Senior Trump aide assures conservatives on court picks

Senior Trump aide assures conservatives on court picks
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Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpMilitary personnel to handle coronavirus patients at facilities in NYC, New Orleans and Dallas Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort has total of 20 patients: report Fauci says that all states should have stay-at-home orders MORE’s top adviser assured leaders of the far-right House Freedom Caucus Thursday that the presumptive GOP presidential nominee’s list of possible Supreme Court picks would not change.

In a closed-door meeting at the Capitol Hill Club, conservative Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho) questioned Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort about whether the candidate would deviate from the list of potential high court nominees Trump released a day earlier.

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“Is that the list?” Labrador asked Manafort in what was described by sources as a “cordial” exchange. “He changes positions sometimes.”

Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman and chief strategist, replied that the list would not change.

On Wednesday, in a bid to quash concerns he wouldn’t appoint a conservative judge to the bench, Trump published a list of 11 people he could potentially nominate for the Supreme Court.

They include: Dianne Sykes, a former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice who was appointed by George W. Bush to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit; Steven Colloton, who serves on the Eighth Circuit and was a former clerk to the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist; and Thomas Rex Lee, the son of Ronald Reagan’s solicitor general and the brother of conservative Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeJustice IG pours fuel on looming fight over FISA court Senator Tom Coburn's government oversight legacy Trump on Romney's negative coronavirus test: 'I am so happy I can barely speak' MORE (R-Utah).

“I thought the list of judges was a very good step in the right direction,” Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanWho should be the Democratic vice presidential candidate? The Pelosi administration It's not populism that's killing America's democracy MORE (R-Wis.) told reporters in the Capitol. “We’re making progress.”

Ryan, the nation’s highest-ranking elected Republican who met with Trump exactly a week ago, is the only member of the House GOP leadership team who has not endorsed the New York billionaire. GOP Conference Chair Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersOvernight Energy: Trump rolls back Obama-era fuel efficiency standards | Controversial Keystone XL construction to proceed | Pressure mounts to close national parks amid pandemic Critics blast Trump mileage rollback, citing environment and health concerns The myth about Puerto Rican statehood that won't go away MORE (R-Wash) on Thursday joined Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and others in backing Trump.

On Thursday, Ryan declined to answer questions about whether Trump was “qualified” to occupy the Oval Office. Speaking to reporters down the street at the Capitol Hill Club, Manafort sought to downplay well-known policy differences between Trump and Ryan on issues like trade and taxes.

“Their differences are actually not that great, and some of it's just semantics,” Manafort told reporters, according to CNN. “They both agree that the Obama trade policy and the Clinton trade policy is wrong for America and costing us jobs. The question is how to remedy that. They're working on those issues together.”

Manafort’s meeting with the Freedom Caucus board was his second of the day. Earlier, the D.C. veteran lobbyist and political consultant held his weekly meeting with Trump’s House surrogates and other Republicans interested in taking a more active role in his campaign.

Scott Mason, Trump’s new congressional liaison, and Rick Dearborn, chief of staff to key Trump ally Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsThe Hill's Campaign Report: Coronavirus forces Democrats to postpone convention Roy Moore to advise Louisiana pastor arrested for allegedly defying ban on large gatherings Trump campaign demands Sessions stop implying he has president's support MORE (R-Ala.), also were on hand for the meetings.

The surrogates meeting touched on a number of policy issues, and attendees said Trump will be giving six or seven major policy speeches in the lead up to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this July.

There was also some discussion of the Trump campaign’s vetting process for a running mate. While no names were specifically discussed in the private gathering, one Trump ally said there’s one obvious choice for vice president.

“I’ve often said Condoleeza Rice,” Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) told reporters after the meeting. “What a great candidate she would be. She could then become the first female president of the United States. She has foreign policy experience. She is well respected. What a great pick she would be.”

Others spotted trickling out of the Capitol Hill Club after the Trump surrogates meeting were Administration Committee Chairwoman Candice Miller (R-Mich.), Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) and Reps. Michael BurgessMichael Clifton BurgessOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Juul pitched products to Native American tribes | Vaping execs deny deliberately targeting young people | Republicans seek hearing on Medicaid block grants Overnight Health Care: Big Pharma looks to stem losses after trade deal defeat | House panel to examine federal marijuana policies | House GOP reopens investigation into opioid manufacturers Lawmakers express alarm over rise in cocaine overdose deaths MORE (R-Texas), Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnTrump must cut our dependence on Chinese drugs — whatever it takes Senate passes House's coronavirus aid bill, sending it to Trump Nikki Haley expected to endorse Loeffler in Senate race MORE (R-Tenn.) and Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.).

In the coming weeks, Trump is expected to huddle with the entire 246-member House GOP conference, as well as the nearly 40-member Freedom Caucus.

“The big takeaway is the party is uniting, it’s coalescing, and it’s going through a process in a very substantive, strong manner,” Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) told The Hill after the meeting.

“We’re now moving into that policy discussion we’ve been talking about, and it’s an opportunity to put out a vision about what we stand for.”