Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy apparently didn’t just wake up on a recent morning and decide it was time for him to retire.
His sudden decision came after months of a campaign by President Trump to convince him of their kinship and assure him his legacy would be best served if he was replaced by a Republican president – despite deep differences between them over abortion rights and other important issues.
The pressure to retire now was to do so in advance of the midterm elections when Democrats have a fair chance of retaking the Senate and have the power to confirm any new justice.
All of that would be sleazy politics as usual, which is unfortunately not illegal, but now a new conspiracy theory is rising about unseen influences on Kennedy that may have had a huge effect on his decision.
It turns out Trump has had a business relationship with Kennedy’s son, Justin, for many years, and a relationship with Kennedy’s son Gregory, as does Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner.
It is a relationship Trump reminded Kennedy of early in his term after his first address to Congress in February 2017, notes The New York Times in an article detailing how the brash president wooed the bookish 81-year-old justice to open up another seat he could fill, cementing a conservative majority on the high court for decades to come.
As he made his way out of the Capitol chamber that day a month after Trump’s inauguration, details the Times, the president stopped and spoke to Kennedy.
“Say hello to your boy,” Trump said. “Special guy.”
Trump was referring to Justin Kennedy, who spent 11 years at Deutsche Bank and was one of the leaders of the global market’s real estate capital markets group when it made over $1 billion in loans to The Trump Organization to renovate a skyscraper in New York and build another in Chicago at a time no U.S. bank would do business with Trump because of his troubled history.
“Justin Kennedy, a trader who arrived from Goldman to become one of Mr. Trump’s most trusted associates over a 12-year spell at Deutsche,” reported the Financial Times, “is the son of a Supreme Court justice.”
Justin Kennedy, reports Think Progress, “may (have) been more responsible than anyone else for saving the Trump family’s business during the darkest days of the Great Recession.”
Even today, the Trump Organization has over $175 million in outstanding loans at Deutsche Bank, which has been a subject of inquiry by the U.S. Attorney in New York and of great interest to Special Counsel Robert Mueller in his ongoing investigation.
Trump to Justice Kennedy: "That's very nice coming from you. And say hello to your boy, special guy."
Kennedy: "Your kids have been very nice to him."
Trump: "They love him, and they love him in New York. He's a great guy." pic.twitter.com/78MNDe3M7v
— Scott Stedman (@ScottMStedman) June 29, 2018
Kennedy has long been a “swing” vote on the high court because he sometimes votes iwth conservatives and other times with the liberals, depending on the issue.
Since Trump became president, however, some have seen a change in his legal opinions that appear to be slanted more toward the conservative side on issues including Trump’s ban on travel from some majority-Muslim countries.
Justin Kennedy’s relationship was not just with Donald Trump but also with Donald Trump Jr. and especially with Jared Kushner, who with his family ran a large New York-based real estate business before he followed his father-in-law and wife Ivanka into government.
When Justin Kennedy left Deutsche Bank, he became co-CEO of a start-up real estate investment firm called LNR Property, LLC.
One of LNR’s biggest investments was in a troubled property owned by The Kushner Companies at 666 Fifth Avenue, which had been led by Jared Kushner, moving the family company from owning cash cow residential units in the New York City suburbs into the high finance of Manhattan real estate.
Unfortunately for Kushner, he made the deal just before the 2008 recession hit, making all of his optimistic projections about the property’s revenue potential turn out to be wrong.
In 2010, it was LNR that came to the rescue when virtually no other entity would refinance the disaster that was 666 Fifth Ave.
According to PDQ News, the Wall St. Journal reported at the time that Donald Trump commented on the deal, calling Kushner “a very smart young man” and predicting “it will come out well for him and everybody.”
It didn’t turn out that way for Kushner; Justin Kennedy, however, seems to have done just fine.
In 2013, LNR was sold to Starwood Capital for over $1 billion, turning a handsome profit for Kennedy and partners.
Politico also noted another backchannel connection. Kennedy’s other son, Gregory, went to Stanford Law School where he became friends with Peter Thiel, serving as president of the (ultra-conservative and influential) Federalist Society in back to back years.
Thiel, a German-born venture capitalist, became hugely successful and very rich – a multi-billionaire – as an early investor in PayPal and Facebook, among others.
In recent times, Gregory Kennedy’s company, Distruptive Technologies, has worked closely with Thiel’s company Palantir Technologies.
Although he is gay, Thiel became a big Trump supporter in 2016, serving as a Trump delegate at the Republican convention, where he made a speech declaring he was “proud to be gay.”
In October 2016, Thiel donated $1.25 million to support Trump, and after his election served on the Trump transition team.
“During the early months of the Trump administration,” reported Politico, “Gregory Kennedy has worked at NASA as a senior financial adviser as part of the so-called “beachhead team.”
“Both Kennedy boys were spotted at the White House last month for the administration’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration (Justice Kennedy is Irish Catholic),” adds Politico.
That is right. Both Justin and Gregory Kennedy were personal guests of Trump at the White House this past March, but the tangled ties don’t end there.
“In February,” continues Politico, “Ivanka Trump (aka Mrs. Kushner) attended oral arguments of the Supreme Court with her daughter. She was a guest of Justice Kennedy.”
All of this may be circumstantial evidence but it documents the longstanding relationship between the Trumps, the Kushners and the family of Anthony Kennedy.
Whether the relationship between the Kennedy and Trump families has had an effect on how the Justice has voted, as some surmise, and now on his abrupt resignation, has yet to be confirmed. Republicans will likely use their majority in Congress to rush through a replacement and the whole mystery will land in the dustbin of history.
What is obvious is that this is one time the Democrats could use a conspiracy nut like Alex Jones or an over the top partisan like Rush Limbaugh to scream this from the rooftops.
This is not the time to be civil.