Brett Kavanaugh's views on presidential power could become focus with ongoing Russia probe

President Trump's push to reshape the Supreme Court for decades will head to Capitol Hill Tuesday morning, where his new nominee will meet with Republican leaders. The president called Brett Kavanaugh's credentials "impeccable" and "unsurpassed" when he announced the nomination in a prime time TV address Monday night.

He also said Kavanaugh has a "proven commitment to equal justice." Supporters of abortion rights protested against the pick outside the Supreme Court Monday night. Vice President Mike Pence will escort Judge Kavanaugh when they head to Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

The 53-year-old judge, who clerked for Justice Kennedy, arrives with a stellar reputation among conservatives, and gives Republicans the potential to change the balance of the court for years to come, reports CBS News' Jan Crawford. Highly regarded on the federal appeals court, he has a clear, conservative judicial philosophy: a judge should be independent and seek to interpret the law, not make it.  

Kavanaugh's past positions on presidential power may become a focus as special counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing Russia investigation hangs over the presidency.

In a 2009 article, Kavanaugh argued "we should not burden a sitting president with civil suits, criminal investigations, or criminal prosecution" and "if the president does something dastardly, the impeachment process is available."

He was a favorite of the conservative legal establishment with his elite academic credentials but with a regular guy persona who loves basketball and coaches his young daughter's teams. But now Kavanaugh must face Capitol Hill, where he'll find some old opponents.


 
"Many of us have deep concerns about this nominee," Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer said.

During his contentious 2006 confirmation hearing, Democrats targeted his record on President Bush's legal team in the 2000 election recount and the Kenneth Starr investigation that led to President Clinton's impeachment. 

"Impeachment and then conviction take into account more than just the facts," Kavanaugh said during that hearing.

Kavanaugh said his time in the Bush administration made him a more independent judge.

"Working at the White House, at least in my view, helps give you the backbone and fortitude to say no to the government when the stakes are high," he said last November.

Democratic senators have already signaled plans to make Kavanaugh's confirmation about the future of abortion rights, and Kavanaugh's position on that issue hasn't been clear. Republicans have a narrow majority in the Senate so there is little Democrats can do to block his confirmation, but they are still going to try to hammer him every chance they get.