T-minus 24 hours and counting. According to multiple sources, we are indeed down to a choice of two.
Sources close to the process confirm to me that Pres. Trump's SCOTUS pick tomorrow night will be either Neil Gorsuch or Thomas Hardiman.
— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) January 30, 2017
Senior administration official tells me @realDonaldTrump's SCOTUS short list is down Neil Gorsuch & Thomas Hardiman.
— Jonathan Karl (@jonkarl) January 29, 2017
As I write this at 6 p.m. ET, PredictIt has Hardiman as a 49/42 favorite, down from 53 percent a bit earlier. I think that’s underselling him. All the tea leaves lately have been pointing his way: Trump’s sister likes him, he’s salable as a blue-collar Pennsylvanian, and Trump himself has reportedly been heard talking up his confirmability. The odds feel more like 65/35 at this point. Which is a minor bummer, as Gorsuch would be a stellar pick.
But wait. There’s last-minute movement on Trump’s right flank against Hardiman:
Word I hear out of DC is that it's Hardiman. Immigration hawks may not be happy …
— Mickey Kaus (@kausmickey) January 30, 2017
If @realDonaldTrump's S. Ct nominee is Hardiman, Trump's immig. policies won't stand a chance. Hardiman is the Jeb! Bush of judges.
— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) January 30, 2017
I’m not sure where the suspicions about Hardiman on immigration are coming from but a bit of googling revealed some upset at this exchange from his confirmation hearing to become an district judge 14 years ago:
My time spent at Ayuda, a legal aid clinic here in Washington, was some of the most valuable time that I spent as a law student and as a lawyer. I was privileged to study in Mexico and became fluent in Spanish and have always been committed to pro bono work, so I volunteered at Ayuda, in the office, on a regular basis, and I did everything from fingerprinting and interviewing persons of Hispanic origin who entered the country without inspection and who were seeking work authorization permits. That is how I started at Ayuda, and then, when I got my law degree and my license to practice here in the District of Columbia, I represented several immigrants who had entered without inspection.
In fact, my first case as a trial lawyer while I was at Skadden Arps was a pro bono case on behalf of an immigrant from El Salvador whose name was Ernesto Orellana-Hercules, and I was quite pleased that we were able to gain a victory in immigration court before immigration Judge Nejelski. We obtained political asylum for Mr. Hercules. And although that was my first case, and it did not involve millions of dollars or the types of clients that Skadden Arps typically had, to this day, that is still one of the most important cases I have
ever handled and perhaps the most important, and an experience I will never forget.
He won a judgment of asylum for a man from El Salvador. Democrats will surely bring it up in light of Trump’s new travel ban order. Is Trump willing to take some heat from them and from border superhawks like Coulter in his base, or is this enough to tip the scale to Gorsuch?
Hardiman is also a bit of an unknown quantity on abortion, by the way, whereas Gorsuch has written a book about the sanctity of life in the context of assisted suicide. It’s reaaaaaally weird that Trump would be leaning towards a judge about whom there’s some doubt when he could opt for one about whom there’s little, but that shows you the power of an endorsement from within the Trump family. Let’s hope Jared and Ivanka don’t tell him tonight that they’ve always kind of liked Merrick Garland or else we might be in for a major surprise tomorrow.
In lieu of an exit question, read Harry Enten’s best guess at gaming out the odds for confirmation. Because he’s perceived as more moderate, Hardiman would enjoy a strong advantage — but impeccable credentials, which Gorsuch has, have also traditionally helped overcome a filibuster. I think Trump will get either of them through without a filibuster, never mind the Democrats’ bluster earlier this afternoon.