Trump Nominates Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court
By JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS and MARK LANDLER
JAN. 31, 2017 - The New York Times
— President Trump on Tuesday nominated Judge
Neil M. Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, elevating a conservative in the mold
Antonin Scalia to succeed the late jurist and touching off a brutal,
partisan showdown at the start of his presidency over the ideological bent of
the nationfs highest court.
Trump announced his selection during a much-anticipated evening ceremony that
unfolded in prime time at the White House. He described Judge Gorsuch, a federal
appeals court judge based in Denver, as ga man who our country really needs, and
needs badly, to ensure the rule of law and the rule of justice.h
Gorsuch has outstanding legal skills, a brilliant mind, tremendous discipline
and has earned bipartisan support,h Mr. Trump said, standing beside the judge
and his wife, Louise, as White House officials and Republican lawmakers looked
on. gIt is an extraordinary résumé — as good as it gets.h
But Democrats — embittered by Republican refusals for
nearly a year to consider President Barack Obamafs choice to succeed Justice
Scalia, and inflamed by Mr. Trumpfs aggressive moves at the start of his tenure
— promised a showdown over Judge Gorsuchfs confirmation.
Joined by liberal groups that
plotted for weeks to fight Mr. Trumpfs eventual nominee, leading Democrats
signaled they would work to turn the Supreme Court dispute into a referendum on
the president, and what they contend is his disregard for legal norms and the
Constitution. Conservatives and business groups cheered Judge Gorsuch, calling
his record distinguished and his qualifications unparalleled.
The announcement came at a
particularly tumultuous moment in an extraordinarily chaotic beginning to Mr.
Trumpfs presidency. Just a day earlier, he dismissed
the acting attorney general for refusing to defend his hard-line immigration
order that started a furor across the United States over what critics condemned
as a visa ban against Muslims.
gNow, more than ever, we need a Supreme Court justice who
is independent, eschews ideology, who will preserve our democracy, protect
fundamental rights and will stand up to a president who has already shown a
willingness to bend the Constitution,h Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the
Democratic leader, said in a statement.
gThe burden is on Judge Neil Gorsuch to prove himself to
be within the legal mainstream and, in this new era, willing to vigorously
defend the Constitution from abuses of the executive branch and protect the
constitutionally enshrined rights of all Americans,h Mr. Schumer said.
He said he would insist that Judge Gorsuch meet the
60-vote threshold needed in the Senate to overcome a filibuster
for his confirmation to move forward. That would either require eight Democrats
to join the Senatefs 52 Republicans to advance the nomination, or force
Republicans to escalate a parliamentary showdown — as Mr. Trump has already
urged them to do — to change longstanding rules and push through his nominee on
a simple majority vote.
Republicans and conservative groups signaled they relished
a war over Judge Gorsuchfs confirmation.
gI hope members of the Senate will again show him fair
consideration and respect the result of the recent election with an up-or-down
vote on his nomination, just like the Senate treated the four first-term
nominees of Presidents Clinton and Obama,h said Senator Mitch McConnell,
Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader. He noted that the Senate
confirmed Judge Gorsuch without opposition in 2006 to his current seat on the
United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.
Carrie Severino, the chief counsel for the Judicial Crisis
Network, a conservative group that immediately
a $10 million campaign to defend Mr. Trumpfs nominee, said the coalition
would mount intensive campaigns in crucial states to gforce vulnerable senators
to choose between obstructing and keeping their Senate seats.h
If confirmed, Judge Gorsuch would become the 113th justice
and take a seat held not only by Justice Scalia, but also by Justice Robert H.
Jackson, perhaps the finest writer to have served on the court. As an
Episcopalian, Judge Gorsuch would be the only Protestant seated among five
Catholics and three Jewish jurists.
