White House counsel Donald McGahnDonald (Don) F. McGahnCongress hits rock bottom in losing to the president in subpoena ruling Rudy Giuliani's reputation will never recover from the impeachment hearings In private moment with Trump, Justice Kennedy pushed for Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination: book MORE on Friday blasted as "completely false" the criticism that President Trump has outsourced his judicial selection process to the conservative Federalist Society.
"I've been a member of the Federalist Society since law school. Still am, so frankly it seems like it's been in-sourced," he said, drawing laughs at the National Lawyers Convention, an annual event hosted by the group.
He said Trump takes advice on judicial nominees from several sources, including the Federalist Society and the Senate.
"Seeking advice from Leonard Leo and many members of the Federalist Society is not outsourcing the judicial selection process. The fact is, we all share the same vision of the judicial role and we welcome input from many sources," he said.
Leo, the Federalist Society's executive vice president, is currently serving in a private capacity as a White House adviser on judicial nominations. The majority of nominees that have been announced have ties to the conservative group.
The group's website says it does not lobby for legislation, take policy positions or sponsor or endorse nominees and candidates for public service. The group is funded through grants, membership and donations.
Before McGahn took the stage Friday night to give the Barbara K. Olson Memorial Lecture at the annual three-day conference in Washington, D.C., announced that he was adding five new names to his running list of prospective candidates for the Supreme Court.
There is not currently a vacancy on the court.
In his speech, McGahn jokes that the Trump campaign wanted two short lists for the Supreme Court — one with "mainstream folks" who can get through the Senate and a second that’s “too hot for prime time.”
“The first list we’re going to throw in the trash and the second list, that is the one we’re going to put before the U.S. Senate because I know Leader [Mitch] McConnell [R-Ky.] is going to get it done,” he said. He was recounting what he told Jonathan Bunch, the Federalist Society’s vice president and director of external relations, when he called the campaign to talk about judicial selections.
But McGahn also said the administration is honoring the role of the Senate to advise and consent on judicial nominees.
“We take very seriously the obligation to consult with the Senate and we painstakingly ensure that every senator has the opportunity to provide input on judicial nominees,” he said.
“First thing I tell senators is we’re happy to interview and will consider anyone they recommend," he said. "Of course some never take us up on this offer and many tell a different story to the press, but we are moving quickly to fill all existing judicial vacancies.”