Trump's winning SCOTUS move? Staying out of it

In Gorsuch’s Senate questionnaire, Gorsuch explained how he came onto Trump’s radar: “I was contacted by Leonard Leo.” In the weeks since Gorsuch’s nomination, the White House has outsourced its swing state advertising strategy to Leo, while McGahn’s office has brought on outside advisers to grill Gorsuch in moot court prep sessions that have unfolded late into the night in the Old Executive Office Building, across the street from the White House.

White House chief of staff Reince Priebus has popped into several prep sessions, and press secretary Sean Spicer spent several hours one night earlier this month watching Gorsuch prepare. The communications team, which meets twice a day, gets Gorsuch updates at each gathering.

Vice President Mike Pence, according to the two White House officials, checks in with Gorsuch twice a week and serves as the senior adviser to his team.

Trump’s director of legislative affairs, Marc Short — a Pence hire — tapped a longtime member of the GOP establishment, former New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, to serve as the “sherpa” on Capitol Hill, sitting with Gorsuch in 72 individual meetings with senators. Also part of Gorsuch’s entourage on the Hill: Mary Elizabeth Taylor, from the White House legislative affairs unit, and a former Gorsuch clerk, Mike McGinley, who now works in the White House counsel’s office as an associate counsel to the president.