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Trump Adds These 20 Names to His List of Supreme Court Candidates

President Donald Trump publicly added 20 names Wednesday to his list of candidates for the Supreme Court, including six women, three Senate Republicans, and a state attorney general. Also new to the list are prominent government lawyers who haven’t served as judges.

“Every one of these individuals will ensure equal justice, equal treatment, and equal rights for citizens of every race, color, religion, and creed,” Trump said in making the announcement at the White House. “Together, we will defend our righteous heritage and preserve our magnificent American way of life.”

For the most part, the president’s 20 new Supreme Court prospects follow the traditional pattern in which federal appeals court judges, also known as circuit judges, are considered for the high court.

Currently, all but one of the nine justices were circuit judges before being nominated to the Supreme Court. Only Justice Elena Kagan never had been a judge before.


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When running for president in 2016, Trump adopted a list of potential Supreme Court nominees from recommendations by The Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society. He has appointed two justices who were on that list: Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

“The names I know are really good people, but I’m not familiar with everyone,” John Malcolm, director of the Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, told The Daily Signal. “It’s an impressive list. Not everyone was on my list, but many were.”

In his announcement of the names, Trump laid out the stakes if the high court were to shift back toward the liberal side.

“Unfortunately, there is a growing radical left movement that rejects the principle of equal treatment under the law,” Trump said, adding:

If this extreme movement is granted a majority on the Supreme Court, it will fundamentally transform America without a single vote of Congress. Radical justices will erase the Second Amendment, silence political speech and require taxpayers to fund extreme, late-term abortion.

They will give unelected bureaucrats the power to destroy millions of American jobs. They will remove the words ‘under God’ from the Pledge of Allegiance. They will unilaterally declare the death penalty unconstitutional, even for the most depraved mass murderers. They will erase national borders, cripple police departments, and grant new protections to anarchists, rioters, violent criminals, and terrorists.

Here’s a look at Trump’s new contenders for the high court.

Politicians

Trump’s additions include four elected officials, which has been a rare occupation for nominees.

Former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor had been an Arizona state senator before becoming a state judge. But going from elected office directly to the Supreme Court is rare.

The most notable example is President Dwight Eisenhower’s naming of California Gov. Earl Warren as chief justice in 1953.

The politicians on Trump’s list are:

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, a Republican first elected in 2019. Cameron, 34, is the state’s 51st attorney general. He was previously legal counsel to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. He earned his law degree, cum laude, from the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law.

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., first elected to the House in 2014. Cotton, 43, was an Army captain who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, Cotton received his law degree from Harvard Law School.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, first elected in 2012. A former solicitor general of Texas, he has argued cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. A law clerk to former Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, Cruz, 49, received his law degree, magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School.

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., elected in 2018. Hawley, 40, previously was Missouri’s attorney general and an associate professor at the University of Missouri School of Law. He also was a lawyer with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. A former clerk for Chief Justice John Roberts, Hawley received his law degree from Yale Law School.

A fourth Senate Republican, Mike Lee of Utah, was on Trump’s 2016 list.

Federal Appeals Judges

If history is a guide, one of these new names—all Trump appointees—is the most likely to become a Supreme Court justice if the president gets second term, since circuit judges tend to be the farm team for the high court.

Here are the new appeals court judges on the list:

Peter Phipps, 47, of Pennsylvania, on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals since July 2019. Phipps also served as a U.S. district judge for the Western District of Pennsylvania. He was senior trial counsel in the federal programs branch of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. He received his law degree from Stanford Law School.

Allison Jones Rushing, 38, of North Carolina, on the 4th Circuit since March 2019. She clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas and then-Judge Neil Gorsuch on the 10th Circuit. She received her law degree, magna cum laude, from Duke University School of Law.

Lawrence VanDyke, 47, of Nevada, confirmed by the Senate last December to serve on the 9th Circuit. VanDyke previously was deputy assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Justice Department. He also was solicitor general of both Nevada and Montana, defending the policies of those states before the U.S. Supreme Court. He received his law degree, magna cum laude, from Harvard.

Bridget Bade, 54, of Arizona, on the 9th Circuit since April 2019. Bade was both a U.S. magistrate judge and an assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Arizona. She received her law degree, cum laude, from Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.

Stuart Kyle Duncan, 48, of Louisiana, on the 5th Circuit since April 2018. Previously general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, he also argued cases before the U.S. Supreme Court as solicitor general of Louisiana. He received his law degree from the Paul M. Hebert Law Center at Louisiana State University and his LL.M from Columbia University Law School.

James Ho, 47, of Texas, on the 5th Circuit since December 2017. He was solicitor general of Texas and clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas. He received his law degree with high honors from the University of Chicago Law School.

