If Republicans don’t appreciate Donald Trump now, they will later. That’s when his biggest accomplishment — the courts — will reap the most rewards. For the last 10 months, the White House has been working at a frantic pace to confirm originalist judges, a quest that’s not only making history — but securing it.
Not since Richard Nixon has any president moved faster or more strategically on judicial nominees than Donald Trump. And while the Supreme Court is what captures most people’s attention, the real work is being done a step below — on the appellate level. That’s where, experts say, the real genius comes in.
In a fascinating article, even the New York Times can’t help but notice (with reluctant admiration) how the Trump team has intentionally gone about balancing the courts from the Obama years. “There has never been anything like what we’ve been able to do together with judges,” the president said recently. He’s right. By filling the appellate courts with constitutionalists, Trump’s team is making sure that Americans get a fair shake from the judges who hand down the majority of the country’s rulings. As the Times points out, “The 12 regional appeals courts wield profound influence over Americans’ lives, getting the final word on about 60,000 cases a year that are not among the roughly 80 the Supreme Court hears.”
While most of the country only tunes in to the SCOTUS fights, the reality is that most of these hot-button issues are being decided in the circuit courts below. That makes the president’s focus all the more important. In its interesting article, “Trump is rapidly reshaping the judiciary. Here’s how,” the Times explains that this plan dates back to last year, when legal experts huddled to talk about a “secret battle plan to fill the federal appeals courts with young and deeply conservative judges.” With the help of Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Republicans have delivered plenty of victories on that front, confirming eight — with more on the horizon. Thanks to Grassley, the Senate has kept up with the White House’s frantic pace, despite the Democrats’ stalling tactics.
And while the GOP is used to obstruction from Democrats, it was surprised to see some from its own party. For reasons few understand, Senator John Kennedy (R-La.) is standing in the way of Trump’s ninth federal court win — Kyle Duncan, the White House’s pick for the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. In a rare move, the senator from my home state refuses to endorse Duncan, a man many call a “conservative superstar.” As a solicitor general and law firm partner, he expertly tackled some of the most difficult issues, including marriage, the HHS mandate, bathroom bills, and gender identity. The Judicial Crisis Network calls him “one of the best lawyers of his generation.” I would hope that Senator Kennedy would join his fellow Republicans in moving on Duncan’s confirmation — and send another stellar judge to the bench.
In the meantime, conservatives who said the courts were the deciding factor in the 2016 elections have to be happy with the results. Even the New York Times can’t help but notice: “Mr. Trump is poised to bring the conservative legal movement… to a new peak of influence over American law and society.”
For more on the president’s judicial accomplishments (and otherwise), cut through the fake news with this Daily Wire’s column, “Trump’s First Year in Office Has Been Wildly Successful.”
Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.
Also in the November 13 Washington Update: