Brett Kavanaugh is nominated by Trump to succeed Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy

President Trump on Monday nominated federal judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, elevating a conservative stalwart with deep ties to the Republican establishment to succeed retiring Justice Anthony M. Kennedy and triggering a partisan war over the court’s future.

Kavanaugh, 53, who lives in the Maryland suburbs, serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and worked in George W. Bush’s White House before moving to the federal bench. He served as a clerk to Kennedy in the early 1990s alongside Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, whom Trump nominated for the Supreme Court last year.

“In keeping with President Reagan’s legacy, I do not ask about a nominee’s personal opinions,” Trump said in an announcement at the White House. “What matters is not a judge’s political views but whether they can set aside those views to do what the law and the Constitution require. I am pleased to say that I have found, without doubt, such a person. Tonight, it is my honor and privilege to announce that I will nominate Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court.”

Kavanaugh, who was joined by his wife, two daughters and parents, told Trump that he has “witnessed firsthand your appreciation for the vital role of the American judiciary.”

“No president has ever consulted more widely or talked with more people from more backgrounds to seek input about a Supreme Court nomination,” Kavanaugh said. “Mr. President, I am grateful to you, and I am humbled by your confidence in me.”

Kavanaugh’s link to the Bush political dynasty gave Trump pause during the search process, but ultimately he decided that Kavanaugh’s lengthy conservative judicial record made up for any lingering concerns about how some of his core supporters would view the pick, White House officials said.

Republican leaders firmly believe that Kavanaugh, if confirmed, could be instrumental in pitching the ideological makeup of the court to the right and leaving a conservative imprint on the law for a generation. They also see the coming confirmation fight as a chance to galvanize their voters ahead of this year’s midterm elections, where the GOP’s 51-seat Senate majority is at risk.

Kennedy, who was nominated by President Ronald Reagan in 1987, had long served as the pivotal vote on the court.

Democrats are preparing for what they hope will be a prolonged showdown on Capitol Hill — determined to rally in defense of Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion rights decisionLGBTQ rights; and same-sex marriage — all areas of the law that they fear could be ruptured by the court.

Kavanaugh was one of four federal judges who emerged as Trump’s finalists after interviews early last week. Amy Coney Barrett, Thomas M. Hardiman and Raymond M. Kethledge were also vetted by the White House and considered by Trump in recent days.

Each of them had certain blocs of Trump’s circle or the Republican Party serving as their advocates.

Kavanaugh was boosted by the Bush network and legal conservatives; Barrett was touted by social conservatives; Hardiman was recommended by the president’s sister and sometimes-confidante, retired federal judge Maryanne Trump Barry.

Trump, who has relished the spectacle of secrets being revealed and shortlists being winnowed since his days hosting NBC’s “The Apprentice,” entered the camera-lined East Room at the White House on Monday with aplomb similar to finales of his former television program, with the moment staged to be as much about his role as the decider in chief as about a seat on the high court.

And Trump, who confides daily in a far-flung network of advisers and associates, kept his decision under wraps until hours before the announcement, even as he made calls Monday morning and spent the weekend at his New Jersey golf club huddling with friends such as Fox News host Sean Hannity.

When asked about his choice Sunday, Trump was upbeat in response but deliberately vague, a White House official said, noting that Trump took the same tack when greeting reporters Sunday afternoon.

“It’s still — let’s say it’s the four people. But they’re excellent. Every one. You can’t go wrong,” Trump said.

Monday’s scene, set among white columns and flags, was a rare instance of a norm-shredding president — who has repeatedly turned to raucous arena rallies and fiery tweets as the bastions of his presidency — embracing the traditional trappings of the office to elevate a defining decision, much as he did last year when he nominated Neil M. Gorsuch for the court.

The White House announced earlier Monday that former senator Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), 76, who served on the Senate Judiciary Committee and is close to Senate leaders, had agreed to serve as the “sherpa” for the nominee. That guiding presence — an adviser who works closely with the White House and introduces the nominee to senators, but is not a federal employee — is usually a seasoned party figure. Kyl is a lobbyist in the Washington headquarters of Covington & Burling.

Kavanaugh faces many hurdles: an intense media and political spotlight, and a divided Senate where Republicans hold just 51 seats. Senate Democrats running for reelection in states won by Trump are also facing thorny political dynamics — support the nominee and appeal to Trump’s voters, or oppose and rally their own party? Moderate Republicans, meanwhile, are on edge about how the nominee will respond to questions about social issues such as abortion.

The White House on Monday invited several key lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats, to the announcement. One of them was Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who declined to attend the event.

“I’ll get a better sense watching,” she told reporters.

Senate Democrats such as Joe Manchin III (W.Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Doug Jones (Ala.) and Joe Donnelly (Ind.) were also invited but declined to attend.

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