constitution, and civil and human rights by rejecting this extreme nomination,” she said.