WASHINGTON –Prominent conservatives are lobbying Donald Trump to say that he will nominate Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, to the Supreme Court if he’s elected president.
And Trump’s main rival for the nomination, Ted Cruz, has already said he’d consider his best friend in the Senate for the seat that opened with Antonin Scalia’s death.
As President Barack Obama traveled to the University of Chicago on Thursday afternoon to deliver a speech calling for Merrick Garland’s confirmation, Senate Republican leaders are expressing confidence they can hold firm through the November election in refusing to grant Garland even a hearing. If Hillary Clinton wins in November, there will be pressure to quickly confirm Garland so that she could not appoint someone who is younger and more liberal. If she loses, then the next Republican president will get to nominate someone else.
While the rest of the mainstream media is preoccupied with the Garland battle, conservative luminaries are increasingly looking ahead to next year and quietly touting Lee as a potential nominee. Republican senators like this idea, and Democrats are figuring out how they’d respond.
Trump promises that he will soon unveil a list of 10 to 12 names from which he would nominate a Supreme Court justice. “I’m going to announce that these are the judges, in no particular order, that I’m going to put up,” he told The Washington Post last week. “And I’m going to guarantee it. … Because people are worried that, oh, maybe he’ll put the wrong judge in.” He said he’s “getting names” from Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, The Federalist Society and The Heritage Foundation.
Lee “would be a very good choice, I think,” Sessions told The Washington Post.
Heritage offered up a wish list of eight “highly qualified candidates” that includes Lee. Besides him and former George W. Bush Solicitor General Paul Clement, the six others are sitting judges. For those who enjoy playing SCOTUS parlor games, none will surprise you: William Pryor Jr. on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, Diane Sykes on the 7th Circuit, Steven Colloton and Raymond Gruender on the 8th Circuit, Brett Kavanaugh on the D.C. Circuit and Don Willett, who is a justice on the Texas Supreme Court.
John Malcolm, the director of the think tank’s Edwin Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, devised the list after consulting with other conservatives. “He’s a very bright lawyer,” Malcolm said of Lee in an interview. He praised him as an originalist with “intestinal fortitude.”
Right now, Clinton leads both Trump and Cruz in head-to-head matchups, so Republicans are currently the underdogs in the Supreme Court fight. But if they win the White House, Lee would be a dream pick for conservative activists.