Gregory Katsas, 56, of Virginia, on the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals since December 2017. Katsas was both deputy assistant and deputy counsel to the president, as well as the Justice Department’s assistant attorney general for the Civil Division. He clerked for Thomas both at the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He received his law degree, cum laude, from Harvard.

Barbara Lagoa, 52, of Florida, on the 11th Circuit since December 2019. Previously a justice on the Supreme Court of Florida, she also was an assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida. Lagoa received her law degree from Columbia.

Other Government Officials

Former Chief Justice William Rehnquist, like Kagan, was solicitor general of the United States—the No. 4 official at the Justice Department—before ascending to the high court.

Trump’s new candidates include these top-ranking government lawyers and officials:

Paul Clement, 54, of Virginia, U.S. solicitor general during the George W. Bush administration from 2005 through 2008, when he argued more than 100 cases before the high court. He previously clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia and received his law degree, magna cum laude, from Harvard.

Steven Engel, 46, of Washington, D.C., assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, which advises the president, since November 2017. He previously was deputy assistant attorney general in that office.  A former clerk for Justice Anthony Kennedy, he received his law degree from Yale.

Noel Francisco, 51, solicitor general from September 2017 to July 2020. He previously served in the Office of Legal Counsel as deputy assistant attorney general and as associate counsel to the president. A former clerk for Scalia, he received his law degree with high honors from the University of Chicago.

Christopher Landau, 56, of Maryland, U.S. ambassador to Mexico since August 2019. Landau clerked for Scalia and for Thomas, both at the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He received his law degree, magna cum laude, from Harvard.

Kate Todd of Virginia, former deputy assistant and deputy counsel to President George W. Bush. She clerked for Thomas and received her law degree, magna cum laude, from Harvard.

Federal District Judges

District judges rarely are appointed to the Supreme Court, but two Trump appointees made his expanded list.

Martha Pacold, 41, on the bench of the Northern District of Illinois since August 2019. She previously was deputy general counsel of the Treasury Department. A former clerk to Thomas at the Supreme Court, she received her law degree with honors from the University of Chicago.

Sarah Pitlyk, 43, on the bench of the Eastern District of Missouri since December 2019. Previously special counsel at the Thomas More Society, she clerked for Kavanaugh at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.  She received her law degree from Yale Law.

State Supreme Court Justice

O’Connor served as an Arizona state judge before President Ronald Reagan nominated her in July 1981 to become the high court’s first female justice.

Trump’s new list includes one state Supreme Court justice: Carlos Muniz, 51, of the Florida Supreme Court, appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in January 2019.

Muniz previously was general counsel to the U.S. Department of Education and served in various positions in Florida state government, including as deputy attorney general and chief of staff to then-Attorney General Pam Bondi. He received his law degree from Yale.

COLUMN BY

Fred Lucas

Fred Lucas is chief national affairs correspondent for The Daily Signal and co-host of “The Right Side of History” podcast. Lucas is also the author of “Abuse of Power: Inside The Three-Year Campaign to Impeach Donald Trump.” Send an email to Fred. Twitter: @FredLucasWH.

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IAEA: Iran producing ‘Chemically Man-Made Uranium’

Last summer during the intense Congressional Hearings on the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK) and Rep. Michael Pompeo (R-KS) went to Vienna to pay a visit to Yukio Amano, Director General of UN Nuclear Watchdog agency, the IAEA.  They came back with disturbing revelations about so-called secret deals by the Obama Administration regarding inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities. Especially concerning the Parchin military research site located 19 miles southeast of Tehran.  Parchin had been the suspected site of so-called Prior Military Development of nuclear triggers that had allegedly ceased in 2005.  In  September 2015,  Sen. Cotton and Rep. Pompeo  accused  IAEA  chief Amano of misleading the Congress to ensure passage of  JCPOA  when  Iran  self collected samples at the Parchin test site. Now there is evidence that IAEA test environmental samples taken last fall at the Parchin site revealed particles of “chemically man made uranium.”

Parchin Test Site 7-2015

Parchin, Iran Military Complex. Source: DigitGlobe AFP

In October 2014, during negotiations of the P5+1 JCPOA there was a blast at the Parchin test site. We wrote in an NER/Iconoclast blog post, “Washington-based Nuclear Watchdog Confirms Blast at Parchin Nuclear Trigger Test Site in Iran.”

