President Donald Trump has repeatedly cited Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s “sterling” academic record in defending his pick from attacks on his integrity and character throughout his confirmation process, which has been derailed by sexual misconduct allegations.
There’s little doubt that Kavanaugh, who’s served on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals for 12 years, is a top legal thinker or, as Trump put it, “one of the most accomplished legal minds of our time.” But the president repeatedly claimed — falsely — that Kavanaugh was the highest-ranked member of both his undergraduate class and law school class at Yale.
“I think he was number one in his class at Yale. He was number one in his law school at Yale,” Trump said at a White House press conference on Monday.
Kavanaugh did not graduate at the top of his undergraduate class — he finished cum laude — somewhere among the second quarter of the class and below those who graduated magna cum laude and summa cum laude, which NPR’s Nina Totenberg reported make up the top 22% of the class.
And Yale Law School does not rank students or grade them conventionally, so it’s unclear how well Kavanaugh performed as a graduate student.
But Kavanaugh does say he was at the top of his high-school class at Georgetown Preparatory School, an elite all-boys private school in the suburbs of Washington, and has repeatedly asserted that he was accepted to Yale Law School, which he noted is “number one” in the country, because he worked exceptionally hard in college.
During his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, the judge repeatedly referenced his academic prowess in high school when answering questions about allegations that he drank to excess and sexually abused teenage girls.
“I was at the top of my class academically, busted my butt in school. Captain of the varsity basketball team,” he said during his combative and emotional four hour testimony. “Got in Yale College. When I got into Yale College, got into Yale Law School. Worked my tail off.”
At another point in his testimony he said that he got into law school without “connections.” While Kavanaugh has no known family members who attended Yale Law, his grandfather, Everett Edward Kavanaugh, graduated from Yale College — a connection that made him a legacy student during his undergraduate years.