The Note: Trump Goes With Gorsuch

February 01, 2017, 9:14 AM

— -- Trump’s First 100 Days with ABC’s RICK KLEIN and SHUSHANNAH WALSHE

Day No. 13

THE BIG STORY: There’s nothing like a Supreme Court selection to get Washington back on its respective sides. President Trump’s selection of Judge Neil Gorsuch had an immediate effect of galvanizing and unifying conservatives to the side of the White House, after a 12-day span that was already straining friendships and fraying bonds. (“Lyin’ Ted” is thrilled, and so is John McCain, just a day or so after the president mused aloud about the senator’s desire to start World War III.) Trump decided to essentially outsource his first Supreme Court pick to the groups for whom the issue is paramount. In other words, he let the pros decide. Making a list – and sticking to it - may go down as the single smartest thing he did in his campaign, and in his early presidency.

THE SLEEPER STORY: So most members of Congress had no idea the travel ban was coming, but a handful of congressional staffers helped the Trump administration write it? And they signed non-disclosure agreements so they wouldn’t even be able to tell their bosses (members of Congress, and, ultimately, US taxpayers) about the side work? And everyone is OK with this? The disclosure that staffers on Rep. Robert Goodlatte’s House Judiciary Committee worked alongside Trump aides on this order should be rocking Capitol Hill. It suggests that the administration was trying to work as quickly as it could and as quietly as feasible – a potentially troubling template for the future. If members of Congress aren’t troubled by this, they’re missing a big warning sign for the separation of powers.

THE SHINY STORY: Democrats are fired up, yet not sure where they’re about to go. The pressure will be intense – from the grassroots, the would-be party chairs, and liberal House members (who don’t get a vote, of course) – to do anything they can to block Gorsuch from the Supreme Court, up to and including the filibuster. The fresh and tangible issue of the travel ban gives them urgency, as if the usual abortion-rights and corporations-vs.-people fights wouldn’t be enough. But does Sen. Chuck Schumer want to waste the filibuster (and send the Republicans nuclear) over a pick that doesn’t change the balance of the court? Knowing that Trump could easily get a few more selections that will carry more weight? The voices from the outside will be loud, but the players in the inside game may have different ideas.

TLDR: Last night in a prime time ceremony, the president revealed his nominee for the Supreme Court: Judge Neil Gorsuch. Republicans are united in their praise, but Democrats need to decide how big of a battle they want to wage. Trump could have more vacancies ahead of him and those could tilt the balance of the court, while this one does not. Do Dems want to save their fight for then or not?

PHOTO OF THE DAY: The president and his SCOTUS pick share a smile at last night's ceremony at the White House. (Credit: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

PHOTO: President Donald Trump and Neil Gorsuch smile as Trump nominated Gorsuch to be an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court at the White House in Washington, Jan. 31, 2017.
President Donald Trump and Neil Gorsuch smile as Trump nominated Gorsuch to be an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court at the White House in Washington, Jan. 31, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Kevin Lamarque/Reuters


--TRUMP NOMINATES NEIL GORSUCH FOR SUPREME COURT: President Donald Trump has nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch as his pick to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. Gorsuch, 49, is currently a judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. He was nominated by President George W. Bush in 2006 and confirmed by the Senate in a voice vote. "The qualifications of Judge Gorsuch are beyond dispute," Trump said in his introduction of Gorsuch in the East Room of the White House last night. Trump described Gorsuch as someone "who loves our Constitution and someone who will interpret them as written." ABC’s MEGHAN KENEALLY, GENEVA SANDS and AUDREY TAYLOR has more.

--INSIDE THE SELECTION PROCESS FOR TRUMP'S SCOTUS PICK: Donald Trump's pick for his Supreme Court nominee was long-anticipated -- a move that was closely watched by observers on both sides of the aisle to replace the late Antonin Scalia. True to Trump form and his reality show background, the president made the announcement in a widely touted primetime show in the East Room of the White House. Speculation earlier in the day had coalesced around two main candidates, Judge Thomas Hardiman, and Trump's eventual pick, Judge Neil Gorsuch, and there was some reporting that both men had come to Washington to await the president's decision. ABC”s JORDYN PHELPS notes how the selection process unfolded and the lengths the White House went to to keep the selection under wraps.

--WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT JUDGE NEIL GORSUCH: Gorsuch, 49, is currently a judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Gorsuch is the youngest Supreme Court nominee in about 25 years. ABC’s AUDREY TAYLOR and GENEVA SANDS note what you need to know about the potential Supreme Court justice:

--TRUMP'S PICK OF NEIL GORSUCH SPARKS CRITICISM AND PRAISE: The nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to be Donald Trump's Supreme Court pick to replace Justice Antonin Scalia sparked a fast and furious reaction from Democrats while Republicans and conservative groups heaped praise on him, rejecting the assertion from critics that he was extreme in his views. ABC’s MEGHAN KENEALLY has more on the reactions to Gorsuch:

--THE PRESIDENT’S SCHEDULE: The president receives the daily briefing this morning. Trump will then hold an African American History Month listening session. Following his announcement last night, the president meets with SCOTUS groups at 11:30 a.m. And the last thing on Trump’s public schedule is a legislative affairs strategy session at 5:30 p.m.

--HAPPENING ON THE HILL: Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch will meet with Sen. Mitch McConnell at 10:30 AM today, ABC’s ALI ROGIN reports. After a week and a day of delays at the hands of committee Democrats, the Senate Judiciary Committee is on track to hold its vote on Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions today at 10:30 AM. Yesterday Democrats employed an arcane rule which bars committee meetings from going on more than two hours past the beginning of the Senate floor session – a rule which is usually waived – to delay the committee vote. The Senate will vote on whether to confirm Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson. OMB Director Mick Mulvaney and EPA administrator Scott Pruitt are also expected to get votes today.


