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Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy shakes hands with then Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch. Photo: Eric Thayer/Getty Images

President Donald Trump was quick to praise Justice Anthony Kennedy for his service while simultaneously bashing other members of the Supreme Court, the N.Y. Times' Adam Liptak and Maggie Haberman write in "Inside the White House’s Quiet Campaign to Create a Supreme Court Opening."

The big picture: Despite Trump's niceties, people in the White House said “time was of the essence,” to replace Kennedy, Liptak and Haberman write. The president recognized that he needed to fill his vacancy before November, because if the Democrats gain control of the Senate in November, Trump's choice for Kennedy’s successor may not get through.

The other side: Despite the public praise, "Justice Kennedy is reviled by many of Mr. Trump’s supporters" for his votes upholding access to abortion, expanding gay rights, and limiting the death penalty in the United States — all issues that are subject to change with a more conservative Justice on the high court.

Behind the scenes
  • The White House quietly teed up a way to ensure Trump had a second nomination in his presidency, reports the Times, so "[Trump] would change the complexion and direction of the Supreme Court."
  • When Justice Antonin Scalia died in 2016, Trump picked Justice Neil Gorsuch, who had served as a law clerk to Justice Kennedy.
  • After Justice Gorsuch’s nomination was announced, a White House official singled out two candidates for the next Supreme Court vacancy: "Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and Judge Raymond M. Kethledge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati."
  • Both Kavanaugh and Kethledge had previously clerked for Kennedy.
  • "Justice Kennedy’s son, Justin ... spent more than a decade at Deutsche Bank, [where] he worked closely with Mr. Trump when he was a real estate developer ... During Mr. Kennedy’s tenure, Deutsche Bank became Mr. Trump’s most important lender."
“Justice Kennedy has been praised by all for his dedicated and dignified service.”
— Trump, during Justice Gorsuch’s judicial oath in 2017

Reality check: "There were no direct efforts to pressure or lobby Justice Kennedy," write Liptak and Haberman.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

In photos: The Biden and Harris inauguration

President Biden and first lady Jill Biden watch a fireworks show on the National Mall from the Truman Balcony at the White House on Wednesday night. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Biden signed his first executive orders into law from the Oval Office on Wednesday evening after walking in a brief inaugural parade to the White House with First Lady Jill Biden and members of their family. He was inaugurated with Vice President Kamala Harris at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday morning.

Why it matters: Many of Biden's day one actions immediately reverse key Trump administration policies, including rejoining the Paris Agreement and the World Health Organization, launching a racial equity initiative and reversing the Muslim travel ban.

Republicans pledge to set aside differences and work with Biden

President Biden speaks to Sen. Mitch McConnell after being sworn in at the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Photo: Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images

Several Republicans praised President Biden's calls for unity during his inaugural address on Wednesday and pledged to work together for the benefit of the American people.

Why it matters: The Democrats only have a slim majority in the Senate and Biden will likely need to work with the GOP to pass his legislative agenda.

The Biden protection plan

Joe Biden announces his first run for the presidency in June 1987. Photo: Howard L. Sachs/CNP/Getty Images

The Joe Biden who became the 46th president on Wednesday isn't the same blabbermouth who failed in 1988 and 2008.

Why it matters: Biden now heeds guidance about staying on task with speeches and no longer worries a gaffe or two will cost him an election. His staff also limits the places where he speaks freely and off the cuff. This Biden protective bubble will only tighten in the months ahead, aides tell Axios.