- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 9, 2020

President Trump on Wednesday released a new list of conservatives he will consider for vacancies on the Supreme Court, including Republican Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri, replaying a campaign strategy that won over conservatives in 2016 and was credited with helping him win the presidency.

In an announcement at the White House, Mr. Trump said his move underscores the stakes of the presidential election and what will happen to federal courts if Democrat Joseph R. Biden wins.

“Radical justices will erase the Second Amendment, silence political speech and require taxpayers to fund extreme late-term abortions,” the president said.

Among the potential nominees are two holdovers from Mr. Trump’s previous list: Judge Amy Coney Barrett of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and Judge Amul Thapar of the 6th Circuit. Both are considered to be front-runners.

The 20 additions to his list include Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, former Solicitor General Paul Clement, Judge Gregory Katsas of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, Ambassador to Mexico Christopher Landau, and Deputy White House Counsel Kate Dodd.

Mr. Hawley said in a post on Twitter almost immediately after the announcement that he is not interested in the job and had told the president.

“Missourians elected me to fight for them in the Senate, and I have no interest in the high court,” Mr. Hawley tweeted. “I look forward to confirming constitutional conservatives.”

Mr. Cruz also suggested he wants to remain in the Senate, although he said it was “humbling and an immense honor to be considered for the Supreme Court.”

“The high court plays a unique role in defending the Constitution of the United States,” he said. “In the Senate, I have been blessed to lead the fight to preserve our constitutional liberties — every day, to defend the rights of 29 million Texans — and I look forward to continuing to do so for many years to come.”

Mr. Cotton sounded more receptive to a nomination. Soon after the president made the announcement, Mr. Cotton voiced his support for overturning the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision making abortion a federal constitutional right.

“It’s time for Roe v. Wade to go,” Mr. Cotton tweeted.

The president said the potential nominees are “in the mold” of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and current justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr.

The decision to include several people who are not judges, including senators and former Solicitors General Noel Francisco and Mr. Clement, is a noted departure from the previous Supreme Court short lists.

Former White House Counsel Donald F. McGahn prized nominees with judicial experience, but the list that current White House Counsel Pat Cipollone helped develop does not place the same premium on jurists.

The court has a 5-4 conservative majority, thanks to Mr. Trump’s successful nominations of Justices Brett M. Kavanaugh and Neil M. Gorsuch.

Among the nine current justices, liberal Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the oldest at 87 and has been fighting cancer for years. Liberal Justice Stephen G. Breyer is 82; Justices Thomas and Alito are 72 and 70, respectively. Judicial nominations are lifetime appointments subject to confirmation by the Senate.

While the president has been promising for months to release the list, the announcement Wednesday afternoon seemed to be timed to change the subject from a flood of negative headlines about journalist Bob Woodward’s new book about the president, titled “Rage.” It quotes the president saying he downplayed the threat of the coronavirus.

Mr. Trump’s announcement may put pressure on Democratic challenger Joseph R. Biden to release his own list of possible Supreme Court nominees. Mr. Biden has promised to nominate a Black woman to the high court.

Liberal judicial advocacy group Demand Justice wants Mr. Biden to release his list before the November election, the group’s executive director told C-SPAN on Wednesday.

“The vice president has said that he’s considering it,” Brian Fallon said. “We know that he’s made a commitment to nominate the first African American woman to the bench, and we think that’s amazing. We’d love for him to go further to say some names that he’s considering.”

The president said Mr. Biden “has refused to release his list, perhaps because he knows the names are so extremely far left that they could never withstand public scrutiny or receive acceptance.”

“He must release a list of justices for people to properly make a decision as to how they will vote,” Mr. Trump said of his rival.

The president said Mr. Biden’s list would undoubtedly reflect “a growing radical left movement that rejects the principle of equal treatment under the law.”

“If this extreme movement is granted a majority on the Supreme Court, it will fundamentally transform America without a single vote of Congress,” Mr. Trump said. “They will give unelected bureaucrats the power to destroy millions of American jobs. They will remove the words ‘under God’ from the Pledge of Allegiance. They will erase national borders, cripple police departments, and grant new protections to anarchists, rioters, violent criminals and terrorists.”

