Here are the main events that occurred in Politics this week:
1. President Donald Trump Selects Brett Kavanaugh As His Supreme Court Nominee
In a prime-time address on July 9, President Donald Trump nominated Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to fill Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s seat on the Supreme Court. Presenting Judge Kavanaugh at the White House, President Trump described him as “one of the finest and sharpest legal minds in our time,” and stated that he is a jurist who would set aside his political views and apply the Constitution “as written.” Kavanaugh was selected from a list of “25 highly qualified potential nominees” considered by the Trump Administration. The main reasons cited by President Trump for the nomination of Kavanaugh included his “impeccable credentials, unsurpassed qualifications, and a proven commitment to equal justice under the law” with the emphasis that “what matters is not a judge’s political views, but whether they can set aside those views to do what the law and the Constitution require.” In his remarks, Judge Kavanaugh, who once clerked for Justice Kennedy, said he would “keep an open mind in every case.” But he declared that judges “must interpret the law, not make the law.”
In choosing Judge Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump opted for a veteran of Republican politics with close ties to the Bush family. After graduating from Yale Law School in 1990, Kavanaugh worked as a law clerk for Judge Walter Stapleton of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit shortly before clerking for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. After his Supreme Court clerkship, Kavanaugh worked for Ken Starr as an Associate Counsel in the Office of the Independent Counsel;in that capacity, he handled a number of the novel constitutional and legal issues presented during that investigation and was a principal author of the Starr Report to Congress on the Monica Lewinsky-Bill Clinton and Vincent Foster investigation Before joining the Bush Administration in 2003, Judge Kavanaugh worked for the Bush 2000 campaign in Florida.
The reaction to Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination has been split along party lines. Senate Republicans (with the notable exceptions of Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, and Rand Paul) have generally expressed strong support for Kavanaugh’s nomination. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stated that Kavanaugh is “highly regarded throughout the legal community” and intends to hold confirmation hearings before the November midterm elections. Several vulnerable Senate Democrats such as Joe Manchin (D-WV), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) have also announced that they might support Kavanaugh. Additionally, several liberal legal scholars such as Akhil Reed Amar and Alan Dershowitz expressed support for Kavanaugh’s nomination.
On the other hand, Many Senate Democrats such as Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Kalama Harris (D-CA), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) denounced Brett Kavanaugh’s selection and intended on opposing his confirmation. Additionally, social conservative organizations such as the American Family Association and March to Life expressed concerns about Kavanaugh’s views on social issues, stating that he lacked the “backbone” to overturn cases such as Roe V. Wade, Obergefell v. Hodges, and National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius
2. President Donald Trump Embarks On European Tour, Antagonizing Allies With Unorthodox Behavior
On July 8, President Donald Trump embarked on a weeklong European trip that took him through a series of meetings at the annual North Atlantic Treaty Organization gathering, a stop in Great Britain to meet with Prime Minister Theresa May, Queen Elizabeth II and other political leaders, and a visit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helenski, Finland. But in typical Trumpian manner, the President blew through all the diplomatic norms of engaging with American allies, instead alienating and puzzling them through his unpredictable actions.
In talks in Belgium with the leaders of the 29-country Atlantic alliance, President Trump escalated his criticism of American allies in Europe, demanding that NATO countries double their military spending targets and saying that Germany was “captive to Russia” because of its energy imports. The president ultimately left reaffirming his support for the alliance but offering vague threats of a potential American withdrawal. President Trump’s remarks sent officials scrambling for answers, triggered ripples of dismay among defense officials and alarmed members of Trump’s own party enough that one worried aloud the President is trying to “tear down” the nearly 70-year long alliance that has helped to unify Europe in the face of threats from countries such as Russia.
The reaction to President Donald Trump’s NATO trip has generally been negative. Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN), a major critic of President Trump, stated that he is concerned that the President is trying to “tear down” NATO and “punch our friends in the nose.” through his harsh and unpredictable rhetoric. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), typically a strong supporter of Trump stated that he subscribes “to the view that we should not be criticizing our president while he is overseas, but let me say a couple of things. NATO is indispensable.” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and European leaders pushed back against Trump’s blistering attacks on Germany and other partner nations, as they attempted to downplay notions that the alliance may be fracturing. “The strength of NATO is that despite these differences, we have always been able to unite around our core task to protect and defend each other because we understand that we are stronger together than apart,” Stoltenberg told Trump over breakfast.
3. Twelve Russian Intelligence Officers Indicted For Hacking The Clinton Presidential Campaign And The Democratic National Committee
On July 12, the Justice Department indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee, the 2016 Clinton presidential campaign and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The allegations came in the latest indictment from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 Elections and ties to President Donald Trump’s successful campaign. According to the indictment, the officers worked for a military agency known as GRU, which hacked into computers of individuals working on the election with the goal of stealing and releasing documents unfavorable to Hillary Clinton, who advocated a hard line against the Russian government and called for the removal of Vladimir Putin from power.
Starting in June 2016, the intelligence officers released thousands of documents using online pseudonyms, such as “Guccifer 2.0” and “DC Leaks.” They used a network of computers around the world, to conceal their identities. They also broke into the computers of those charged with overseeing elections, including state election officials and secretaries of state (primarily in key states such as Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Texas, Arizona, and Wisconsin), as well as companies in charge of election technology and software. In total, the indictment charges 11 spies with conspiracy to commit computer crimes, eight counts of aggravated identity theft, and conspiracy to launder money. Two of the defendants are charged with a separate conspiracy to commit computer crimes. The indictment comes just days before President Donald Trump is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.
The reaction to the indictments has resulted in a mixed reaction from American political leaders. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) have called on President Donald Trump to cancel his meeting with Vladimir Putin in response to the allegations. Additionally, Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) responded to the indictments by calling on President Trump to expand the already-strong sanctions the US has in place against Russia and work with the international community to remove the Putin regime from power. In its response to the indictments, In an unusual response to the Russian indictments Friday, the Trump Administration issued a statement full of bullet points emphasizing that no Americans were charged and further reiterating that Russia’s supposed election meddling did not impact the actual vote in the 2016 Election and that President Trump was not personally aware of efforts by the Russian government to influence the election in his favor