- McConnell played an intimate role in the SCOTUS nomination process, as detailed by The Washington Post.
- Even before Trump assumed the presidency, McConnell allies pushed Trump on conservative court picks.
- McConnell used the Senate to push through scores of conservatives to the federal judiciary.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has long prioritized reshaping the federal judiciary.
The Kentucky Republican lawmaker has worked for years with Republican presidents to install conservative jurists and largely seeking to deny Democratic presidents the ability to counter with picks of their own, which he executed in 2016 in blocking now-Attorney General Merrick Garland’s nomination to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.
However, he became even more involved in the high court selection process during former President Donald Trump’s White House tenure, as a recent report from The Washington Post detailed.
The report, published Saturday, explained how abortion became a politicized issue and how the GOP spent decades seeking to navigate and embolden the anti-abortion space.
Soon after Trump was tasked with filling the late Antonin Scalia’s seat on the bench, he received a list of potential court picks from Leonard Leo, who at the time was the executive vice president of the conservative Federalist Society.
Neil Gorsuch, who ended up becoming Trump’s nominee to replace Scalia, was on that list, according to The Post.
On a second list given to Trump in 2017, according to the report, were the names of Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, both of whom were eventually nominated and successfully confirmed to the high court.
Leo and McConnell worked in tandem to fill the Supreme Court with conservative justices, per The Post. Leo fed Trump the names, while McConnell quickly moved the efforts through the Senate.
McConnell also obsessed over the nominations and asked Trump for praise on his role in the process, according to the report.
“Part of McConnell’s goal was to make sure that Trump was getting the accolades that he needed to keep on doing what he was doing,” Josh Holmes, an advisor to McConnell, told the newspaper.
He continued: “There was no shortage of effort to raise the profile of the judges issue so Trump would continue to have interest in it. Every time I saw Trump privately, he’d say, Mitch McConnell. Judges. Judges. Judges. The only thing he wants is judges.”
In turn, Trump would often ask his own advisors whether he was setting records for judicial nominees. During his time in office, Trump turned the federal court system into a conservative powerhouse. This included appointing justices Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett to the Supreme Court — while also filling in the dozens of vacancies that the GOP-controlled Senate held open during the last two years of President Barack Obama’s tenure.
Trump also paid attention to whether the candidates on the lists given to him by Leo were “tough” and “looked the part,” according to The Post.
However, McConnell also wanted some praise for the success of Trump’s conservative judicial nominees.
While speaking on the “Ruthless” podcast last week, Republican Rep. Andy Barr of Kentucky recalled an instance where Trump sang the praises of Gorsuch while on Air Force One.
“He went on for a pretty good while with his monologue about how this was the greatest choice ever to the United States Supreme Court,” Barr said, according to The Post. “And at some point, after about 10 minutes or so, the president took a breath. When there was a pause in the action, leader McConnell didn’t miss a beat. He kind of leaned forward and he said, ‘Mr. President, when are you going to thank me for that?'”
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