He said some of the country’s most “treasured freedoms” have been spared by a single vote on 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. The outcome of these decisions will determine whether we hold fast to our nation’s founding principles or whether they are lost forever,” he said.

With the help of Senate Republicans, Mr. Trump has appointed an unprecedented 205 federal judges in less than four years. That includes 53 appeals court judges, the second-fastest pace in history behind only President Carter with 54.

Mike Davis, founder of the Article III Project, which advocates for Mr. Trump’s judicial picks, said conservatives should be thrilled with all the candidates on the list as well-qualified options for any Supreme Court vacancy.

“By issuing his updated Supreme Court list today, President Trump is once again putting his cards on the table for the American people — promising to pick Supreme Court justices who understand their crucial job in protecting us from government overreach and mob rule,” Mr. Davis said.

Mr. Davis said the Article III Project is mounting an advocacy campaign this fall to support Mr. Trump’s judicial picks and contrast Republicans’ approach with a “Biden-Harris list” of potential Supreme Court appointments favored by liberal groups.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List and national co-chairwoman of Pro-Life Voices for Trump, said the president’s list is “filled with all-stars.”

“The issue of the Supreme Court continues to highly motivate our base, and we are seeing it persuade targeted voters at their doorsteps in presidential and Senate battlegrounds,” she said. “It is a central issue in emphasizing that the 2020 election is the most important of our lifetimes and is why SBA List is committed to educating 7 million voters across key presidential and Senate battlegrounds.”

Not all of Mr. Trump’s supporters like his list.

Ashley Baker, policy director at the Committee for Justice who has defended Mr. Trump’s previous picks, said she was angry that Judge Neomi Rao of the D.C. Circuit was excluded.

Some court watchers perceive Judge Rao as less reliable on issues that matter to pro-life conservatives.

“To appease Sen. Hawley, Neomi Rao — an excellent jurist that has more than proven herself as a strong textualist over the past 1.5 years on the D.C. Circuit — was not only excluded from the list, but Hawley (not a serious contender), was added,” Ms. Baker tweeted. “I’m absolutely livid.”

Liberals panned the list as an effort by the president to excite his base.

“This is a last-ditch effort by the president to energize his base,” said Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron. “Trump is clearly trying to distract the American public from an astonishing number of damning allegations right now, but we cannot allow this purely political ploy to become a reality. If he is allowed to fill another Supreme Court seat, it would be yet another disaster for our democracy. If there’s one thing this president doesn’t lie about, it’s his eagerness to stack the courts with extremists prepared to carry out Republicans’ conservative agenda, overturning access to health care and abortion.”

The other additions to the president’s list include Judges Bridget Bade and Lawrence VanDyke of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; Judges Stuart Kyle Duncan and James Ho of the 5th Circuit; Judge Barbara Lagoa of the 11th Circuit; Judge Peter Phipps of the 3rd Circuit; and Judge Allison Jones Rushing of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The remaining additions are Steven Engel, assistant U.S. attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel, Mr. Francisco, a former solicitor general; Florida Supreme Court Justice Carlos Muniz; and U.S. District Court Judges Martha Pacold of the Northern Illinois and Sarah Pitlyk of Eastern Missouri.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the president’s list “demonstrates his commitment to appointing originalists, who will abide by the Constitution, and textualists, who will implement the plain meaning of statutes. They will uphold the rule of law and ensure that America continues to shine as a beacon of freedom and justice around the world.”

Maureen Ferguson, senior fellow for The Catholic Association, said the president’s expanded list of Supreme Court candidates “brings transparency and clarity to the American voters who care about the rule of law and the defense of our constitutional rights.”

“Most of the additions come from the pool of his extraordinary appointees to the circuit courts,” she said. “Voters are left to wonder why Joe Biden won’t treat them with the same respect and release a list of his own.”

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at rlovelace@washingtontimes.com.

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