Trump Supreme Court Adviser Praises Judge Neil Gorsuch as Potential Heir to Scalia's Legacy

PHOTO: Judge Neil Gorsuch is pictured in an undated handout photo from the University of Colorado Law School.PlayUniversity of Colorado Law School
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One of Donald Trump's Supreme Court advisers said the process of picking a nominee is "very far along" -- and had words of praise for Colorado judge Neil Gorsuch.

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"There is a lot of information in the hopper about who these people are and what their records are like and what qualities they have to serve on the Supreme Court," Leonard Leo told ABC's Jonathan Karl and Rick Klein on the "Powerhouse Politics" podcast.

Although Leo cautioned he would "never assume a front-runner," he spoke highly of Gorsuch, who sits on the bench of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

"He has very, very distinguished background," Leo said. "He has probably 200 or so published opinions as an appeals clerk judge. They are extremely eloquently written, they're incisive, understandable, clear, opinionated."

The president values clarity and eloquence -- qualities he admired in the late Justice Antonin Scalia -- in his potential nominees, according to Leo.

“If you want to move the country’s jurisprudence in the right direction, you need people who are clear in their thinking and in their writing and who are going to be in the position to educate the broader legal community and the public at large about what’s at stake in these cases,” he said.

Among other traits Trump wants in a potential justice: someone who is "extraordinarily talented," who is "going to be respected by all" and "who's going to stick to his guns."

The ninth seat on the court has been vacant since Scalia’s death in February 2016. Although President Obama named Judge Merrick Garland in March, Senate Republicans refused to hear his nomination. Leo does not expect a Trump nominee to face the same level of opposition.

“There’s going to be a lot of disagreement, a lot of debate, but I’m not sure it’s going to turn out to be as disagreeable as people may have thought right after the election,” he said, but added that it’s “still very much up in the air.”

Speaking to Trump’s potential overreach of the Constitution, Leo countered that “there’s no human being who would hold the office of the president who would not be challenged by the temptation of doing what you think is right.” However, he said that the president’s staff and his commitment to populism would ultimately keep him in check.

Leo concluded by addressing Trump’s repeated unverified assertion of widespread voter fraud during the 2016 election. He said the discussion around voter fraud is “nothing new” and critiqued the level of attention the issue was getting.

“I think that this is a bit of a distraction from other things that we’re doing right now that are important,” he said. “But look there’s been a debate about voter fraud in this country for a long time.”

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