The blast there occurred on Sunday night local time. It produced a glare that could be seen 13 kilometers (approximately 10 miles) distant, as well as blew out windows.  The Iranian regime’s IRNA and opposition Samha news agencies reported on the blast at Parchin that killed two workers.  The Washington, DC-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) released evidence of damage at the Parchin test site based on satellite imagery, “Finding the Site of the Alleged Explosion at the Parchin Military Complex”.   Their analysis found:

After analyzing the sections of the Parchin military complex visible in satellite imagery, ISIS believes that one site located in the southern section of the complex could be the possible location of the explosion. This site is close to a series of bunkers, indicating that it could serve as a support area for the activities taking place there. Several signatures that coincide with those expected from an explosion site are visible here. Two buildings that were present in August 2014 are no longer there, while a third building appears to be severely damaged. In total at least six buildings appear damaged or destroyed. Several trucks are present at the site. The shape and size of these trucks is consistent with those of either fire or debris removal trucks. The irregular line and color of the vegetation seems to indicate that some unexpected activity took place (possibly a fire, explosion, scattering of debris etc.). Finally, grey debris is visible at the center of the potential explosion area and is also scattered into the surrounding vegetation.

It was reported that the imagery shows that the damage is consistent with an attack against bunkers and that the locality is adjacent to another installation where work was being conducted that involves controlled detonation of fuses intended to serve as triggers for nuclear devices.

However, it is important to note that there is no evidence of either an attack or nuclear weapon-related activities at this specific site. There may be confusion over alleged high explosive nuclear weapon-related activities at another site at Parchin that occurred prior to 2004.

Following the release of the JCPOA on July 15, 2015, we wrote in an NER article, The Iran Nuclear Deal – a Pandora’s Box.

The devil is in both the details of the JCPOA and what was excluded.  Especially concerning was the matter of satisfying the IAEA’s complaint about Iran’s alleged non-compliance with requests for information on prior military nuclear developments (PMD).  For example  the development of explosive triggers at the Parchin research facility. Ayatollah Khamenei basically nixed any IAEA inspections of facilities and programs under the country’s IRGC control. At first denied by the Obama Administration, so-called ‘secret’ side deals between the IAEA and the Islamic Republic were justified because that was the protocol under the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty. A Wall Street Journal report on July 27, 2015 provided assessments by Congressional lawmakers who were briefed on these arrangements concluded that the IAEA would not conclusively discover the extent of Iran’s PMD. The Administration contested that would not stand in the way of verifying future commitments.

On Monday, June 20, 2016, the predictable consequences of the Islamic Regime’s  activities at the Parchin military test site were revealed in the second  report since January 15, 2016 that lifted sanctions.  ISIS made the following assessment of a May 26, 2016 IAEA report, “Parchin: Will the IAEA Verify the Absence of Nuclear Weapons Activities in Iran?

ISIS noted this background:

On May 27, 2016, the IAEA released its second report on Iran’s compliance with United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution 2231 (2015), which codified into international law the JCPOA. The report states that the IAEA conducted “complementary accesses under the Additional Protocol to sites and other locations in Iran.” It is not specific about which sites the inspectors visited and does not provide any other information pertaining to Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA ban on activities related to the design and development of a nuclear explosive device.

In particular, the report does not state whether inspectors visited the Parchin military complex, which is the location of a site linked to high explosive work prior to 2004 related to the development of nuclear weapons. The IAEA was unable to form a conclusion about such nuclear weapons related activities when it visited the site during the fall of 2015 as part of its investigation into Iran’s possible military nuclear activities.

Discovery of “chemically man made uranium”:

Despite the IAEA’s use of a non-standard sampling approach at Parchin, environmental samples taken during the fall visit identified “chemically man-made particles of natural uranium.” However, the IAEA did not make a definitive conclusion about the use of nuclear material at the site.

The IAEA only stated that the number of particles with this specific composition was not enough to assert the use of nuclear material there, and provided no further explanation for their presence in the last two safeguards reports.

An ambiguous sampling result would normally trigger re-sampling at the main building of interest at the site and also at adjacent areas or buildings. However, there is no available information indicating that this re-sampling has taken place.

U.S. officials have stated to our Institute that this finding confirms that uranium was present at the Parchin site and indicates that nuclear weapons related experiments involving the use of uranium were indeed carried out there.

The presence of these particles confirmed the U.S. government’s suspicions that something nefarious happened at the Parchin site. However, the IAEA has not agreed with this conclusion and has appeared hesitant to seek a return visit to Parchin for additional samples.

A senior IAEA official refused to answer a query on May 27, 2016 about whether Parchin or other military sites have been visited since Implementation Day.

The IAEA also refused to state to the media which specific sites were visited under complementary access.

The Wall Street Journal in its report on the IAEA test samples taken at the Parchin test Site in October 2015 noted these comments from a former Obama nuclear negotiator and critics of the JCPOA:

Robert Einhorn, a top Iran negotiator during the Obama administration and now a nuclear expert at the Brookings Institution , said: “The assumption in the [U.S.] government is that these were nuclear weapons-related experiments. The evidence is, technically, inconclusive. But the administration believes it has other information that confirms there was weapons-related activity there.”

