Trump says Justice Kennedy retired because 'he felt confident in me'

President Donald Trump basked in the news of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s upcoming retirement during a rally in North Dakota on Wednesday and promised to fill his seat with a conservative nominee who’s going to serve for “40 years” or more.

“He felt confident in me to make the right choice and carry on his great legacy,” Trump, visibly energized, told a packed arena in Fargo. “That’s why he did it … Justice Kennedy is a star.”

Kennedy, 81, said Wednesday that he’d step down from the bench on July 31 after serving three decades since his appointment by President Ronald Reagan in 1988. A frequent swing vote in the past, Kennedy sided with the court’s conservative bloc in every one of the 5-4 split decisions this term.

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Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy
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WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 10: U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy is seen during a ceremony in the Rose Garden at the White House April 10, 2017 in Washington, DC. Earlier in the day Gorsuch, 49, was sworn in as the 113th Associate Justice in a private ceremony at the Supreme Court. (Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images)
Justices of the US Supreme Court sit for their official group photo at the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on June 1, 2017. Seated (L-R): Associate Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Anthony M. Kennedy, Chief Justice of the US John G. Roberts, Associate Justices Clarence Thomas and Stephen Breyer. Standing (L-R): Associate Justices Elena Kagan, Samuel Alito Jr., Sonia Sotomayor and Neil Gorsuch. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 10: U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justices Anthony Kennedy and Neil Gorsuch are seen during a ceremony in the Rose Garden at the White House April 10, 2017 in Washington, DC. Earlier in the day Gorsuch, 49, was sworn in as the 113th Associate Justice in a private ceremony at the Supreme Court. (Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images)
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, left, embraces Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy after taking the oath of office during a ceremony in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, April 10, 2017. U.S. President Donald Trump said Gorsuch is 'deeply faithful to the Constitution' in the beginning of his speech at the start of the ceremony. Photographer: T.J. Kirkpatrick/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 10: U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy delivers remarks before administering the judicial oath to Judge Neil Gorsuch during a ceremony in the Rose Garden at the White House April 10, 2017 in Washington, DC. Earlier in the day Gorsuch, 49, was sworn in as the 113th Associate Justice in a private ceremony at the Supreme Court. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 28: President Donald Trump greets Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy after addressing a joint session of Congress in the Capitol's House Chamber, February 28, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: Supreme Court Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and John Roberts arrive on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today's inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 20: U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy arrives for the funeral of fellow Associate Justice Antonin Scalia at the the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception February 20, 2016 in Washington, DC. Scalia, who died February 13 while on a hunting trip in Texas, layed in repose in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court on Friday and his funeral service will be at the basillica today. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 19: Supreme Court Justices Elena Kagan, left, Samuel Anthony Alito, Jr., Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Anthony M. Kennedy react during prayers at a private ceremony in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court where late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia lies in repose on February 19, 2016 in Washington, DC. Justice Scalia will lie in repose in the Great Hall of the high court where visitors will pay their respects. (Photo by Jacquelyn Martin - Pool/Getty Images)
US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts (L) and Justices Anthony Kennedy (2nd L), Ruth Bader Ginsburg (C), Stephen Breyer (2nd R) and Sonia Sotomayor listen to US President Barack Obama deliver the State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 12, 2016. Obama gives his final State of the Union address, perhaps the last opportunity of his presidency to sway a national audience and frame the 2016 election. / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 24: Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, left, and Justice Anthony Kennedy, attend an address by Pope Francis to a joint meeting of Congress in the House chamber of the Capitol, September 24, 2015. Francis is the first pope to ever address Congress. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy listens to opening statements during a Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, March 23, 2015. Sprinting toward their spring recess, the House and Senate will separately consider budget blueprints, perhaps leading to the first joint congressional budget in six years. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. Supreme Court Justices (L-R) John G. Roberts, Anthony M. Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor stand before the State of the Union address by President Barack Obama on January 20, 2015 in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. Obama was expected to lay out a broad agenda to address income inequality, making it easier for Americans to afford college education, and child care. (Photo by Mandel Ngan-Pool/Getty Images)
U.S. Supreme Court Justices Stephen Breyer, left, and Anthony Kennedy testify during a Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, March 23, 2015. Sprinting toward their spring recess, the House and Senate will separately consider budget blueprints, perhaps leading to the first joint congressional budget in six years. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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“It has been the greatest honor and privilege to serve our nation in the federal judiciary for 43 years, 30 of those years on the Supreme Court,” Kennedy said in a statement announcing the decision. He said he chose to retire to spend more time with family.

Trump said he would immediately begin the hunt for Kennedy’s replacement and said he would look through his list of 25 people that he began compiling during the 2016 campaign. The New York Times notes that the president has suggested he may nominate a former clerk of Kennedy’s as a replacement, which may have made the justice more willing to step down.

