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04/14/2017

Jeffrey Toobin on Leonard Leo and the Gorsuch Nomination
Michael Ramsey

In The New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin: The Conservative Pipeline to the Supreme Court: With the Federalist Society, Leonard Leo has reared a generation of originalist élites. The selection of Neil Gorsuch is just his latest achievement.

With pretty fair-minded and interesting background on The Federalist Society's Leonard Leo, leading to this:

One day last spring, Leo received an invitation to join Donald Trump for lunch at a law firm’s offices in Washington. Trump was getting closer to clinching the Republican nomination, but his political history still provoked wariness among Party ideologists. Trump, it turned out, wanted Leo to compile a list, which the campaign would make public, of Trump’s likely nominees to the Supreme Court, in the event that he won the election. As Leo recounted their conversation, Trump said, “People don’t know who I am on these issues, and I want to give people a sense of that.” No campaign in history had put out such a list. Leo recalled, “I said, ‘That’s a great idea—you’re creating a brand.’ ”

The question, then, became on what basis Leo should select the candidates. What was Trump looking for in his nominees? Throughout the campaign, Trump had said that he would appoint pro-life Justices to the Supreme Court. But Leo told me that his conversations with Trump focused elsewhere. “The President was very clear about what he wanted,” Leo said. “What he said in very explicit terms was he wanted people who were exceptionally well qualified, quote, ‘respected by all, not weak’—those are his words, ‘not weak’—and somebody who was going to, quote, ‘interpret the Constitution the way the Framers meant it to be.’ ” The statement was, in effect, a call for an originalist.