The man-made uranium found at Parchin, which has only low-levels of fissionable isotopes, can be used as a substitute for weapons-grade materials in developing atomic bombs, according to nuclear experts. It can also be used as component in a neutron initiator, a triggering device for a nuclear weapon.

Critics of the nuclear deal have cited the presence of uranium at Parchin as evidence the Obama administration didn’t go far enough in demanding Iran answer all questions concerning its past nuclear work before lifting international sanctions in January. They also argue that it is hard to develop a comprehensive monitoring regime without knowing everything Iran has done.

Note what ISIS did in May 2016 to disclose the activities at Parchin and the State Department reaction:

ISIS obtained commercial satellite images of Parchin last month that showed new construction in an area where the explosives testing is believed to have taken place.  David Albright, head of the institute, said the construction would likely “further complicate” efforts to investigate the presence of uranium at the military base.

Obama administration officials confirmed the U.S. government has also seen the new construction at Parchin, but doesn’t believe it is related to nuclear work.

“Parchin is an active military facility, and construction there does not necessarily indicate any nuclear-related activity,” said a State Department official. “At this time, we have no information that would lead us to believe that there is undeclared nuclear activity taking place anywhere in Iran.”

Obfuscation and denial of this latest revelation about what may have been going on at Parchin begins to question the principal foreign policy legacy that President Obama will leave behind for his successor to deal with on Iran’s Nuclear intentions. In the meantime, Sen. Cotton and Rep. Pompeo will  keep a watching brief for Congressional investigations on the alleged “robust and intrusive inspection system” of the IAEA that the Administration relies on for JCPOA compliance by an untrustworthy Islamic Republic in Tehran.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in The Nat Sec Daily Brief.

Iran Violates Sanctions

Fox News reported that Quds Force Commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani visited Putin shortly following UN Security Council unanimous approval of the Iran nuclear pact, Exclusive: Quds Force commander Soleimani visited Moscow, met Russian leaders in defiance of sanctions:”

The shadowy Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani recently visited Moscow to meet with senior Russian leaders, according to two Western intelligence sources, despite a travel ban and U.N. Security Council resolutions barring him from leaving Iran.

On July 24, one week before Secretary of State John Kerry testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee and faced questions about the newly struck nuclear deal, Soleimani arrived in Moscow for meetings with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and President Vladimir Putin. It was not immediately clear what the Iranian leader discussed, but the revelation comes as the United Nations and European Union arms embargo against Iran is slated to be lifted in five years as part of the comprehensive nuclear agreement announced July 14 from Vienna.

Soleimani was first designated a terrorist and sanctioned by the U.S. in 2005 for his role as a supporter of terrorism. In October 2011, the U.S. Treasury Department tied Soleimani to the failed Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States at a popular restaurant in Washington, D.C. The Quds Force is the Special Forces external wing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, responsible for supporting terrorist proxies across the Middle East. It reports directly to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Watch this FoxNews video report:

You remember Secretary Kerry telling Senator Cotton at a Senate Iran deal Hearing that Quds Force commander Gen. Soleimani would never be taken off travel bans and asset restrictions? It was when it was confirmed that Soleimani was among the list of 800 individuals and institutions to have their sanctions lifted included in an annex to the JCPOA. Now it is revealed that following the unanimous endorsement of the Iran nuclear pact by the UNSC Soleimani traveled to Moscow to meet Putin and senior Defense Ministry officials. This demonstrates contempt for Obama and Kerry illustrative of how incompetent they were in negotiating the Iran nuclear pact. As our colleague Omri Ceren of The Israel Project pointed out in our August NER interview Soleimani has the blood on his hands of 500 Americans killed in Iraq. Ceren referenced a Weekly Standard article by Lee Smith about Obama and Soleimani:

Smith’s argument in The Weekly Standard article is that Obama likes Soleimani and admires his work. Smith goes on to cite the President telling Arab officials that they really need to get their business together and “learn from Iran’s example.” Qasem Soleimani stands in for the idea that Iran is taking over the region. The fact that we’re lifting his travel ban and unfreezing his assets is being read by a lot of people as evidence that this deal is explicitly designed to reintegrate Iran into the regional structure of the Middle East and into the community of nations. The President sees the Islamic Republic as a stabilizing force. Lifting the travel ban and asset restrictions on Qasem Soleimani more than anyone else, stands in for Iran’s regional expansionism and its efforts to take over the Levant, to take over the Gulf and bring the entire Middle East under Iran’s thumb.”

We’re waiting for Sen. Cotton’s response, as he originally confronted Kerry. The JCPOA deal has been effectively shredded by Iran before Congress even votes to accept or reject it in September.

Is the ball game over for President Obama on this misadventure of his foreign policy legacy?  Stay tuned for developments.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.