President TrumpDonald TrumpGraham says he hopes that Trump runs again Trump says Stacey Abrams 'might be better than existing governor' Kemp Executive privilege fight poses hurdles for Trump MORE on Monday said he would make a nomination to the Supreme Court if there’s a vacancy before the 2020 presidential election.
“Would I do that? Of course,” Trump said in an exclusive interview with The Hill when asked if he would try to fill a high court vacancy during election season.
The position is an apparent reversal for the president, who as a candidate in 2016 backed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP should grab the chance to upend Pelosi's plan on reconciliation We don't need platinum to solve the debt ceiling crisis The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats argue price before policy amid scramble MORE’s (R-Ky.) decision to block former President Obama’s nomination of Merrick GarlandMerrick GarlandHouse passes bill to ensure abortion access in response to Texas law Delta pushes for national 'no fly' list of unruly passengers after banning 1,600 from flights Democrats demand more action from feds on unruly airline passengers MORE to the high court.
But the president denied that his position was an about-face, since Republicans control both the Senate and the White House.
“They couldn’t get him approved. That’s the other problem because they didn’t have the Senate. If they had the Senate, they would have done it,” Trump said of Democrats.
“It depends. I mean, we have the Senate. We have a great Senate. We have great people. If we could get him approved, I would definitely do it. No, I’d do it a lot sooner than that. I’d do it. If there were three days left, I’d put somebody up hoping that I could get ’em done in three days, OK?” he continued.
Trump crafted a list in the months before the 2016 election of potential Supreme Court nominees, which helped secure him the support of some ambivalent conservative voters.
Since his inauguration, the Senate has confirmed dozens of Trump’s district court nominees as well as two Supreme Court nominees: Neil GorsuchNeil GorsuchSupreme Court low on political standing Graham tries to help Trump and McConnell bury the hatchet President Biden's vaccination plan is constitutional — and necessary MORE and Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughGraham tries to help Trump and McConnell bury the hatchet Republicans keep distance from 'Justice for J6' rally Senators denounce protest staged outside home of Justice Kavanaugh MORE.
The president has touted those confirmations as being among the high points of his term, noting that the justices will reshape the high court for decades to come.
Gorsuch was confirmed 54-45 in 2017 to fill the seat left vacant by Justice Antonin Scalia’s death. Garland had originally been nominated by Obama for that seat.
Kavanaugh was nominated last year to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, and was confirmed 50-48 following a brutal confirmation battle that included multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against the judge.
McConnell, who earned the wrath of Democrats with his refusal to bring Garland’s nomination up for a vote, said last month at an event in Kentucky that Republicans would fill a Supreme Court vacancy even if it occurs during the 2020 presidential election.
“Oh, we’d fill it,” McConnell said to laughter from the audience.
The Senate majority leader justified the decision to hold up Garland’s nomination in 2016 by arguing voters deserved a say by picking a presidential candidate who would make the appointment to the high court.
Some Senate Republicans, including Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham says he hopes that Trump runs again Trump pushes back on book claims, says he spent 'virtually no time' discussing election with Lee, Graham The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden meets with lawmakers amid domestic agenda panic MORE (R-S.C.), have expressed reluctance to move forward on a nominee in an election year.
“If an opening comes in the last year of President Trump’s term, and the primary process has started, we’ll wait until the next election,” Graham said last year at an event hosted by The Atlantic.
Three of the nine current justices on the Supreme Court are 70 or older, though none have indicated they are preparing to retire. Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgWhat would Justice Ginsburg say? Her words now part of the fight over pronouns Supreme Court low on political standing To infinity and beyond: What will it take to create a diverse and representative judiciary? MORE is 86, Stephen BreyerStephen BreyerBarrett: Supreme Court 'not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks' Sunday shows - Manchin says he won't vote for .5 trillion bill Breyer says term limits would 'make life easier for me' MORE is 80 and Clarence ThomasClarence ThomasClarence Thomas warns against 'destroying our institutions,' defends the Supreme Court Supreme Court returning to courtroom for arguments The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by AT&T - Supreme Court lets Texas abortion law stand MORE is 71. Ginsburg and Breyer are both members of the court’s liberal wing, while Thomas is a conservative.
Republicans currently control the Senate, with 53 seats. A nominee needs only a simple majority for confirmation.
The confirmation process typically lasts weeks or months, with individual senators seeking meetings with the nominee before they advance to a hearing before the Judiciary Committee and a full vote in the Senate.
Asked about rising tensions with Iran, Trump said he has the authority to take military action against the nation without congressional approval.
"But we’ve been keeping Congress abreast of what we’re doing ... and I think it’s something they appreciate," he said. "I do like keeping them abreast, but I don’t have to do it legally."
"We were pretty close to maybe making a decision to strike. Then I decided not to do it. Nobody went out, by the way. I was going to make that decision by a certain time, and I decided not to do it because it wasn’t really proportional," Trump added.
He also weighed in on the 2020 campaign, saying he hopes Democratic front-runner former Vice President Joe Biden "does very well," but he thinks "there is something going on in that brain of his."
"How he doesn’t get President Obama to endorse him — there has to be some reason why he’s not endorsing him," the president said. "He was the vice president. They seem to have gotten along. And how President Obama's not endorsing him is rather a big secret," Trump mused, adding, "Then he goes and lies and said, 'I asked the president not to endorse me.' Give me a break."
—Updated at 8:12 p.m.