He would restore the 5-to-4 split
between conservatives and liberals on the court, returning the swing vote to
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, whose rulings have fallen on both sides of the
At 49, Judge Gorsuch (pronounced GORE-sutch) is the
youngest nominee to the Supreme Court in 25 years, underscoring his potential to
shape major decisions for decades to come. In choosing him, Mr. Trump reached
for a reliably conservative figure in Justice Scaliafs mold, but not someone
known to be divisive.
Mr. Trump, who recognized Justice Scaliafs wife, Maureen,
in the audience as he announced his choice, heaped praise on the glate, greath
jurist, saying his gimage and genius was in my mind throughout the
Judge Gorsuch said he was humbled by his gmost solemn
gI will do all my powers permit to be a faithful servant
of the Constitution and laws of this great country,h he said. He also praised
Justice Scalia as ga lion of the law.h
The announcement reopened the bitter wounds that dominated
the political battle last year over Mr.
Obamafs nominee for the seat, Judge Merrick B. Garland. Republicans refused
to even consider — much less support — his nomination in the thick of a
A Colorado native who was in the same class at Harvard Law
School as Mr. Obama, Judge Gorsuch is known for his well-written, measured
opinions that are normally, though not exclusively, conservative. He holds a
doctorate from Oxford University, where he was a Marshall Scholar, and was a
Supreme Court law clerk to Justices Byron
R. White and Kennedy. That Judge Gorsuch has a personal connection to
Justice Kennedy is no accident. By choosing a familiar figure, several officials
said, the White House is sending a reassuring signal to Justice Kennedy, 80, who
has been mulling retirement.
Choosing a more ideologically extreme candidate, the
officials said, could have tempted Justice Kennedy to hang on to his seat for
several more years, depriving Mr. Trump of another seat to fill.
Still, Judge Gorsuchfs conservative credentials are not in
doubt. He has voted in favor of employers, including Hobby Lobby, who invoked
religious objections for refusing to provide some forms of contraception
coverage to their female workers. And he has criticized liberals for turning to
the courts rather than the legislature to achieve policy goals.
gIt is the role of judges to apply, not alter, the work of
the peoplefs representatives,h he said on Tuesday. gA judge who likes every
outcome he reaches is very likely a bad judge, stretching for results he prefers
rather than those the law demands.h
Judge Gorsuch is the son of Anne
Gorsuch Burford, who became the first female head of the Environmental
Protection Agency under President Ronald Reagan. He attended Georgetown
Preparatory School, outside Washington, before going to Columbia University.
There had been some speculation that Mr. Trump would
choose someone with a less elite background for the court. The other finalist
for the post, Judge Thomas M. Hardiman, was the first person in his family to
graduate from college, and helped pay for his education by driving a taxi.
The White House stoked suspense over Mr. Trumpfs court
choice in the hours before announcing it. A senior Trump administration official
said both Judge Gorsuch and Judge Hardiman were summoned to Washington for the
nomination ceremony. But only Judge Gorsuch appeared at the White House
gathering shortly after 8 p.m.
In an allusion to the intense foreshadowing he and his
team did to encourage interest and speculation over the pick, Mr. Trump
interrupted his own announcement to marvel at his showmanship: gSo was that a
surprise?h the president said after announcing Judge Gorsuchfs name. gWas
As he looked out into an audience that Democrats had
refused to join — several senior lawmakers declined his invitation to attend the
East Room ceremony — the president expressed hope that he could avoid a partisan
gI only hope that both Democrats and Republicans can come
together for once, for the good of the country,h Mr. Trump said.
But progressive groups had already gathered at the steps
of the Supreme Court to protest a nominee they predicted would be extreme. Nan
Aron of the liberal-aligned Alliance for Justice called Judge Gorsuch ga
disastrous choice,h adding that his record showed gno sign that he would offer
an independent check on the dangerous impulses of this administration.h
Conservatives were as ardent in their support. Tom Fitton,
the president of the right-leaning group Judicial Watch, called Mr. Trumpfs
nomination ga major step in the right direction in defining his presidency and
moving the Supreme Court away from dangerous and destructive judicial
Maggie Haberman and Adam Liptak contributed reporting.