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President Donald Trump has nominated Brett Kavanaugh to join the US Supreme Court, setting the stage for a dramatic confirmation battle over a stalwart conservative who could shape the direction of the court for decades to come.

President Donald Trump has picked Brett Kavanaugh, a federal appeals court judge with extensive legal credentials and a lengthy political record, to succeed Justice Anthony M. Kennedy on the Supreme Court, NBC News reported.

"For the last 12 years, he has served as a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals with great distinction, authoring 300 opinions, which have been widely admired for their skill, insight and rigorous adherence to the law", Trump said as Kavanaugh stood nearby with his wife and their two daughters in the East Room of the White House.

Kavanaugh, 53, had always been mentioned in Washington chatter as a potential high court choice by a Republican president because of his educational background, intellectual firepower and an unyielding commitment to a legal approach championed by conservative Supreme Court justices such as Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, also had favorable words for Kavanaugh, who will need the Republican Party leadership's support heading into his confirmation process.

The nomination is Trump's second to the nation's highest court, a rare presidential privilege that could seal a key part of Trump's legacy less than two years into his first term.

If Collins and Murkowski vote "no" and Democrats all vote "no", the nomination would be blocked.

His appointment will not change the ideological tilt of a court that already has a 5-4 conservative majority, but he could nevertheless shift the bench further right.

The president hasn't indicated the leading candidate, only saying "an exceptional person will be chosen".

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He is now a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. It is unclear yet if any Democrats in the Senate will vote to confirm him - but Kavanaugh needs almost every GOP vote he can get.

The president added: "There is no one in America more qualified for this position and no one more deserving". But he's also an evangelical Christian, according to the Federalist Society, and he's liked by Kavanaugh's opponents and has none of the controversy on Capitol Hill of Barrett. He served in the Solicitor General's Office at the Justice Department and worked on President Bill Clinton-related investigations in the Office of the Independent Counsel under Kenneth W. Starr.

If confirmed, the appellate judge would become the second young, conservative jurist Trump has put on the top USA court during his first term.

The White House said Monday that former Arizona Senator Jon Kyl would guide Trump's nominee through the grueling Senate process.

Age was an important factor in making Trump's Supreme Court list; Kavanaugh is 53 years old, which would guarantee a measure of longevity on the court, if he is approved by Congress.

Barrett has served as a former Notre Dame University law professor and law clerk to former Justice Antonin Scalia. In practice, that means that 51 votes, rather than 60, are needed to confirm nominees.

Judge Kavanaugh recently voiced disagreement with a court decision allowing an undocumented teenage immigrant to have an abortion.

Activists, desperate for a strategy to stave off Trump's pick, see bright spots in her record. "Barrett said she tends to agree "with those who say that a justice's duty is to the Constitution", rather than a precedent she thinks is clearly in conflict with it". Ten Democrats from states that Trump won are up for re-election this fall and will be under tremendous pressure to back the president's nominee. "The point is not to put the president above the law or to eliminate checks on the president, but simply to defer litigation and investigations until the president is out of office".