Trump unveils Supreme Court list, includes Cruz and Cotton
President Trump on Wednesday unveiled a list of 20 additional potential Supreme Court nominees that includes three Republican U.S. senators, a White House lawyer-turned-judge and his former solicitor general.
Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), as well as Noel Francisco, who departed as solicitor general in June, are among the names added to the current list of candidates for the Supreme Court. Hawley, however, swiftly tweeted that he has “no interest” in serving on the Supreme Court and looked forward to “ confirming constitutional conservatives” in the Senate.
The list also includes a handful of individuals who have served in the Trump administration or his White House, as well as Trump appointees to lower federal courts. It includes, for instance, Gregory Katsas, who served as deputy White House counsel before Trump chose him to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in September 2017.
The announcement represents a bid to shore up his support among conservatives two months from the 2020 presidential election, as polls show Trump trailing Democratic nominee Joe Biden nationally and in key swing states.
In remarks at the White House, Trump warned that religious liberty, freedom of speech, and the right to bear arms are all at risk if Democrats win the election, asserting that they would appoint “radical” justices to the high court.
“Over the next four years, America’s president will choose hundreds of federal judges and in all likelihood, one, two three and even four Supreme Court justices,” Trump said in remarks from the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House.
“The outcome of these decisions will determine whether we hold fast to our nation’s founding principles or whether they are lost forever,” Trump continued.
The future of the Supreme Court hangs in the balance as the Nov. 3 voting day quickly approaches.
If Trump wins another four-year term, he would likely get the opportunity to replace ailing liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 87, and possibly fellow liberal Justice Stephen Breyer, 82, which would give conservatives a commanding 6-3 or 7-2 majority.
The next oldest justice is conservative Clarence Thomas, 72, who is currently the longest-serving member of the court and whose 28 years on the bench is longer than the typical justice’s tenure.
A successful reelection bid could give Trump a chance to transform the Supreme Court into a conservative supermajority and move its ideological center to the right of Chief Justice John Roberts, who some conservatives view as a less-than-reliable ally.
Trump said in June that he planned to release a new list of Supreme Court nominees after a pair of rulings were issued that frustrated the administration and disappointed conservatives, including the high court’s decision blocking the administration’s plan to dismantle the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
At one point during the Supreme Court’s most recent term, which contained no shortage of disappointments for conservatives, Trump described the court’s decisions as “shotgun blasts into the face” of Republicans, and emphasized the need for more reliable justices to bolster its unsteady 5-4 conservative majority.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters last week that the list would be announced sometime after Labor Day.
Trump similarly unveiled a list of potential nominees in May 2016 during his first campaign to run for president, a move aimed at ushering in support from conservatives who may have been hesitant about embracing Trump’s candidacy.
On Wednesday, conservative court watchers expressed approval over Trump’s updated list.
“The President’s expanded Supreme Court list reaffirms his commitment to making judges a continuing priority in his Administration,” Leonard Leo, co-chairman of the conservative Federalist Society and an outside judicial adviser to Trump who supported the confirmations of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, said in a statement.
Both conservative and liberal activists have tried to make the future of the Supreme Court a focal point in the upcoming election, with recent polls showing slightly more Democrats — 57 percent — than Republicans — 53 percent — calling the Supreme Court “very important” in 2020.
Brian Fallon, who heads the progressive judicial group Demand Justice, said Trump’s need to publicize additional candidates for the bench reflected Republican voters’ lagging enthusiasm for the Supreme Court this election cycle.
“When Trump released his shortlist in 2016, it was during the primary to shore himself up and rally conservatives to his side,” Fallon tweeted. “That he feels the need to go back to this well two months from the general election is a sign of weakness, not strength.”
When Trump released his shortlist in 2016, it was during the primary to shore himself up and rally conservatives to his side. That he feels the need to go back to this well two months from the general election is a sign of weakness, not strength.
— Brian Fallon (@brianefallon) September 9, 2020
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) criticized the additional candidates named by Trump as “radical” and said they would work to reverse progress made on a variety of fronts.
“The names on President Trump’s list of potential Supreme Court nominees are exactly the types of justices the majority of Americans don’t want on the high court. He has worked hand-in-hand with right-wing groups to pack the bench with Supreme Court justices and lower court judges who represent big special interests rather than the interests of the American people,” Schumer said in a statement.
“These radical nominees would continue the effort to reverse important progress America has made over the last 50 years on women’s reproductive freedom, strip away critical healthcare protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions, and gut labor, environmental, and civil rights,” he added.
Biden has said he plans to release a list of Black, female judges he would consider as nominees to the high court. Trump pressed Biden to release his list on Wednesday, musing that he has “refused” to do so because the names are too “far left.”
Trump’s remarks were hastily scheduled Wednesday afternoon, and punctuated a media frenzy over new revelations from Bob Woodward’s book that Trump acknowledged in a February interview that the coronavirus was “deadly” while minimizing the threat publicly.
Trump’s list included the following potential nominees to join the bench alongside his two other appointees, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh:
Bridget Bade, a Trump appointee to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
Daniel Cameron, Republican attorney general of Kentucky
Paul Clement, former solicitor general under President George W. Bush
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.)
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)
Stuart Kyle Duncan, a Trump appointee to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
Steven Engel, currently the assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel
Noel Francisco, who recently stepped down as the U.S. solicitor general
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.)
James Ho, a Trump appointee to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
Gregory Katsas, who served as deputy White House counsel in the Trump administration before being tapped for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit
Barbara Lagoa, 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
Christopher Landau, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico and former clerk for Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas
Carlos Muñiz, a justice of the Supreme Court of Florida
Martha Pacold, a Trump appointee to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
Peter Phipps, a Trump appointee to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
Sarah Pitlyk, a Trump appointee to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri
Alison Jones Rushing, U.S. Circuit Judge of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
Kate Todd, former chief counsel for the litigation arm of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Lawrence VanDyke, a Trump appointee to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
Updated at 5:10 p.m.