President's SCOTUS Adviser: Find Nominees ‘Who Believe in the Constitution As It's Written’

By Susan Jones | July 9, 2018 | 6:25am EDT
Leonard Leo is executive vice president of the Federalist Society, which helped draw up a list of potential Supreme Court nominees. (Photo: Screen capture/ABC's "This Week")

( - "Looking forward to announcing my final decision on the United States Supreme Court Justice at 9:00pmE tomorrow night at the @WhiteHouse,' President Donald Trump tweeted on Sunday. "An exceptional person will be chosen!" he promised.

Leonard Leo, formerly of the Federalist Society, a group that helped draw up a list of conservative Supreme Court nominees, is among those advising the president on his next pick.

Democrats already are campaigning on the issue, warning Americans that Republicans aim to stack the court to take away their rights.


On Sunday, George Stephanopoulos, host of ABC's "This Week," asked Leonard Leo, "Is it fair to say that anyone who made it onto your list is likely to be an opponent of Roe v. Wade?"

"No," Leo responded.

"First of all, nobody really knows. We've been talking about this for 36 years, going all the way back to the nomination of Sandra O'Connor. And after that 36-year period, we only have a single individual on the court who has expressly said he would overturn Roe. So I think it's a bit of a scare tactic and rank speculation more than anything else."

Leo said his goal in pre-selecting conservative Supreme Court judges "has always been to find people to serve on the court who believe in the Constitution as it's written. And that's really ultimately what drives the conservative legal movement.

"You want judges on the court who understand that the best way to preserve freedom and dignity and prosperity in this country is to have people who are going to interpret the Constitution as it's written and not play politics when they're judges."

Appearing on CBS's "Face the Nation," Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) warned: "This is a very important decision. It's going to affect the Affordable Care Act and the protection of preexisting conditions. It will affect reproductive choice and individual freedom for millions of women all over the United States. It will affect consumer protection, environmental protection, LGBT rights."

Some liberal Democrats insist that the choice of Supreme Court justice should be delayed until after the midterm election, so voters can weigh in on the choice -- vote for Democrats, in other words, who would make the Supreme Court vacancy an election issue.

Leo called that argument a "red herring."

"There are always issues that an executive branch and president deal with on a regular basis that are extraordinarily important and controversial, and we don't hold up Supreme Court nominations or confirmations for those."

Leo also made the point that President Trump already has campaigned on the Supreme Court issue:

"What drives the president in this process is that he made the Supreme Court a huge issue in the (2016) election, more than any other presidential candidate. He greatly enthused voters over it, and it was one of the big factors that led to his election and holding the U.S. Senate. And so he kept that momentum going with Neil Gorsuch, and now he's got another opportunity to do it again."

Leo said Trump's four finalists -- said to be Judges Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Barrett, Thomas Hardiman, and Raymond Kethledge -- are "extraordinarily distinguished people" who stand a good chance of being confirmed before the midterm election:

"I'm very confident, with this president's enthusiasm and with Leader McConnell's enthusiasm, that they can get anybody confirmed," Leo said.

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