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The US Supreme Court has handed Donald Trump one of the biggest victories of his presidency, upholding his controversial travel ban targeting several Muslim-majority countries.
He has spent three decades at the Supreme Court and was first appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1988. He proved instrumental in advancing gay rights, buttressing abortion rights and erasing political spending limits.
While the opinion of the court went in favor of the administration in a 5-4 ruling, the dissent from Justice Sonia Sotomayor seized on Trump's tweets to argue there was a clear racial animus fueling the proposed ban.
He announced his plans to retire from the nation's highest court, effective July 31.
It's also possible that Roberts appears more liberal because, as the chief justice, he has an incentive to join the majority in cases where his vote alone can not change the decision; this tactic allows him to influence decisions he doesn't fully agree with, rather than simply dissenting.
Speaking to reporters during an Oval Office meeting with Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, Trump said he would draw from a list of 25 potential court candidates that his campaign had assembled during his presidential run.
So McConnell stood on the Senate floor, with a Cheshire cat grin, knowing the vacancy would give him a chance to cement his legacy of packing the courts that has enraged Democrats and thrilled Republicans.
Replacing Kennedy with a pro-life, originalist judge could give the Supreme Court its first pro-life majority since before 1973, potentially enabling Roe v. Wade to finally be overturned in one of several battles over pro-life state laws now winding through the legal system.
Justice Neil Gorsuch, whom Trump nominated early previous year to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court, was seen as a crucial vote with fellow conservative justices in upholding the travel ban. Kennedy wrote the landmark 2015 ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. When the court hears a case that touches on the most contentious issues of American life, a conservative majority will be all but assured.
The travel ban has been fully in place since December, when the justices put the brakes on lower court rulings that had ruled the policy out of bounds and blocked part of it from being enforced.
Democrats were left irate in 2016, after a Republican-majority Senate refused to vote on Barack Obama's 2016 nominee Merrick Garland.
The White House today issued a statement on Kennedy's retirement, calling him "a true man of letters" and "a tireless voice for individual rights and the Founders' vision of limited government". Judges Amy Coney Barrett, whom Trump named to the federal appeals court in Chicago, and Raymond Kethledge, a former Kennedy law clerk who serves on the appeals court based in Cincinnati, also may be considered.