In a not so stunning show of his power to deflect attention from his own failings (most recently, the revelation in Bob Woodward’s book, Rage, that Trump knew how dangerous the coronavirus was and hid that from the American people), Trump announced a list of potential Supreme Court nominees. At the top? Texas own Senator Ted Cruz. Despite Cruz previously calling Trump a “sniveling coward” and “narcissist”, he has recently endorsed the incumbent president.
“It’s humbling and an immense honor to be considered for the Supreme Court. 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. In the Senate, I have been blessed to lead the fight to preserve our constitutional liberties — every day, to defend the rights of 29 million Texans — and I look forward to continuing to do so for many years to come.”– Senator Ted Cruz
Read the full Dallas Morning News story below.
Trump adds Sen. Ted Cruz to his list of potential Supreme Court nominees
Texas tea party Republican, a Harvard law graduate, went from bitter rival in the 2016 GOP primaries to top Trump ally in the Senate.
Updated at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday: Revised to include comment from Texas Sen. John Cornyn.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump added one-time rival Sen. Ted Cruz to his growing list of potential Supreme Court nominees on Wednesday, along with two other senators and 17 other jurists and prosecutors.
“The nomination of a Supreme Court justice is the most important decision an American president can make,” Trump said, daring rival Joe Biden, the former vice president, to release his own list of potential justices. “The outcomes of these decisions will determine whether we hold fast to our nation’s founding principles or whether they are lost forever.”
Trump used the same tactic in 2016 to rally conservatives, tantalizing the GOP base by releasing a wish list of some of the nation’s most conservative jurists.
Cruz called it an “immense honor” to be considered, left open the possibility he would accept, and used the opportunity to promote his forthcoming book on the stakes when a Supreme Court seat comes open.
Trump’s update includes widely regarded lawyers such as Paul Clement, who served as solicitor general for three years under President George W. Bush, along with a number of partisan firebrands whose nomination would ignite a battle such as the Senate hasn’t seen since the nomination of Robert Bork in 1987 — including Cruz and fellow Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Tom Cotton of Arkansas.
It was a risky move.
The names on Trump’s 2016 list were mostly unknown outside conservative legal circles, though Texans were perhaps familiar with Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett, known for colorful tweets and now a Trump-named federal appellate judge.
The new list includes names that generated enthusiasm on the right but also inflamed Democrats.
“Ted Cruz will never get the chance to be on the Supreme Court because Donald Trump will lose this election,” said Texas Democratic Party spokesman Abhi Rahman. “We have to win to keep fringe right-wingers like Ted Cruz from entering a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court.”
The president said he expects up to four vacancies in the next four years. One or two are almost certain.
Control of those appointments has proven to be a motivating factor in both parties, but especially among conservatives, many of whom care deeply about abortion, gun rights and religious liberty.
Trump said Biden “must release a list of justices for people to properly make a decision on how they will vote. It’s very important that he do so.”
Cruz, 49, clerked for the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist after graduating from Harvard Law School in 1995.
A judicial career seemed more plausible before he won his Senate seat in 2012, emerging as a tea party darling and partisan bomb thrower. As Texas solicitor — the state’s chief appellate lawyer under Gov. Greg Abbott when Abbott was state attorney general — Cruz argued nine cases before the Supreme Court, winning five and losing four. He argued dozens of other cases in private practice before the high court.
At this point, Cruz has a national profile as a partisan. And he would have to shelve his ambition to run for president again.
Over his 7½ years in office, Cruz has annoyed or alienated nearly everyone, including fellow Republicans.
At the annual Gridiron dinner in 2016, when Cruz was in the midst of a bitter presidential rivalry with Trump, Biden — alluding to the Texan’s reputed abrasiveness — quipped that he’d told President Barack Obama that “if you really, really want to remake the Supreme Court, nominate Cruz. Before you know it, you’ll have eight vacancies.”
But Texas Sen. John Cornyn said his fellow Texas Republican would have no problem getting confirmed in a GOP-run Senate.
