President Trump has narrowed his potential Supreme Court nominees to two, and both were reportedly called to Washington before he announces his choice Tuesday night in a televised prime-time event at the White House.
CNN reported that Judge Neil Gorsuch of Colorado was already in Washington and that Judge Thomas M. Hardiman was on his way from Pittsburgh. There was no comment from the White House about why both men were needed in the capital, but social media exploded with satirical comparisons to Trump’s television show “The Apprentice” as well as to “The Bachelor.”
Gorsuch, 49, and Hardiman, 51, have emerged as Trump’s most likely choices. A third person on the shortlist — Judge William H. Pryor Jr. of Alabama — has seen his chances diminish as some Senate Republican leaders have said his confirmation would be difficult.
Pryor’s outspokenness about overturning Roe v. Wade and other controversial remarks when he was Alabama’s attorney general made even his confirmation to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit a years-long ordeal.
By comparison, Gorsuch was confirmed a decade ago to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver on a voice vote, and Hardiman was approved unanimously by the Senate for a spot on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit in Philadelphia.
Neither would have such a comfortable ride to the Supreme Court. Democrats are furious that the Republican-led Senate refused to hold even a hearing on the man then-President Barack Obama nominated to fill the seat of the late justice Antonin Scalia, who died almost a year ago. Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination lapsed with the new Congress.
Democrats feel that the seat was “stolen,” and some have pledged to try to block a vote on Trump’s nominee, no matter who it is. “I won’t be complicit in this theft,” Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) wrote in an email to supporters. “There is only one person in America who is a legitimate selection: Judge Merrick Garland.”
Other Democrats aren’t likely to make such a bold move. But there were already signs that things won’t be particularly cozy: Trump invited senior Democratic senators to the White House for a reception to meet his Supreme Court pick, but they declined the invitation, according to senior aides.
Groups supporting Trump’s selection are getting to work as well. The conservative Judicial Crisis Network will launch an ad buy within minutes of the president’s announcement, the first phase of a $10 million effort on behalf of the nominee.
The ads will attempt to put pressure on senators in states that Trump won, including Missouri, Indiana and North Dakota. Websites are under construction for Hardiman and Gorsuch.
The Judicial Crisis Network’s Carrie Severino said her organization will be happy with whichever candidate Trump picks from a list that was developed by conservative think tanks and legal organizations.
“President Trump is in a great position choosing off this list of judges,” Severino said. “It’s like being an admissions officer at Harvard: You have a bunch of people with 4.0 GPAs and 1600 on the SAT, and you can pick whether you’d rather have the concert pianist, the math prodigy or the kid who formed an Internet start-up at age 18.”
Ed O’Keefe contributed to this report.