“I think you see the kind of quality that we’re looking at when you look at that list,” Trump told reporters at the White House after Kennedy’s announcement. “So it will be somebody from that list.”

At the rally, Trump appeared to set his sights on someone who could serve on the court for decades to come, like 50-year-old Justice Neil Gorsuch, his first appointment.

“Remember this, we have to pick a great one,” Trump told the crowd in Fargo. “We have to pick one that’s going to be there for 40 years, 45 years. We need intellect, we need so many things. …There’s so many elements that go into the making of a great justice.”

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President Trump holds rally in Fargo, North Dakota
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President Trump holds rally in Fargo, North Dakota
FARGO, ND - JUNE 27: U.S. president Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a campaign rally at Scheels Arena on June 27, 2018 in Fargo, North Dakota. President Trump held a campaign style 'Make America Great Again' rally in Fargo, North Dakota with thousands in attendance. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A woman gestures to mimic handcuffs while chanting 'lock her up' as the US president speaks during a rally for Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) at Scheels Arena on June 27, 2018 in Fargo, North Dakota. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump speaks during a rally for Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) at Scheels Arena on June 27, 2018 in Fargo, North Dakota. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
FARGO, ND - JUNE 27: U.S. president Donald Trump greets supporters during a campaign rally at Scheels Arena on June 27, 2018 in Fargo, North Dakota. President Trump held a campaign style 'Make America Great Again' rally in Fargo, North Dakota with thousands in attendance. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
FARGO, ND - JUNE 27: A suppoter holds a sign as U.S. president Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a campaign rally at Scheels Arena on June 27, 2018 in Fargo, North Dakota. President Trump held a campaign style 'Make America Great Again' rally in Fargo, North Dakota with thousands in attendance. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
FARGO, ND - JUNE 27: U.S. president Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a campaign rally at Scheels Arena on June 27, 2018 in Fargo, North Dakota. President Trump held a campaign style 'Make America Great Again' rally in Fargo, North Dakota with thousands in attendance. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
FARGO, ND - JUNE 27: A suppoter holds a sign as U.S. president Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a campaign rally at Scheels Arena on June 27, 2018 in Fargo, North Dakota. President Trump held a campaign style 'Make America Great Again' rally in Fargo, North Dakota with thousands in attendance. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A man wears a t-shirt with a graphic of former US President Ronald Reagan as people listen as the US president speaks during a rally for Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) at Scheels Arena on June 27, 2018 in Fargo, North Dakota. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump speaks during a rally for Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) at Scheels Arena on June 27, 2018 in Fargo, North Dakota. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
FARGO, ND - JUNE 27: U.S. president Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a campaign rally at Scheels Arena on June 27, 2018 in Fargo, North Dakota. President Trump held a campaign style 'Make America Great Again' rally in Fargo, North Dakota with thousands in attendance. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
People cheer as the US president speaks during a rally for Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) at Scheels Arena on June 27, 2018 in Fargo, North Dakota. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
FARGO, ND - JUNE 27: U.S. president Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a campaign rally at Scheels Arena on June 27, 2018 in Fargo, North Dakota. President Trump held a campaign style 'Make America Great Again' rally in Fargo, North Dakota with thousands in attendance. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A woman takes a photo as US President Donald Trump speaks during a rally for Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) at Scheels Arena on June 27, 2018 in Fargo, North Dakota. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump points to Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) during a rally at Scheels Arena on June 27, 2018 in Fargo, North Dakota. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
People react as US President Donald Trump arrives for a rally for Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) at Scheels Arena on June 27, 2018 in Fargo, North Dakota. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump arrives for a rally for Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) at Scheels Arena on June 27, 2018 in Fargo, North Dakota. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump (L) gestures as Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) speaks during a rally at Scheels Arena on June 27, 2018 in Fargo, North Dakota. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
FARGO, ND - JUNE 27: U.S. president Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a campaign rally at Scheels Arena on June 27, 2018 in Fargo, North Dakota. President Trump held a campaign style 'Make America Great Again' rally in Fargo, North Dakota with thousands in attendance. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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He also urged voters to elect more Republicans in November to ensure conservative power in the judiciary.

“Justice Kennedy’s retirement makes the issue of Senate control one of the vital issues of our time,” Trump said. “The most important thing we can do. Democrats want judges who will rewrite the Constitution and take away your Second Amendment, erase your borders, throw open the jailhouse doors and destroy your freedoms.”

Some Democrats have demanded that Republicans delay the confirmation of Trump’s choice until after the midterm elections in November, in line with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s stonewalling of former President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court pick, Merrick Garland. McConnell, however, said he intends to vote on Kennedy’s replacement as soon as possible and called on senators to treat the choice “fairly.”

“We will vote to confirm Justice Kennedy’s successor this fall,” McConnell said on Wednesday.

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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