Anthony Kennedy is keeping the country guessing for at least one more day about whether he will step down after the Supreme Court’s term ends on Monday, which would give President Donald Trump the opportunity to nominate a second justice to the bench.
The 80-year-old justice sparked a flood of speculation that he was set to announce his retirement when he moved up by a year a long-scheduled reunion of his former clerks.
But he made no announcement about his future at the event, held this weekend at the court, one attendee said.
The legal site Above the Law quoted Kennedy as joking at the reunion that he had an announcement that had been the subject of speculation: "The bar will remain open after the end of the formal program.”
White House counsel Don McGahn told the president recently that he anticipated Kennedy would step down, leading Trump to expect a retirement announcement, a senior White House aide said.
Kennedy, who was appointed to the court by Republican President Ronald Reagan, has long been the swing vote on a court otherwise divided between four conservative and four liberal votes, so his exit could lead to major shifts in how the court decides cases.
Trump’s first Supreme Court nomination — he tapped Neil Gorsuch, a former Kennedy clerk, to replace the late Antonin Scalia in February — was a political boon for the White House, and many Trump aides have hoped he’d be afforded another pick.
Justices often announce their retirement near the end of the Supreme Court’s term. Monday is the final day of this term, and the justices are expected to announce several high-profile decisions, including action on Trump’s travel ban. Kennedy could still announce his retirement that day.
Senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway on Sunday declined to comment to ABC’s “This Week” on any conversations Kennedy may have had with the president, saying: "I will never reveal a conversation between a sitting justice and the president or the White House, but we’re paying very close attention to these last bit of decisions."