Donald Trump announced a new list Wednesday of people he intends to consider for future vacancies on the U.S. Supreme Court, moving to fire up his conservative base hours after journalist Bob Woodward revealed that the president intentionally downplayed the threat of the coronavirus.
“Apart from matters of war and peace, the nomination of a Supreme Court justice is the most important decision an American president can make,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “For this reason, candidates for president owe the American people a specific list of individuals they consider for the United States Supreme Court.”
Trump said he is adding 20 names to his list of potential high court nominees. Trump had earlier identified 26 prospects, including the two justices confirmed during his presidency, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. By publicly vowing to confine his selections to a list of known conservative jurists during his first campaign, Trump helped to firm up support for his election among evangelical Christians and other conservatives.
His new potential nominees include Senators Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron — a rising Republican star — and many conservative jurists.
Shortly after the announcement, Hawley tweeted that he has previously told Trump that he wasn’t interested. “Missourians elected me to fight for them in the Senate, and I have no interest in the high court,” he said.
Cotton posted on Twitter a reference to the court’s landmark 1973 abortion ruling: “It’s time for Roe v. Wade to go.” Cruz said in a statement that he was “grateful for the president’s confidence in me and for his leadership in nominating principled conservative constitutionalists to the federal bench.”
Trump’s court announcement at the White House on Wednesday afternoon wasn’t placed on his public calendar until after news broke about Woodward’s latest book, “Rage,” which is to be published next week.
Trump promised a new list in June after the Supreme Court rejected his attempt to scrap the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. “Based on decisions being rendered now, this list is more important than ever before,” Trump tweeted, adding that he would release it by Sept. 1. But that deadline came and went without an announcement.
Trump’s announcement may put pressure on Democratic challenger Joe Biden to release his own list of possible Supreme Court nominees. Biden has vowed to nominate a Black woman to the court. He said in June his campaign was working on a list of potential nominees, but it has not been released.
“Joe Biden has refused to release his list,” Trump said Wednesday. “It’s very important that he do so.”
The president accused Biden of wanting to nominate “extremely far left” judges, who he said would “fundamentally transform America without a single vote of Congress.”
“We look forward to Donald Trump releasing his tax returns in the spirit of his newfound appreciation for transparency,” said Biden campaign spokesman TJ Ducklo.
Trump’s new list adds to a previous pool of candidates that include a number of appeals court judges, including Amy Coney Barrett and Amul Thapar, who are viewed in conservative legal circles as top contenders for the next Supreme Court vacancy. Judges Gregory Katsas, Barbara Lagoa, James Ho, Allison Jones Rushing and Kyle Duncan are among the new additions.
The president said as many as four Supreme Court vacancies may arise over the next four years, and how they are filled “will determine whether we hold fast to our nation’s founding principles or whether they are lost forever.”
Two justices appointed by former President Bill Clinton — Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg — are now in their 80s, while there is speculation that 72-year-old Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, 70, may consider retiring if Trump is re-elected. Ginsburg announced earlier this year she is undergoing treatment for a recurrence of cancer.
The unveiling comes at a tumultuous moment for Trump.
His handling of the pandemic — poorly regarded by most voters, according to polls — has weighed on his re-election campaign. The Atlantic magazine reported fresh allegations last week that he disparaged dead American military service members during a 2018 visit to France. And on Wednesday came Woodward’s interviews with Trump, in which the president acknowledged that he knew the coronavirus was more dangerous than he let on to the American public.
The president trails Biden by 7 percentage points, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average.
The Supreme Court is expected to again be a key issue this November, with 64% of Americans saying it will be a very important consideration in their decision about whom to vote for, according to a Pew Research survey released last week.
— With assistance by Jennifer Epstein
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