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Trump Dangles SCOTUS List After Bob Woodward Recordings Go Public, Names GOP Sens. Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton and Josh Hawley

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 04: U.S. President Donald Trump talks with Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts as Associate Justice Elena Kagan looks on before the State of the Union address in the House chamber on February 4, 2020 in Washington, DC. Trump is delivering his third State of the Union address on the night before the U.S. Senate is set to vote in his impeachment trial.

After much of the news media spent the afternoon playing a recording on loop of President Donald Trump telling Watergate reporter Bob Woodward in early February that the novel coronavirus was much more “deadly” than the flu, the president shifted attention to a list of potential Supreme Court justices.

“I will be announcing a list of future potential Supreme Court Justices at 3:30 P.M. Eastern from the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House,” Trump said, teasing the reelection campaign-focused announcement. Trump added 20 names to his list. Here were those names, which included Republican senators:

Daniel Cameron, Kentucky Attorney General

Paul Clement, former US Solicitor General

Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.)

Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas)

Steven Engel, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel

Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.)

Florida Supreme Court Justice Carlos Muñiz

Former U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco

Fifth Circuit Judge James Ho

D.C. Circuit Judge Gregory Katsas

Eleventh Circuit Judge Barbara Lagoa

Ninth Circuit Judge Bridget Bade

Fifth Circuit Judge Stuart Kyle Duncan

U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Christopher Landau

U.S. District Judge Martha Pacold

Third Circuit Judge Peter Phipps

U.S. District Judge Sarah Pitlyk

Fourth Circuit Judge Allison Jones Rushing

Ninth Circuit Judge Lawrence VanDyke

Deputy White House counsel Kate Todd

After assuming the Oval Office, Trump nominated justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, achieving the conservative majority long-desired by conservative think thanks, lawmakers and activists—particularly the pro-life movement and Second Amendment advocates. The Supreme Court shortlist reveal scene is set against this backdrop.

In recent months, rumors swirled that conservatives Justice Clarence Thomas or Justice Samuel Alito might make a surprise announcement and retire in time for Trump to appoint their successor. At the same time, liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s cancer diagnosis made national news. And Republican senators have made clear they they would confirm a Supreme Court nominee during a lame duck session of Congress.

The conservative Heritage Foundation put together a list of SCOTUS potentials in August. Some of the names that made the cut: U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit Judge Thomas Hardiman, former U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Judge Neomi Rao, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit Judge Raymond Kethledge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit Judge Amul Thapar, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit Judge Andrew S. Oldham, and U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

Hardiman, Kethledge, Oldham, and Barrett were on Trump’s previous list. The names announced today join them and others.

The president previously said he would release his list of potential SCOTUS nominees on Sept. 1.

After Trump announced the names on Wednesday, the first question a reporter asked was about the Woodward recordings.

[Image via Leah Millis-Pool/Getty Images]

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Matt Naham is managing editor of Law&Crime. He formerly worked as news editor and weekend editor at Rare.