Pres. Trump says Ted Cruz is on his list of potential second-term Supreme Court picks

WASHINGTON -- Hoping to replicate a strategy that has long been seen as key to his appeal among conservative voters, President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced he is adding 20 names to a list of Supreme Court candidates that he's pledged to choose from if he has future vacancies to fill.

The list include Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Christopher Landau, the current ambassador to Mexico, and Gregory Katsas, a Trump nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, among others.

The high court was divided 5-4 between conservatives and liberals. There is now a vacancy on the court with the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 87, who passed away from pancreatic cancer. Ginsberg was considered a liberal justice. Three others members of the court are in their 70s and 80s.

"Every one of these individuals will ensure equal justice, equal treatment and equal rights for citizens of every race, color, religion and creed," Trump said at the White House. Trump also warned his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, would select "radical justices" who would "fundamentally transform America," even though Biden has never outlined his list of potential choices.

The release, less than two months before the election, is aimed at repeating the strategy that Trump employed during his 2016 campaign, when he released a similar list of could-be judges in a bid to win over conservative and evangelical voters who had doubts about his conservative bonafides.

"The president is very excited to share who he would nominate to the Supreme Court," White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said ahead of the announcement. She said Trump "wants Constitution-abiding judges, he wants textualists who believe the words of a statute actually are what they are, not subject to interpretation."

Trump has already remade the federal bench for a generation. And any vacancy in the highest court would give the president the ability to shape its future for decades to come if he is reelected in November.

Trump has stressed that power as he has campaigned, claiming that the winner of the upcoming presidential election "could have anywhere from two to four, to maybe even five" Supreme Court justices to pick, though that would require an extraordinary level of turnover.

"You will change this country around. It will be irreversible," he said last month in Minnesota.

Trump released two lists with a total of 21 names of potential Supreme Court nominees during his previous presidential campaign and added another five names in 2017 after becoming president. Trump's two nominees to the court, Justice Neil Gorsuch and Justice Brett Kavanaugh, were both drawn from Trump's list.

Even in a race reshaped by the pandemic and the national reckoning over race, Trump's appointments of Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh remain among his crowning achievements and are frequently noted at his rallies.

The cultural battle over Kavanaugh's confirmation, in particular, remains an electrifying moment for many on the right and one that Trump continues to highlight as he tries to replicate the excitement that fight generated on the right and make the race an us-vs.-them battle over American values and cancel culture.

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"Did you ever see anything like that? Justice Kavanaugh. People forget. You know, time goes by, they forget. We don't forget. I don't forget," Trump told a rally crowd last month in New Hampshire. "They're destroying the livelihoods of innocent people."

For the president's allies, the list is seen as a way to excite his base as well as well as remind voters of what's at stake come November.

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"I think it's very important way for the president to reaffirm his commitment to an issue that many conservatives and Republicans see as a priority," said Leonard Leo, the longtime executive vice president of the conservative Federalist Society who participated in the Kavanaugh and Gorsuch confirmations. "This a great way to remind people pf the legacy he's already established for himself in this area."

Trump's rival for the presidency, Joe Biden, has promised to nominate a Black woman to the high court if given the chance. Biden, too, has said he's working on a list of potential nominees, but the campaign has given no indication that it will release names before the November election. Democrats believe doing so would unnecessarily distract from Biden's focus on Trump's handling of the pandemic and the economy, while also giving the president and his allies fresh targets to attack.

"We are putting together a list of a group of African American women who are qualified and have the experience to be in the court. I am not going to release that until we go further down the line of vetting them as well," Biden said in June.

Biden advisers acknowledge that the Supreme Court vacancy four years ago helped Trump with white evangelicals and some chamber-of-commerce Republicans who disliked the first-time candidate or were wary of his conservative credentials. This year, Biden's team sees those same groups as less up for grabs. Many remain firmly with Trump, they reason, while others already have bailed on him and won't be wooed back by another list of potential justices for a vacancy that doesn't yet exist.

But Trump pushed back. He said that, apart from "matters of war and peace, the nomination of a Supreme Court justice is the most important decision an American president can make" and that, "For this reason, candidates for president owe the American people a specific list of individuals they'd consider for the United States Supreme Court."

Any list may also be meaningless. Either man's ability to get any future choice on the court depends on having a majority in the Senate, which confirms nominees. Republicans currently hold 53 seats in the chamber to Democrats' 45, with two independents who caucus with the Democrats.

