Trump Unveils New List of Potential Supreme Court Picks

President Donald Trump speaks on judicial appointments in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON (CN) — President Donald Trump added 20 names to a running list of possible U.S. Supreme Court nominees should he win reelection, including GOP Senators Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley and Tom Cotton.

“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,” Trump said at the White House on Wednesday afternoon.

Trump’s reveal mirrors a similar announcement the president made while campaigning for the office in 2016. Those nominees included eventual Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. When Trump added to the list after his election, the potential picks where identical to suggestions put forward shortly after Antonin Scalia’s death by the conservative Heritage Foundation.

After the Supreme Court overturned the Trump administration’s rescission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in June, Trump tweeted he’d soon follow up with a new list of conservative high court nominees. Kavanaugh and fellow Trump nominee Justice Neil Gorsuch both dissented from the DACA ruling.  

The new potential picks announced Wednesday include largely conservative judges. However, one of them was Bridget Bade, his fourth nominee to the Ninth Circuit who received large bipartisan support when confirmed by the Senate last year. She is one of the few Trump nominees not affiliated with the conservative Federalist Society.

Perhaps most strikingly, the Supreme Court list includes three Republican senators who are all seen as potential presidential nominees as soon as 2024 – Cruz, Hawley and Cotton, from Texas, Missouri and Arkansas, respectively.

Each senator thanked the president for the consideration on Twitter. Hawley said he would decline to serve on the high court, while Cruz and Cotton both expressed an interest in taking the job.

“The high court plays a unique role in defending our Constitution, and there is no greater responsibility in public service than to support and defend the Constitution of the United States,” Cruz said.

Most of the other possible picks were anointed to their current roles by Trump, including Assistant Attorney General Steven Engel, Fifth Circuit Court Judge Stuart Duncan and Noel Francisco, the former solicitor general who left his post in June. Fifth Circuit Judge James Ho and D.C. Circuit Judge Gregory Katsas also made Trump’s list, in addition to Paul Clement, a Kirkland and Ellis attorney and former solicitor general, and Christopher Landau, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico.  

Trump said a “growing radical left movement,” led by his challenger Joe Biden, rejects the principal of “equal treatment under the law.” If Democrats were allowed to shape a majority of the Supreme Court bench, he said, “radical justices will erase the Second Amendment, silence political speech and require taxpayers to fund extreme late-term abortion.”

“They will remove the words, ‘Under God,’ from the Pledge of Allegiance,” Trump said.

The announcement comes alongside revelations that Trump admitted to publicly downplaying the threat of the coronavirus pandemic, telling journalist Bob Woodward in an interview this spring that he did so to avoid causing a panic.

Nan Aron, president of Alliance for Justice – a judicial advocacy group – said in a statement Wednesday these controversial remarks were exactly why Trump announced his list of Supreme Court hopefuls Wednesday. Alongside the “astonishing number of damning allegations,” the announcement was a “last-ditch effort by the president to energize his base,” she said.

“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,” Aron said in a statement.

Also added to Trump’s list were Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron; 11th Circuit Judge Barbara Lagoa; Florida Supreme Court Justice Carlos Muñiz; Northern Illinois U.S. District Judge Martha Pacold, Third Circuit Judge Peter Phipps; Eastern Missouri U.S. District Judge Sarah Pitlyk; Fourth Circuit Judge Allison Jones Rushing; Kate Todd, deputy counsel to the president; and Ninth Circuit Judge Lawrence VanDyke.

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