13 LEGAL ACTIONS CHALLENGING TRUMP'S IMMIGRATION EXECUTIVE ORDER. Trump signed an executive order last week to suspend some immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries -- Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Iran and Libya -- for 90 days, halt the refugee program for 120 days and suspend the admission of Syrian refugees indefinitely. Since then, at least 13 lawsuits have been filed around the country, including one from the state of Washington. ABC’s LAUREN PEARLE and JAMES HILL are the lawsuits filed so far that challenge Trump’s executive order as of Tuesday, naming the president the Department of Homeland Security the border patrol and others as defendants.

INSIDE TRUMP'S CONTROVERSIAL NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL CHANGES. When Donald Trump signed a memo last Friday outlining the structure of his National Security Council -- something that is generally pro forma -- eyebrows were immediately raised at some of the moves. The biggest change: Trump decided to make his chief strategist Steve Bannon, a "regular attendee" of the principals committee -- meaning he'd have a prominent seat at all NSC meetings, including the lower-level ones that the president doesn't normally attend. Given Bannon's limited experience in the national security realm (he served as a surface warfare officer in the Navy for seven years) and the political nature of his involvement in both media and Trump's campaign, that decision is considered by some observers to be unusual, ABC’s JUSTIN FISHEL writes.

TRUMP IMMIGRATION ORDER UNDER SCRUTINY AS DEMS DEBATE SESSIONS VOTE. The Senate Judiciary Committee met Tuesday to discuss the confirmation of Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, as attorney general, but senators seemed just as intent to debate President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration as they were Sessions himself. ABC’s ALI ROGIN has more.

HOUSE STAFF WORKED ON TRUMP IMMIGRATION ORDER, ALLEGEDLY SIGNED NON-DISCLOSURE AGREEMENT. While President Trump's controversial executive order on immigration caught much of official Washington off guard, congressional staffers secretly worked on the measure without the knowledge of many lawmakers, sources told ABC News. Sources briefed on the process said that House Judiciary Committee staffers worked on the immigration order after the election as part of their work with the Trump transition team, ABC’s BENJAMIN SIEGEL and JOHN PARKINSON report. At least one committee staffer signed a nondisclosure agreement regarding the work, a source familiar with the matter told ABC News.

DEMOCRATS BOYCOTT COMMITTEE VOTES ON TRUMP CABINET NOMINEES. Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee yesterday morning boycotted scheduled votes for two of President Donald Trump's Cabinet picks, arguing the nominees lied to the committee about their business or investment dealings. The move seemed to take Republicans on the committee by surprise and stalled the confirmation process for Trump's nominees for secretary of health and human services, Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., and for treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, writes ABC’s MARYALICE PARKS.

TIMELINE OF TURMOIL: THE ROLLOUT OF TRUMP'S IMMIGRATION ORDER. The weekend after Donald Trump rolled out his controversial executive order on immigration, a chaotic scene ensued in airports across the country. A chorus of dissenters protested, while confused customs agents asked for clarity on how to proceed. Soon, it emerged that some key members of Trump's own administration, as well as congressional leadership, had not been fully in the loop -- if at all -- on the scope and language of the action taken Friday afternoon. ABC’s MERIDITH MCGRAW reports on what we know about how the order was rolled out:

DEMOCRATS QUESTION PRESIDENT TRUMP ON PLANS FOR GOVERNMENT WATCHDOGS. Democrats on the House Oversight Committee are pressing the White House for answers on reports that the new administration sought to remove independent inspectors general after the inauguration when President Trump took office, according to ABC’s BENJAMIN SIEGEL and MATTHEW MOSK. In a letter to White House Counsel Don McGahn, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, wrote that the committee was informed that on Jan. 13, transition team officials contacted various inspector general offices and told the watchdogs their positions would be "temporary," and that they should begin looking for other jobs.

US HOLOCAUST MUSEUM URGES LAWMAKERS TO PROTECT REFUGEES. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum issued a statement Tuesday addressing the global refugee crisis, urging lawmakers to craft policy that addresses national security concerns while protecting legitimate refugees, regardless of nationality or religion. "The Museum continues to have grave concern about the global refugee crisis and our response to it," reads the statement. ABC’s DAVID CAPLAN has more.


@MKhan47: "20 % of this country is immigrants. Is that not the beating heart of this problem?" - Steve Bannon

@adam_kels: Every interviewee cites an attack carried out by someone for whom the "ban" wouldn't apply as rationale for support.

@kevcirilli: More from @Sen_JoeManchin (D-W. Va.), he is also signaling Dems shouldn't block a Gorsuch vote, which would force Rs to use nuclear option.

@MariaBartiromo: "I'm hearing at least 7 senators will not filibuster so Gorsuch will be on #SupremeCourt -@RepChrisCollins @MorningsMaria @FoxBusiness

@kylegriffin1: Sherrod Brown 1st senator to announce opposition to Gorsuch: 'Cannot support any nominee who doesn't recognize corporations are not people.'

@aseitzwald: Elizabeth Warren a no: "Based on the long and well-established record of Judge Gorsuch, I will oppose his nomination."

@JCNSeverino: Gorsuch's record is so excellent, his principles solid, his writing style even evokes Justice Scalia.

@ArletteSaenz: Happy birthday to @ABC @ajdukakis @JordynPhelps @erindooley!

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