The court's oldest members are Justice Stephen Breyer, 82, a liberal, and Justice Clarence Thomas, 72, and Justice Samuel Alito, 70, two conservatives.

Regardless of party, presidents tend to look for the same characteristics in potential Supreme Court picks. Stellar legal credentials are a must. All of the current justices attended Harvard or Yale law school, though Ginsburg left Harvard and graduated from Columbia. And they tend to be old enough to have a distinguished legal career but young enough to serve for decades. That generally means nominees are in their late 40s or 50s.

More recently, nominees have also previously clerked for a Supreme Court justice, an early mark of legal smarts. Five of the current justices previously clerked at the Supreme Court.

Here is a full list of the Supreme Court list:

Bridget Bade is a Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Prior to her appointment in 2019, Judge Bade was a United States Magistrate Judge for the District of Arizona and an Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Arizona. Judge Bade served as a law clerk to Judge Edith H. Jones of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Judge Bade earned her B.A., summa cum laude, from Arizona State University and her J.D., cum laude, from Arizona State University's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law.

Daniel Cameron is the 51st Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Before his election in 2019, Attorney General Cameron practiced law with Frost Brown Todd, LLC and served as Legal Counsel to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He served as a law clerk to Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky. Attorney General Cameron received his B.S. from the University of Louisville and his J.D., cum laude, from the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law.

Tom Cotton is a United States Senator for the State of Arkansas. Prior to his election in 2014, Senator Cotton served as a Member in the United States House of Representatives and in the United States Army, rising to the rank of Captain while serving in both Iraq with the 101st Airborne and in Afghanistan with a Provincial Reconstruction Team. Prior to his military service, Senator Cotton practiced law at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, LLP. Senator Cotton served as a law clerk to Judge Jerry Smith of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. He received his A.B., magna cum laude, from Harvard College and his J.D. from Harvard Law School.

Paul Clement is a partner with Kirkland & Ellis, LLP. He previously served as Solicitor General of the United States and has argued over 100 cases before the Supreme Court of the United States. He served as a law clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court of the United States and Judge Laurence Silberman on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Mr. Clement received his B.S.F.S., summa cum laude, from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service; his M.Phil. from Cambridge University; and his J.D., magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School.

Ted Cruz is a United States Senator for the State of Texas. Prior to his election in 2012, Senator Cruz was a partner at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, LLP and served as Solicitor General of Texas. Senator Cruz served as a law clerk to Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist on the Supreme Court of the United States and Judge J. Michael Luttig on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Senator Cruz received his A.B., cum laude, from Princeton University and his J.D., magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School.

Stuart Kyle Duncan is a Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Before his appointment in 2018, he was a partner at Schaerr Duncan, LLP and General Counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. Earlier in his career, Judge Duncan served as Solicitor General of Louisiana. Judge Duncan served as a law clerk to Judge John M. Duhé, Jr., of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. He received his B.A., summa cum laude, from Louisiana State University; his J.D. from the Paul M. Hebert Law Center at Louisiana State University; and his LL.M. from Columbia University Law School.

Steven Engel is the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel of the United States Department of Justice. Prior to his appointment in 2017, Mr. Engel was a partner with Dechert, LLP and previously served in the Office of Legal Counsel as Deputy Assistant Attorney General. Mr. Engel served as a law clerk to Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court of the United States and to Judge Alex Kozinski on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Mr. Engel earned his A.B., summa cum laude, from Harvard College; his M. Phil. from Cambridge University; and his J.D. from Yale Law School.

Noel Francisco is the former Solicitor General of the United States. Prior to his appointment in 2017, Mr. Francisco was a partner at Jones Day and served in the Office of Legal Counsel as Deputy Assistant Attorney General and as Associate Counsel to the President. Mr. Francisco served as a law clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court of the United States and Judge J. Michael Luttig on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Mr. Francisco received his B.A., with honors, from the University of Chicago and his J.D., with high honors, from the University of Chicago Law School.

Josh Hawley is a United States Senator for the State of Missouri. Prior to his election in 2018, Senator Hawley served as Attorney General of the State of Missouri, was an Associate Professor at the University of Missouri School of Law, and was an attorney with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. Senator Hawley served as a law clerk to Chief Justice John Roberts on the Supreme Court of the United States and Judge Michael McConnell on the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. He received his B.A., with honors, from Stanford University and his J.D. from Yale Law School.

