Kavanaugh advocates also worked to convince Trump that merely by offering him a lifetime appointment to the nation’s top court, the justice would inherently become a “Trump guy” rather than a “Bush guy.”

“Bush put him on the D.C. Circuit; Trump put him on the Supreme Court,” a senior White House adviser said. “That’s not a lateral move.”

Both McGahn and Kavanaugh also sought to portray the judge’s lengthy record — including more than 300 opinions, roughly a dozen of which were affirmed by the Supreme Court — as a benefit rather than a potential stumbling block. While it might complicate his confirmation process, they told Trump, Kavanaugh would be the safest and most appealing candidate for the president’s conservative base.

After that first sit-down, Kavanaugh emerged as the clear front-runner. One person familiar with the interview said Kavanaugh, who worked closely with Bush as his staff secretary, “knew exactly how to talk to Trump” because he understands how presidents operate. “Brett has been planning for this his whole life,” the person said.