Trump Adds Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton to List of Potential Supreme Court Picks

Date: 2020-09-09 20:21:12

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Hoping to replicate a strategy that has long been seen as key to his appeal among conservative voters, President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced he is adding 20 names to a list of Supreme Court candidates that he’s pledged to choose from if he has future vacancies to fill.

The list includes Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Josh Hawley of Missouri — who have all been mentioned as possible 2024 Republican presidential candidates — as well as Christopher Landau, the current ambassador to Mexico, and Noel Francisco, who argued 17 cases as the Trump administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer.

“Every one of these individuals will ensure equal justice, equal treatment and equal rights for citizens of every race, color, religion and creed,” Trump said as he made his announcement at the White House. Trump also warned his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, would select “radical justices” who would “fundamentally transform America,” even though Biden has never outlined his list of potential choices.

The release, less than two months before the election, is aimed at repeating the strategy that Trump employed during his 2016 campaign, when he released a similar list of could-be judges in a bid to win over conservative and evangelical voters who had doubts about his conservative bonafides.

The list includes several people who have worked for Trump, including Gregory Katsas, whom Trump nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Before that, Katsas served as a legal adviser to Trump and worked on some of the president’s most contentious decisions, including his executive orders restricting travel for citizens of predominantly Muslim countries and his decision to end a program protecting some young immigrants from deportation.

Francisco, the former solicitor general of the United States, also defended Trump’s travel ban, his push to add a citizenship question to the U.S. census and the decision to wind down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that protects some 660,000 young people from deportation. He also argued that a landmark civil rights law didn’t protect gay, lesbian and transgender people from discrimination in employment, a position the court ruled against 6-3 earlier this year.

The high court is currently divided 5-4 between conservatives and liberals. While there is no current vacancy on the court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 87, has been undergoing cancer treatment, and three others members of the court are in their 70s and 80s.

Trump has already remade the federal bench for a generation. And any vacancy in the highest court would give the winner in November — whether Biden or Trump — the ability to shape its future for decades to come.

Trump has stressed that power as he has campaigned, claiming that the winner of the upcoming presidential election “could have anywhere from two to four, to maybe even five” Supreme Court justices to pick, though that would require an extraordinary level of turnover.

Trump released two lists with a total of 21 names of potential Supreme Court nominees during his previous presidential campaign and added another five names in 2017 after becoming president. Trump’s two nominees to the court, Justice Neil Gorsuch and Justice Brett Kavanaugh, were both drawn from Trump’s list.

Even in a race reshaped by the pandemic and the national reckoning over race, Trump’s appointments of Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh remain among his crowning achievements and Trump continues to highlight the brutal fight around Kavanaugh’s nomination as he tries to replicate the excitement it generated on the right and make the race an us-vs.-them battle over American values and cancel culture.

“Did you ever see anything like that? Justice Kavanaugh. People forget. You know, time goes by, they forget. We don’t forget. I don’t forget,” Trump told a rally crowd last month in New Hampshire.

For the president’s allies, the list is seen as a way to excite his base as well as well as remind voters of what’s at stake come November.

“I think it’s very important way for the president to reaffirm his commitment to an issue that many conservatives and Republicans see as a priority,” said Leonard Leo, the longtime executive vice president of the conservative Federalist Society who participated in the Kavanaugh and Gorsuch confirmations. “This a great way to remind people pf the legacy he’s already established for himself in this area.”

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