Season finale live thread: "Supreme Court Apprentice"; Update: It's Gorsuch

Live at 8 p.m. ET, we find out whether it’s Neil Gorsuch or Tom Hardiman who’ll be taking his talents to D.C. One of the few nice things about Trump being a drama junkie is that there’s genuinely no way to know which way he’s leaning. All day long the whispers have pointed to Gorsuch, with one friend telling me earlier today, “Initial source tells me that unless the kabuki is elaborate, it’s NG. I’m tempted to be excited, but elaborate kabuki sounds pretty Trumpy.” With any other president, if the pick leaked in the hours or minutes before the official announcement, you could safely assume that news was accurate. With Trump, though, for all we know the Gorsuch/Hardiman rivalry is just a carefully orchestrated head fake to build suspense for his actual nominee, Judge Jeanine.

Benny Johnson of the IJR has two sources claiming that it is indeed Gorsuch:

Speaking on background, an administration source instrumental to the SCOTUS selection process tells IJR, “Yes. It is Gorsuch. 100 percent. The Hardiman thing is a head fake.” Thomas Hardiman is the other Judge Trump was considering for the vacancy, who is also in Washington, D.C.

A second source within the Trump administration confirmed IJR’s reporting.

Erick Erickson is also hearing that it’s Gorsuch while Ramesh Ponnuru conveniently had a long, glowing assessment of Gorsuch’s career ready to go today that confidently declares in its opening words, “President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court will be Neil Gorsuch, a well-respected conservative whose legal philosophy is remarkably similar to that of Antonin Scalia, the justice he will replace if the Senate confirms him.” Pretty clearly someone within the White House has begun to leak to influential pundits on the right in order to build a grassroots swell of excitement for the nominee before the announcement. It’d be shocking if he’s not the pick after all this.

And if he is, there’ll be a lot of happy conservatives tomorrow, me among them. Trump’s core promise to right-wing skeptics during the campaign was that if they showed up for him in November, he’d show up for them by filling Scalia’s vacancy with a superb conservative jurist. If Gorsuch is the pick, that promise has been kept. He’s a stellar choice. If Hardiman is the pick, well — he might be great too. But Hardiman is a “wait and see, hope for the best” choice. Gorsuch is a lay-up.

I can’t wait for the tick-tock reporting tomorrow on how Trump made his choice. It sure looked for awhile like he was leaning Hardiman. Was that a smokescreen all along or did Trump change his mind recently? It could be that some of the grumbling about Hardiman among border hawks over the last 24 hours gave Trump cold feet. Or maybe the bombardment he’s suffered over his travel ban convinced him that what he needed now was an easy win that would rally his base. Gorsuch will earn him a standing ovation on the right; Hardiman will earn him some polite applause coupled with this-had-better-not-be-another-Kennedy murmuring. Stand by as we find out which judge will receive a rose from the president and which will be evicted from the house.

Update: Yep, it’s Gorsuch. A tremendous pick by Trump, the best move he’s made so far as president (with apologies to Jim Mattis). Here’s Justice Scalia with his successor.