“I wasn’t really too surprised to see Sen. Cruz’s name on there,” he said, calling Cruz “one of the premier appellate lawyers in the state, if not the nation.” “He’d be well qualified for the position, if the president decided to nominate him and he decided to accept.”
Cruz faces other obstacles before trading his Senate seat for a black robe.
First, Trump must win, and polls currently show him lagging nationally and barely ahead even in GOP strongholds like Texas.
Also, the GOP must hold the Senate. Most independent handicappers say the chamber is up for grabs in November.
Cruz was runner-up to Trump in the 2016 GOP primaries. Cruz called the future president a pathological liar, and Trump, jabbing at him as “Lyin’ Ted,” suggested that his dad was part of the plot to assassinate John F. Kennedy.
Once the rancor was behind them, Cruz emerged as a key ally of the president.
No vacancy for now
There are no vacancies on the nine-member court.
But Trump’s gambit was more about a hoped-for second term than about a last-minute appointment before Election Day or as a lame duck between then and inauguration.
Liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 87 and has had several bouts with cancer. Justice Stephen Breyer, also appointed by Bill Clinton, is 82. Conservative Justice Clarence Thomas, 72, named to the court by the first George Bush, has also been rumored to be eyeing retirement.
In April 2017, Senate Republicans eliminated the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations. With their current 53 seats out of 100 in the Senate, they could approve any nomination with a simple majority vote. But the backlash from Democrats would be intense if Trump were to send up Cruz’s name.
One especially bitter memory for them is from February 2016, when Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative icon, died. President Barack Obama had 11 months left in his second term. Cruz was the first Republican to demand a freeze on the position to await the outcome of the November election. Senate Republicans refused to hold a vote on Obama’s nominee, federal appeals Judge Merrick Garland, whose confirmation would have shifted the court to the left.
That left the seat vacant for Trump, who installed Justice Neil Gorsuch. In 2018, Trump filled a second Supreme Court vacancy, replacing centrist Anthony Kennedy with conservative Brett Kavanaugh. With help from the GOP-controlled Senate, he has also named more than 200 federal judges to trial courts and appellate courts. These are lifetime posts, assuring impact for decades.
Open to the idea
Coming off his 2016 defeat, Cruz ruled out seeking an appointment to the court.
He seemed much more open to the idea Wednesday.
“I am grateful for the president’s confidence in me and for his leadership in nominating principled constitutionalists to the federal bench over the last four years. As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I’ve been proud to help confirm to the bench over 200 of President Trump’s judicial nominees, including two to the Supreme Court,” Cruz said in his statement. “It’s humbling and an immense honor to be considered for the Supreme Court. 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. In the Senate, I have been blessed to lead the fight to preserve our constitutional liberties — every day, to defend the rights of 29 million Texans — and I look forward to continuing to do so for many years to come.”
Cruz won a second term in 2018 with less than 51% of the vote, fending off former El Paso congressman Beto O’Rourke. It was the worst showing for a GOP Senate candidate in decades and the closest any Democrat has come to winning a statement contest in Texas since 1994.
Also on Trump’s new list: James Ho, a Trump appointee to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which handles cases from Texas. Ho serves with Willett.
Ho clerked for Thomas and served as chief counsel to Texas’ senior senator, John Cornyn. That made him a gatekeeper for the nominees Cornyn and Cruz recommended to the White House.
Although Trump had teased recently that he would unveil an updated list of would-be justices, the timing fit a pattern of using such announcements to distract from bad news.
The hastily called event came hours after the release of excerpts from Bob Woodward’s new book, Rage, showed that Trump misled Americans about the danger of the coronavirus, confiding that the threat was dire even as he played it down in public.
Speaking from the Diplomatic Reception Room, the president pitched his latest roster as a way to block “radical justices.”
“Unfortunately, there is a growing radical left movement that rejects the principle of equal treatment under the law,” he said. “If this extreme movement is granted a majority on the Supreme Court, it will fundamentally transform America.”