If he thinks he knows, then I think I know too.
“I think in my mind I know who it is,” he said at a leadership luncheon at his hotel in downtown Washington, according to cell phone video of the event obtained by CNN. “I think you’re going to be very, very excited.”
Trump said he would be submitting a name from a list of 20 that he put out during the campaign.
“I put out the list of 20, all highly responsible and highly talented, very talented judges … Replacing somebody that was somebody I had great respect for as an intellect, Justice (Antonin) Scalia,” Trump said.
The announcement will come “within two to three” weeks after the start of his administration,” he said.
Gotta be William Pryor, right? Read this from Tuesday night for some of the many tea leaves pointing in his direction. I didn’t even mention everything working in Pryor’s favor in that post: He’s a protege of Jeff Sessions, which means one of Trump’s top advisors turned AG has probably been pitching Pryor to him for months. He and Diane Sykes of Wisconsin have looked to be the two frontrunners for a year now, ever since Trump mentioned them by name at one of the GOP primary debates. Only Pryor has met recently with Trump, though, from what I can tell. The AP reported a few days ago that the two huddled at Trump Tower on Saturday; I can’t find any similar reports online about a meeting with Sykes. It stands to reason that Trump would want one final interview with Pryor before committing to him; the fact that he told people today that he thinks he’s settled on a choice so soon after the meeting means Pryor is almost certainly the pick. The only hitch is that Second Amendment ruling that came down this morning from the Seventh Circuit striking down Chicago’s restriction on gun ranges. The author of that decision? Why, Diane Sykes. It’s possible that Trump was alluding to her and the cheers she’s getting today from conservatives when he mentioned the excitement his pick will generate, but like I say, until we hear that she met with him, one has to assume that Pryor is the pick. Sykes would be the heavy favorite for the second vacancy on the Court.
Speaking of which, a friend replied to this post by speculating that one reason Trump might want Pryor to go first, knowing that he’ll be harder to confirm than Sykes would, is because he and Mitch McConnell want to nuke the filibuster for SCOTUS nominees early in Trump’s term. If Trump nominates Sykes and she sails through, and then he nominates Pryor later and Democrats filibuster, Chuck Schumer can point to that as evidence that Democrats are being judicious in opposing Trump’s picks. “We had no problem with Sykes because she’s not an extremist,” he’ll say. “Pryor is an extremist and must be stopped.” Some voters will be persuaded by that and may turn against Pryor’s nomination, making it harder for McConnell to pull the trigger on eliminating the filibuster. By making Pryor the first nominee, though, Trump and McConnell can play off any Democratic filibusters as mindless obstructionism, justifying getting rid of the filibuster. “Pryor’s an extremist!” Schumer will cry. “Meh, you would have blocked anyone Trump nominated,” McConnell will reply. Boom — the filibuster is gone. And then comes the best part: Once it’s gone, Trump could nominate anyone he wants for future vacancies with no fear of those nominations being blocked. It could be Scalia-esque conservative ideologues all the way to 2020 (or 2024) with Democrats powerless to stop them, especially since the GOP is likely to gain Senate seats in 2018. Pick a fight over Pryor now and finish off the filibuster for good.
All you need to do is convince Orrin Hatch, Lindsey Graham, McCain and a few other Senate traditionalists to get onboard. No problem, right?
By the way, Trump made his SCOTUS comment at an inauguration luncheon held — where else? — at the Trump International Hotel in Washington. Sean Spicer, the new White House press secretary, was asked about that this morning and ended up, er, basically plugging the hotel. We’re off to a great start on separating the president from his conflicts of interest.