James Ho is a Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Prior to his appointment in 2018, Judge Ho was a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, LLP and served as Solicitor General of Texas. Judge Ho clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court of the United States and Judge Jerry Smith of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. He received his B.A., with honors, from Stanford University and his J.D., with high honors, from the University of Chicago Law School.

Gregory Katsas is a Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Prior to his appointment in 2017, Judge Katsas served as Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Counsel to the President. He was previously a partner at Jones Day and served in senior positions in the United States Department of Justice, including as Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division and Acting Associate Attorney General. Judge Katsas served as a law clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas, both at the Supreme Court of the United and the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and to Judge Edward Becker of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Judge Katsas earned his A.B., cum laude, from Princeton University and his J.D., cum laude, from Harvard Law School.

Barbara Lagoa is a Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Before her appointment in 2019, Judge Lagoa was a Justice on the Supreme Court of Florida. She also served as District Judge on the Florida Third District Court of Appeal and as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. Judge Lagoa earned her B.A., cum laude, from Florida International University and her J.D. from Columbia Law School.

Christopher Landau is the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the United Mexican States. Prior to his appointment in 2019, Ambassador Landau was a partner with Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP and, before that, headed the Appellate Litigation Practice Group at Kirkland & Ellis, LLP. Ambassador Landau served as a law clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas, both on the Supreme Court of the United States and the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and to Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court of the United States. He received his A.B., summa cum laude, from Harvard College and his J.D., magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School.

Carlos Muñiz is a Justice on the Supreme Court of Florida. Prior to his appointment in 2019, Justice Muñiz served as General Counsel to the United States Department of Education and in various positions in the Florida State government, including as Deputy Attorney General and Chief of Staff to Attorney General Pam Bondi. Justice Muñiz served as a law clerk to Judge Jose Cabranes on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and to Judge Thomas Flannery on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Justice Muñiz received his B.A., with high honors, from the University of Virginia and his J.D. from Yale Law School.

Martha Pacold is a Judge on the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Prior to her appointment in 2019, Judge Pacold served as both Deputy General Counsel of the Department of the Treasury. Earlier in her career, Judge Pacold was a partner at Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott, LLP and served as Counsel to the Attorney General at the United States Department of Justice. Judge Pacold served as a law clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court of the United States, to Judge Jay Bybee of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and to Judge A. Raymond Randolph of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Judge Pacold earned her B.A., with highest distinction, from Indiana University, and her J.D., with honors, from the University of Chicago Law School.

Peter Phipps is a Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Prior to his elevation in 2019, Judge Phipps served as United States District Judge for the Western District of Pennsylvania. Before taking the bench, Judge Phipps served as Senior Trial Counsel in the Federal Programs Branch of the Civil Division at the United States Department of Justice. Judge Phipps served as a law clerk to Judge R. Guy Cole, Jr., of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. He earned both his B.S. and his B.A., summa cum laude, from the University of Dayton and his J.D. from Stanford Law School.

Sarah Pitlyk is a Judge on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. Prior to her appointment in 2019, Judge Pitlyk was Special Counsel at the Thomas More Society and in private practice at Clark & Sauer, LLC. Ms. Pitlyk served as a law clerk to then-Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. She received her B.A., summa cum laude, from Boston College; her M.A.'s from Georgetown University and the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium; and her J.D. from Yale Law School.

Allison Jones Rushing is a Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Prior to her appointment in 2019, Judge Rushing was a partner at Williams & Connolly, LLP. Judge Rushing clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court of the United States, Judge David Sentelle on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and then-Judge Neil Gorsuch on the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. Judge Rushing earned her B.A., summa cum laude, from Wake Forest University and her J.D., magna cum laude, from Duke University School of Law.

Kate Todd is Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Counsel to the President. Before her appointment in 2019, she served as Senior Vice President and Chief Counsel of the United States Chamber Litigation Center and as a partner at what was previously Wiley Rein & Fielding, LLP. Ms. Todd served as a law clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court of the United States and Judge J. Michael Luttig of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Ms. Todd earned her B.A., with distinction, from Cornell University and her J.D., magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School.

Lawrence VanDyke is a Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Prior to his appointment earlier this year, Judge VanDyke served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the United States Department of Justice. Earlier in his career, Judge VanDyke served as both Solicitor General of Nevada and Solicitor General of Montana. Judge VanDyke served as a law clerk to Judge Janice Rogers Brown of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He earned his B.S., with highest honors, from Montana State University; his B.Th., summa cum laude, from Bear Valley Bible Institute; and his J.D., magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School.

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